A question of when to act
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

July 30, 2013

Sitting at a café in Brussels, the warm stagnant air still lingers long after the sun has disappeared. The sun has been bearing down these last few days of July and I find it difficult to avoid the heat and sweat as I spend 4 days vacation touring through western Belgium. But now it is dark and the people have emerged to relax and take in the soft quiet evening. The cool beer is refreshing as beads of condensation stick to the glass, aggregate and then slowly slide down to pool in a circle around the base. I am visiting a good friend and his brother here and they have been very kind to show me around. I feel fortunate when I am able to see a land through local eyes. There is always so much more to a city when one is able to draw back the veil and peer into the hidden places every city holds. From back alley cafes, to the corner shop with the best ethnic foods, or the perfect hidden used book store with books in as many languages as one can count, there is always one new place to discover.

As we sit, we discuss the concept of striking a balance between work and living when an important question came up that inspired me to share.

Is it best to work for wealth and security first and then help people and environment or is it best to enact positive change as early as possible even if it is from a less able foundation?

If one looks at philanthropy, it seems often that in regards to the wealthy, it is towards the end of their lives that they realize the desire and need to give back to their communities often giving generously after years of working for themselves. Others work their whole lives for the betterment of their environment and the less fortunate. Both seem to have positive aspects about them. On the one hand, by securing wealth, one perhaps has the ability to do more while on the other hand, one is able to consistently give over a longer period of time.

I would argue what is important to consider is that for every action we perform, we should look at it in regards to time. That is to say, with each action, as time carries us forward, the effect of that action will expand. Take a fruit tree for example. If one plants a single apple sapling now, within a decade it will grow into a great big tree and be producing many apples, will have sequestered a decades worth of carbon and produced a decades worth of oxygen. If someone plants 10 fruit trees ten years from now to make up for lost time, their effect will be minimal in comparison to the single fully grown apple tree. I believe this argument is easily observed with savings. If an individual starts early and is smart in their actions, they will obtain interest and over the long term, create a nest egg, the basic idea behind a retirement plan.

But what happens when we consider education? Each child is on the receiving end of our actions and will go on to influence the world with their own actions throughout their life. Positive or negative, children like branches will grow and what we teach them will act as a bud, providing the beginnings of development in a new direction. If one spends the time to teach a child and gives them a solid foundation for life early on, that effort will last with that student and show positively in their actions. If however, one puts off teaching this child, but later on decides to provide the means to teach 10 illiterate adults, those adults and their tree of education will not only begin later on, they will have other branches growing in the shadow of illiteracy.

If we are really considering a future of equality, human rights, and sustainability, we need to sow these seeds today and wherever possible. Time is a significant factor that we often don’t consider and it should be taken into account when we are deciding on our goals so that our actions have the chance to grow and be realized. As the saying goes, “There is no time like the present.”

Sitting in the train as it speeds back to Amsterdam, I am happy to have had the few days off but find myself excited to get back to my work on aquaculture in the hopes of realizing tangible ideas today for tomorrow.

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