On Sandstorms and Sustainable Living

The Interruption

A strong wind woke me up at 3 in the morning. It felt like a ferocious storm is ensuing. I chose to ignore it and tried to go back to sleep. After all, my head is still reveling in an unwanted headache that’s close to using up its time. I have decided not to take a pill for it and instead practice the “observing mind” idea. I read about it sometime back. When you’re in pain, you observe your body going through it, how it reacts, it feels and looks, and recognize that the pain is not you. It’s apart from you, and most likely will just pass you by. Your body may be experiencing it but your “being” isn’t affected by it. It’s highly philosophical and I am not the best person to articulate it so let’s just go back to the “storm” story I talked about earlier.

I was starting to imagine movie scenes and pictures of:

  •  a house caught by a tornado, or swept out to the sea, with the site of pirates looming in far ahead, or
  •  a town invaded by zombies with me being the only survivor left 

are becoming vivid as I lie in bed awake. Needless to say, the thought of looking outside finally won me over.

“Calm down, you’ve been watching too much Netflix”.

I got out of bed, stood up, walked towards the balcony door, and peeked behind my curtain. My fresh laundry is now waiving like white flags screaming surrender. As if it wasn’t enough, I slid the door open and yes, a dusty, forceful wind slapped me in the face. I’m awake, I’m alive and a sandstorm is haunting my town.

About 8:30 in the morning the air quality index (AQI) was high. Reducing physical exertion particularly outdoors especially if a person is experiencing symptoms like cough or sore throat, was the advice I got from weather.com. Looking outside I still see people going for a jog or a stroll. No judgment here, perhaps they are just not aware. AQI measures the level of air pollution. You get updates from websites monitoring air quality in your location on any given day along with advice on how to protect yourself and your health.

The Irony

Yesterday, I visited the sustainability pavilion featured at the EXPO here in town. A walk through the place was evocative of the things I was taught at school when I was a kid and how I felt at that time. Again, it brought awareness to how we are contributing to the destruction of the ecosystem and how we can participate in re-building it if we want to survive.  

I think the least that we can do is to consume less and produce more to make life sustainable. It’s not rocket science, and the beauty is we can start with small things. Some ideas of my own:

  • buy fewer clothes, choose durable ones
  • use recyclable bags
  • use public transportation if possible, or travel less
  • consume less meat, eat more vegetables
  • order or cook the right amount of food to avoid wastes
  • save animals, plant something (tree or vegetable)
  • change gadgets only if it’s broken
  • dispose of waste properly

The EXPO made the experience more meaningful by confronting people with well-thought-of questions and then posting a scoreboard to see which of the given options are winning. On the day I visited this was the trend for a few of those:

  • 68% choose to save the Earth rather than escape to Mars
  • 51% wants clean air to breathe more than clean water to drink
  • 69% are willing to get paid badly for doing something they cared about rather than getting highly paid for doing something they disagree with
  • 60% choose to live 100 years into the future than to have lived 100 years into the past
  • 51% opt to be surrounded by annoying people for the rest of their life instead of being lonely for the rest of it
  • 71% would rather be not famous but their family and friends are proud of them instead of the other way around

And get this. 52% choose to find 10 million dollars in a suitcase rather than find true love. Is finding true love becoming overrated? I wonder.

As the pavilion tour rightly puts it, difficult decisions lie ahead.

What choices are we going to make?

Every day we will be confronted with different things. But at the moment, I can start right here. I choose to eat my vegetables, stay indoors, write this article, and hope you’d ponder upon these things and do something about it.

Until then.

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