There are a few places left on Earth where cultures and individuals have not lost touch with their past, their knowledge of how to live in harmony with the natural world, rather than overcoming it and destroying it. As far as carbon footprints are concerned, these are the people who have perhaps a heel-p
rint on the environment, as compared to the ski-boot-size print we know we have upon the Earth every day we live our average American lives. This is the story of one family’s journey to seek answers to the myriad questions about what we can do to reach back toward our past and re-learn the ways of the people who still respect the gifts of the Earth, conserve them, re-use them, and ultimately have the power and education to refuse the modern products that are toxic to our environment. This blog is a snapshot of where things have gone awry and an offering of simple solutions to stop the flood of plastics and non-reusable garbage into our wild places.
We don’t have a blueprint for living the perfect zero impact life, but we can provide a road-map for an ever-changing journey toward a more mindful way of living, whether we live in the most remote villages in the Himalayas or on a both rural and suburban island 35 minutes by ferry to metro Seattle.
I’m a documentary filmmaker, with 20 years’ luck making films for NOVA, the BBC, and National Geographic in the world’s wildest least inhabited places on Earth. My husband is an explorer/climber who became known at the turn of this century for his 7 successful summits of Mount Everest. You might say our combined experiences have aided our re-thinking of the everyday worlds we live in. We’ve lived the sparse mountaineer’s life, a modern-wilderness-caveman-style existence in all sorts of extremes and have analyzed it closely, paring down our essentials and power requirements to the absolute minimum. And we now know there can be great joy and satisfaction living a life more simple, far from the cough of motors, hours if not days from the nearest shopping center.
We continue to make films and do research in the remote places we love, but what has stunned us and inspired us to change our lifestyle at home and live more closely to the rhythms of the Earth is the amount of waste we’re seeing in the world’s highest watersheds and the trickle-down of those misguided waste disposal practices, those plastics and toxic chemicals, ultimately, into our pristine waterways and oceans.
We’re taking simple steps, as you’ll learn in this blog, to initiate pilot projects, both at home and abroad, to help both our local island townsfolk and the indigenous cultures we work with see waste in new ways: separating the resources from the toxics and opening up a dialogue about how to reduce the waste that is ultimately detrimental to us all. We’re re-learning what our great great grandparents practiced.
Mostly, it’s our children (ages 5 & 7) who inspire our work. They find solutions long before we do and adapt to every environment they face. But they can no longer enjoy the beauty of the highest Himalayan villages, for example, because their eyes are caught by the tree limbs wrapped in blowing plastic bags, the ancient mani walls carved with Buddha’s teachings and stuffed with ramen noodle packages, and the wild grasses glittering with sweets wrappers and water bottles thrown from the hands of their Sherpa friends.
“Let’s try to do something about it,” are the words Finn & Cleo spoke last February when we spent a month in the Mount Everest region of Nepal working on a Magic Yeti Children’s Library we had established a year before. This short film is a brief look at the adventures we had in coming up with simple solutions for a beautiful village at 12,600 feet at risk of becoming another trash heap sending its waste down into the greatest watershed in the world. The people of Phortse are taking positive steps to prevent this.