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Dave Chameides Speaks

e-Jain Digest I e-Jain Digest October 2009

Dave Chameides Speaks

(Dave Chameides was one of the impressive speakers at the JAINA conference. We asked him to send a message to the community.)

I have to be honest about something. Before last summer, I knew very little about Jainism beyond a small article I recall reading when I was a kid. So when I was contacted about speaking about the environment at the Jaina Conference in Southern California, I decided to do a little research before I showed up.

Let me just say….wow. I was absolutely shocked and elated with what I learned. While there are obviously many aspects to Jainism, it occurred to me, that here was an entire religion based specifically on the values that I espouse.Non-violence, honesty, a respect for all living things, and a philosophy that revolves around NOT acquiring things?

Simply fantastic.

The conference itself was an incredible experience for me and, what I had read about was only bolstered by the wonderful people that I met that day. And now, a few months past, I have been asked again to contribute something to the Jaina community and I couldn't be more pleased.

So here it is. It's directed at all of the kids reading this, but you parents should read on because you're a part of this too.

There is power in youth.

Now I know many of you reading this are thinking "huh, that's it?" and yes, that's it.

I teach an environmental seminar called Chasing Sustainability to school kids all over the country and while I discuss consumption, trash, renewable energy, and a host of other things, the larger concept that I leave students with is that they have more power than they can possibly comprehend. And with that power, if used correctly, can come incredible change.And change is what we need right now.

You see, we adults have a lot of things going on in our lives. Marriages, kids, businesses, debts, bills, mid life crisis', and a whole host of other things that take up way too much of our time. So when it comes to something seemingly simple, like giving up on plastic water bottles, ditching those plastic bags, or turning off the lights, we have trouble prioritizing and recognizing what, in the grander scheme, is truly important. Sure making a good living is great, but if you have all the money in the world and no fresh water to drink…..well good luck with that.

That's why we need you, all the young people who are reading this, to stand up and say enough is enough. Enough plastic water bottles, enough plastic bags, enough driving down the block to the store, enough conspicuous consumption. Enough. Because without all those obligations clouding your judgment, you, the Jaina youth, have the ability to understand that water is what it's all about. You have the ability to recognize that a planet filled with plastic is not one you want to inherit. You have the ability to understand that the consequences of your actions are your responsibility whether you are aware of them or not.

So what I would like each and every one of you to do, not tomorrow, not next week, but right now, is walk over to your parents and say "Starting today, I am no longer going to drink out of plastic water bottles anymore". When they ask you why tell them that it is more expensive. Tell them that of the more than 3 Billion plastic water bottles disposed of last year, only a fraction were actually recycled. Tell them that you aren't interested in drinking Bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor that is found in the plastic resin those bottles are made from. Tell them that you aren't interested in drinking water that is not regulated for purity. And most importantly, tell them that as a Jain, who respects all life on the planet, you can't actively deny someone else of their water supply, as is happening now in Fiji, when you have perfectly drinkable water flowing into your house.

Tell them these things and see what they say. Do it respectfully, but let them know that this is important to you and that it should be important to them as well. And you know what will happen? Before long, they will follow in your footsteps. Why?Because deep down inside, they'll know that you are right and they will learn from you. And how do I know this? Because when I was a kid, this is how we got our parents to start recycling, by doing it ourselves and showing them what was important, truly important. It's just that simple.

Yes, there is power in youth beyond your wildest beliefs. But it only works, if you are willing to use it.

For more tips on limiting your environmental footrpint, check out

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