Published 17 November 2019 ● Last Updated on 15 June 2021

I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.

                                                                                                             – J. K Rowling

Keeping this in mind, we decided to start a monthly feature called the Readers’ Corner in October 2019, where we ask eco warriors from Singapore to tell us about a books that left a lasting impression on them as they journeyed on their quest save the world, one action at a time. Our thought- perhaps if you read one or all of these eco books, you could set off on a magical environmentally sustainable journey of your own. 

In this second edition of the Readers’ Corner, we caught up with  Priyanka Shahra – Founder of One With Earth a platform that designs solutions for urban set ups with sustainability in mind – and Swapaholic – the clothes and accessory swap platform that has taken Singapore by storm. Shout out to all our conscious fashion consumers, Swapaholic has a more eco friendly option to all the Black Friday sales – it is the Green Friday Swap 2019. It will be held on 23 November [Details here]. In the course of our conversation, Priyanka also spoke of Teachings of the Earth| Zen and The Environment by John Daido Loori, the eco book she recommends our readers to read to get inspired and think more sustainably. It was the one that started her on her path of sustainability, without doubt. 

Priyanka Shahra Swapaholic OWE
Priyanka Shahra is the Founder of One With Earth and Swapaholic

In conversation with Priyanka Shahra

SG| Tell us a bit about yourself and your work. 

PS | At One With Earth (OWE), we design solutions that promote urban sustainability. For me personally, OWE is a place where I can express my creativity to propagate mindsets and behavioural changes through the design of convenient yet sustainable solutions. 

SG | Can you recommend a book – fiction or nonfiction – which centres around our planet or our environment – that you love, or are inspired by? 

PS | In a phase of reading anything and everything related to Zen Buddhism, I chanced upon a book called Teachings of the Earth- Zen and The Environment by John Daido Loori. This was well before I knew much about global warming and the plight of our earth. To my memory, this was also the first book I ever read on the environment. 

Book Teachings of the Earth
‘Teachings of the Earth’ by John Daido Loori. Click pic to purchase on Amazon.

SG | Your version of what the back cover should read to convince everyone to pick it up right away! 

PS | While we have law enforcement for people who violate others, we have none for violations against the environment. We kill and steal mercilessly from nature with no governing entity to bring these atrocious acts to justice. 

Harm to our environment doesn’t just endanger millions of flora and fauna, but in effect endangers us too as they impact all life on earth – they are the greatest violations of all! They require our action on both, tangible law enforcement but more importantly the inculcation of intangible lessons that teach us our relationship with the earth. 

SG | When did you first read this book? Do share one or few lines from the book that strike a chord with you. 

PS | I first read the book around 8 years ago. 

Here’s an excerpt that really resonate with me: 

“It’s no small thing to be born human. With it comes a tremendous responsibility. That responsibility is due to our intelligence, our awareness. We have the power, each of us, not only to change our own lives and bring them into harmony with the ten thousand things, but also to nourish others, to heal this planet. The harmony, nourishment and healing and within the capability of the same science and technology that have created the destruction. We can do it.” 

Priyanka Shahra on a cycle trip
When not saving the Earth, Priyanka Shahra likes to explore nature by taking long bike rides.

SG | If you were the author of this book, is there anything that you would have done differently? 

PS | I wouldn’t do anything differently! However, I would recommend another version of the book that is more mainstream and applicable to all without the connection to Zen. I suggest this, despite the book being immensely powerful to a Zen seeker because a wider audience would benefit from the wisdom of this read. 

SG | If you could change the title of the book, it would be called __________________. 

PS | The intelligence that destroys our planet can also save it. 

SG | So, you love this book… Has reading it inspired you to do something different or new?

PS | Absolutely! This book was one of the few books and experience that encouraged me to create children’s books on our relationship with nature. 

Dina Helps Uncle Tree, is one such book born under the banner of OWE. This book (designed for 3-5 year olds) inspires the inheritors of our earth to proactively help Uncle Tree who works so very hard to clean our air! Not only does the story teach little ones the value of trees, but moreover how they can make a difference. We hope that such small yet powerful acts can pave the way to a generation of mindful, responsible adults. 

Book Dina helps uncle tree
A part of a series of children books, Dina helps Uncle Tree hopes to teach the young ones the importance of Nature. Click pic to purchase on Amazon.

We developed this as the first of 14 books in 2016. Here’s an excerpt that demystifies the common belief that one’s singular action is futile. 

“Oh! I didn’t know that you clean the air for us all. I want to help!” says Dina, “… but I guess I’m too small?” 

“Big or small,” says Tree Uncle, “you can help me indeed” And in Dina’s tiny little hands he puts tinier little seeds. 

Every drop counts – we hope to ingrain that in Gen Alpha from their first comprehensible moment!

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Reader’s Corner| A must-read book to save the world


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