May 1, 2018

Life of Byron: A Sustainable Community With Adam

Sustainability is defined quite broadly as being able to be maintained, upheld or defended.

If you look at a community and the different dimensions, there are lots of ways to think about sustainability. Adam Guthrie, has relocated to Byron Bay with his family from Bali where his children attended the world famous Green School. It is built entirely from bamboo and teaches a mantra of sustainability first. In choosing to settle in Byron Bay, Adam and his family were drawn to the way that Byron Bay embraces the principles of sustainability as a community.

There is a lot of intuition that a community like Byron Bay and it’s surrounding towns, shares a collective set of values or norms around sustainability. Why do you think Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers enjoys that ‘brand’?

I can’t really speak for others but for me, I personally feel an energy here that I think attracts people that care. People that care about, respect, appreciate and are grateful for how nature is so abundant and how it’s designed to sustain us.

In it’s broadest sense, what does a sustainable approach to life means to you and your family?

Firstly, it means treading lightly on the planet. By that I mean choosing to lead a lifestyle that creates the least impact of pain and suffering on the planet and all living beings and consuming things that can be replaced. For me, that is eating a whole food plant based vegan diet.

A plant-based diet has been shown to have the least impact on the environment plus nothing is injured and nothing suffers while eating this. It is also very powerful in it’s ability to heal and prevent disease which was certainly the case for me. I had a heart attack at age 39, changed to whole food plant based diet and was off medications within six months and eight years on still do not require them and I feel the best I have felt in years.

Secondly, it is about eating organic local produce. It has the least impact on the environment, it creates and sustains community, it sustains our health because when we eat local, we eat what’s in season and what’s in season is what nature and Mother Earth want us to eat at that time of year. Nature doesn’t have it wrong. It knows what to feed us and when. For example, vitamin c rich foods in winter like citrus help prevent colds and flu. If we eat what grows locally and in season we have the best chance to create and sustain good health.

Lastly, sustainability is about avoiding excess and choosing to buy products that don’t damage the planet. Instead, it’s nice to only consume what we need and what we can replace. I don’t understand why most cultures focus on generating more, creating more, having more. We spend so much time and energy chasing it and it comes at the cost of many things like spending time with family and friends, creating products and services that damage the planet and hurt living beings. I use to buy into the thought that more is better.

Since suffering a heart attack, I’ve come to see life through a different lens. I’ve come to learn that nature provides everything we need. At the end of the day, we don’t need a lot to sustain health and to live on this planet. We just need some shelter; some clothing; a couple of good whole food organic plant meals a day; take the time to pause and be still each day to connect with our inner and higher self and to listen to our intuition (meditate); to move our body for 30 minutes each day; and be part of and contribute to a community by supporting each other and listening to each other with kindness love and respect.

It’s simple but can be difficult to implement at times but living in Byron Bay it is easier because most people value that lifestyle. Those actions are easier said than done but I think if we can keep them at the forefront of our minds we make more conscious decisions about how we spend our time each day. My experience of the Byron Bay community is that we share a lot of these values. It’s very special, I’ve not experienced it anywhere else.

What do you think has influenced your adoption of sustainability as a cardinal value in your life?

Compassion, I don’t like to see anything suffer (planet, animals, humans). And Karma, the law of cause and effect, for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. If we do things that cause suffering we suffer. Whether that be things that hurt the planet or any living thing.

How do you think Byron Bay, and the collective approach to sustainability, aligns with your personal approach?

I think a lot of us here are seeking truth and with that comes an awareness of living a simple or simpler life. It’s easier to live simply here, the weather is warm, local organic food is in abundance, and the community is kind and loving.

Sustainability is probably best understood in terms of ecological sustainability. How would you explain that concept to children and what are some of the ways that your family embraces ecological sustainability?

Sustainability is replacing what we use. Example, if we eat a vegetable it’s important we replace that vegetable by growing another one. If we don’t we will not be able to eat in the future because we will have no more vegetables.

In the past, most people focused on wanting more. We want to do things faster get things quicker. We wanted to get to town faster so we created cars so we didn’t have to walk and to make those cars we need to get oil from the ground to run them. We want to eat more burgers and meat so we created factory farms, and we had to cut down forests to grow grain to feed the cows because we didn’t have enough grass to feed that many cows. The thing is if we cut down lots of trees all at once then the trees can’t replace themselves because they can’t drop seeds to grow a new tree, that’s not sustainable. We need to replace what we take. We need trees, they allow us to breathe fresh air and without fresh air we die.

We created plastic bags to make it easier to carry things and keep food fresh, but plastic doesn’t break down into soil. As a result, it stays on the planet and fills our oceans and injures the fish. That’s why it’s important to use only what we need to be able to replace what we need. It’s important to ask ourselves “Do I need this? or do I want this?” The answer to need this is better than want this. The truth is we don’t need a lot. We just need some shelter, some food and some clothes anything else is a want. If it’s a want then in most cases we are taking more from the earth than we are replacing. It’s also good to ask…“Can I replace this or can what I’m about to use be decomposed back into the soil after I use it? If the answer is yes then it’s sustainable and that is good. Sustainability is using the things that nature provide in a way that they replace themselves so that we can all continue to live healthy happy lives.

It’s important to remember children learn by observing their parents so it’s really important that us parents do actions that create sustainability. If we do our kids will too. We do this by being vegan, we do it by avoiding the use of plastic bags when shopping and taking our own cloth bags. We do this by living simply and we do it by buying local.

When a community embraces a long-term view of sustainability, it suggests that individuals participate in the community towards a collective interest – beyond themselves. What sort of norms or beliefs encourages individuals to do that?

We become who we associate with. We are lucky to live in a place where a lot of people value the environment, community, kindness and sustainability. I think some of the beliefs we share are… The belief that the planet is suffering (the earth, the humans and the animals), the belief that we can individually contribute to relieve and reverse that suffering and the belief that if we all do what we can as a collective, then it adds up to big change.

Is there an enhanced level of community or connection that can be attributed to principles of sustainability?

I think so, sustainability is about caring and compassion and with that comes deep connection.

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