The 21 Precepts
Safeguard and Improve Your Environment



12-1. Be of good appearance.

It sometimes does not occur to some individuals—as they do not have to spend their days looking at themselves—that they form part of the scenery and appearance of others. And some do not realize that they are judged by others on the basis of their appearance.

While clothes can be expensive, soap and the other tools of self-care are not that hard to obtain. The techniques are sometimes difficult to dig up but can be evolved.

In some societies, when they are barbaric or become very degraded, it can even be the fashion to be a public eyesore. Actually it is a symptom of a lack of self-respect.

Exercising and working, one can become very messed up. But this does not rule out getting cleaned up. And, as an example, some European and English workmen manage a style of appearance even when working. Some of the better athletes, one notices, look good despite being wringing wet with sweat.

An environment disfigured with unkempt people can have a subtle, depressing effect on one’s morale.2

Encourage people around you to look good by complimenting them when they do or even gently helping them with their problems when they don’t. It could improve their self-regard and their morale as well.

12-2. Take care of your own area.

When people mess up their own possessions and area, it can slop over into your own.

When people seem to be incapable of caring for their own things and places, it is a symptom of their feeling that they don’t really belong there and don’t really own their own things. When young, the things they were “given” had too many cautions and strings attached or were taken away from them by brothers, sisters or parents. And they possibly did not feel welcome.

The possessions, the rooms and work spaces, the vehicles of such people advertise that they are not really the property of anyone. Worse, a sort of rage against possessions can sometimes be seen. Vandalism3 is a manifestation of it: the house or car “nobody owns” is soon ruined.

Those who build and try to maintain low-income housing are often dismayed by the rapidity with which ruin can set in. The poor, by definition, own little or nothing. Harassed in various ways, they also come to feel they do not belong.

But whether rich or poor, and for whatever reason, people who do not take care of their possessions and places can cause disorder to those about them. I am sure you can think of such instances.

Ask such people what they really do own in life and if they really belong where they are and you will receive some surprising answers. And help them a great deal too.

The skill of organizing possessions and places can be taught. It can come as a new idea to someone that an item, when picked up and used, should be put back in the same place so it can be found again: some spend half their time just looking for things. A little time spent getting organized can pay off in speeded work: it is not the waste of time some believe.

To protect your own possessions and places, get others to take care of theirs.

12-3. Help take care of the planet.

The idea that one has a share in the planet and that one can and should help care for it may seem very large and, to some, quite beyond reality. But today what happens on the other side of the world, even so far away, can effect what happens in your own home.

Recent discoveries by space probes to Venus have shown that our own world could be deteriorated to a point where it would no longer support life. And it possibly could happen in one’s own lifetime.

Cut down too many forests, foul too many rivers and seas, mess up the atmosphere and we have had it. The surface temperature can go roasting hot, the rain can turn to sulfuric acid. All living things could die.

One can ask, “Even if that were true, what could I do about it?” Well, even if one were simply to frown when people do things to mess up the planet, one would be doing something about it. Even if one only had the opinion that it was just not a good thing to wreck the planet and mentioned that opinion, one would be doing something.

Care of the planet begins in one’s own front yard. It extends through the area one travels to get to school or work. It covers such places as where one picnics or goes on vacation. The litter which messes up the terrain and water supply, the dead brush which invites fire, these are things one need not contribute to and which, in otherwise idle moments, one can do something about. Planting a tree may seem little enough but it is something.

In some countries, old people, the unemployed do not just sit around and go to pieces: they are used to care for the gardens and parks and forests, to pick up the litter and add some beauty to the world. There is no lack of resources to take care of the planet. They are mainly ignored. One notes that the Civilian Conservation Corps in the US, organized in the 1930s to absorb the energies of unemployed officers and youth, was one of the few, if not the only project of that depressed era, that created far more wealth for the state than was expended. It reforested large areas and did other valuable things that cared for the US part of the planet. One notes that the CCC no longer exists. One can do as little as add one’s opinion that such projects are worthwhile and support opinion leaders and organizations that carry on environmental work.

There is no lack of technology. But technology and its application cost money. Money is available when sensible economic policies, policies which do not penalize everyone, are followed. Such policies exist.

There are many things one can do to help take care of the planet. They begin with the idea that one should. They progress with suggesting to others they should.

Man has gotten up to the potential of destroying the planet. He must be pushed on up to the capability and actions of saving it.

It is, after all, what we’re standing on.

If others do not help safeguard and improve
the environment, the way to happiness could have
no roadbed to travel on at all.

  1. 1. safeguard: prevent from being harmed; protect.
  2. 2. morale: the mental and emotional attitude of an individual or a group; sense of well-being; willingness to get on with it; a sense of common purpose.
  3. 3. vandalism: the willful and malicious destruction of public or private property, especially anything beautiful or artistic.

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