ELEPHANT IN THE WIND
This elephant has a long history. The paper that I used is from one of my old paintings that I recycled after many years. The pink background is a yoga mat, and I drew on lots of details. The photo is blurry (oops), and it was windy on the day that I took it….which put me thinking about the expression “winds of change”.
During the process of art-making, enter meditation. I am breathing deeply and allowing thoughts to drift off rather than focusing on anything from the past or future. Making art keeps me in the here and now. That headspace also allows ideas and fresh thoughts to rise up. As I worked on this piece, I realised that transforming old, damaged yoga mats into wall art was good, and buying eco friendly mats in future would be better.
Not everyone can kiss their worries goodbye with ease. It is normal for anyone who cares about our planet to feel worried or overwhelmed at times, depending on how much bad news a peson takes in.
In 2020, researchers at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science reported how eco-anxiety in its various guises is now a social problem. The American Psychological Association concurs. It published ‘Climate anxiety in young people: a call to action’, a report which includes this comment:
Feelings of climate distress might also compound other daily stressors to negatively affect overall mental health, potentially leading to increases in stress-related problems such as substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression.“-J. Wu, G. Snell, H. Samji (2020).
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHILDHOODS
Intense anxiety causes panic attacks, insomnia, and obsessive thinking. My own moments of self-doubt and dismay about planetary issues are not debilitating, and I thank yoga for that. Plus, I avoid the doom and gloom updates.
It saddens me that in children, feeling tense is something that is being experienced at a younger age than ever before. Sociologists have reported that an estimated 1·6 million school-aged protestors in 125 countries demanded action be taken to combat climate change in recent years, which tells us just how concerned youth populations are.
My childhood was spent living near a wild bird sanctuary lake, in an area with lots of native trees. I loved all the sights and sounds around me, and growing up where I did instilled a reverence in me for nature.
In 1993 I started making art from recycled materials. It was fun to use whatever I could find to make sculpture. Of course, like many artists, I found the cost of materials prohibitive and that motivated me to use found objects. Most of all it simply felt right to reuse things.
TEACHERS AND LEADERS
When my son was born, sourcing organic vegetables to give him very best nutrition that I could became my priority.
On my quest to seek chemical-free food I met wonderful people who kindly shared their wisdom with me. They taught me about the environment and opened my eyes to planetary issues at a time when every day internet access to information had not yet manifested in Ireland.
As my son grew up, my awareness grew. Yoga came much later.
So is this all happy ending stuff: did I evolve, become a yoga teacher, improve step by step and never make mistakes again? Not all all. Look at this as an example:
FROM ‘CHEAP’ TO REAL CHANGE
This yoga mat started tearing and peeling after just four uses! Why? Because it is cheap PVC shit, imported from China, that’s why.
I bought a box of these mats a few years for women who were on a low income. I knew that the products would not last long, but I had no money to do better at the time. The women were delighted to have a new mat each, however I tested a mat myself and felt dismayed when bits started peeling off so soon.
In 2017 I pledged to do better in future, and so began the search for genuinely Earth-friendly options. After trawling through lots of fake claims and endless ‘green’ clichés (lies), I found the genuine article. Now I use a yoga mat that is so Earth-friendly, it can eventually be added to garden compost!
The eco yoga mats that I import are €40 each and not-for-profit. If you would like one, get in touch. My yoga regulars take mats and pay when then can. I encourage everyone to make the change.
Wherever you are in the world, if you make art from recycled materials, or if you are a yoga teacher who has made improvements with the bigger picture in mind, I’d love to hear from you.
Kathryn Crowley is a writer and tutor based in Kerry, Ireland.
Tuition website: https://studyboost.org/
Heather B. Patisaul, Heather B. Adewale (2009). ‘Long-Term Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors on Reproductive Physiology and Behavior‘, Front Behaviour Neuroscience.
World Health Organisation (WHO) 2016. ‘Dioxins and their effects on human health’ 2016.