Sunday, April 22

Earth Day 2007: Festival of Strategic Consumption? A Feel-Good Celebration? Or a call to Personal Transformation?

I recently posted about a blog I like -- World Changing -- and their newly published book by the same name. On Friday, World Changing authors Alex Steffen and Sarah Rich wrote an article unlike many other articles focused on Earth Day -- they used strong words to contrast their worries about Earth Day becoming a meaningless exercise in congratulating ourselves on all the progress we've made to protect the earth ... with the usual love-dovey-everything's-rosey language of most other Earth Day missives. They do make a well reasoned point, though in some ways it's just way too depressing for me today.

My perspective on Earth Day is one of cautious optimism. I think there is still a place for celebration along with encouragement to maker bigger, stronger, more difficult changes in our lives.

Alex and Sarah's article makes a well reasoned point that Earth Day 2007 should be the last Earth Day. But I can't help wish and hope they are wrong. Not wrong about what is going on now with the mega-corporations making mega-profits from 'green' products and technology ... but wrong about what the future holds for society and for individuals. I want Earth Day to continue.
I want there to be a day every year in April, when people all over this planet join their consciousness with every part of Creation to strive to heal and be part of the healing, to strive to connect with animals, plants, wind, water, bacteria, molds and fungi ... mountains, deserts and oceans.
I want this day we call Earth Day to spill over into Every Day.

I want Earth Day Every Day to be something we have in our consciousness every morning upon waking, and every hour we spend pushing our grocery carts down aisles loaded with overpackaged products ... and every time we allow mass media to wash over us with its messages of consumption and complacency and every minute we breathe the air our planet so graciously provides us. . . and every evening we are lucky enough to sleep on a comfortable bed in a comfortable warm, dry shelter.
Earth Day 2007I get frustrated and sometimes feel hopeless about ever being able to make strong enough personal changes (aka sacrifices) to really make a difference. I know Tim and I have to reduce our ecological footprint even more than we already do. To get it down to the minimum we can live healthy, fulfilled lives with. Recycling everything we can is not enough. Buying in bulk, riding our bikes, using only energy-efficient lightbulbs and keeping the thermostat no higher than 65F is not going to be enough.

Willow Blossoms Montana Spring

As Alex and Sarah point out, one-planet lives, conceived properly, can be much better lives.
Earth Day Every DayMany products that are more sustainable are also better made and beautifully durable. Green homes -- with natural light and fresh air and good insulation -- are more comfortable than gigantic McMansions. Vibrant neighborhoods with nice streets and parks and a strong community offer a better quality of every day life. Fewer toxic chemicals in the air means less asthma and cancer; better food and more walking means less heart disease and diabetes; less driving means fewer people killed and injured in accidents. Waste is expensive, bad design is expensive, and the money we save eliminating both can leave us better off than we were. We can build lives which are bright green and prosperous.
Gaylord Nelson, visionary and founder of the first Earth Day wrote,
If we human beings learn to see the intricacies that bind one part of a natural system to another and then to us, we will no longer argue about the importance of wilderness protection, or over the question of saving endangered species, or how human communities must base their economic futures – not on short-term exploitation – but on long-term, sustainable development.
Summer Rain

And long before anyone had the idea of celebrating protecting our planet and greening our lives, Chief Sealth (Chief Seattle) told all of us:
All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

My prayer today is that we each take the message of Chief Sealth and the founders of Earth Day into our hearts -- not only today, April 22, 2007 -- but everyday:
May we resolve to walk softly on our paths. May we start the journey right now and keep to our individual intentions and goals to change how we live, to make a softer, more tender mark on our beautiful and fragile home planet. May we try to do what must be done not because it feels good, but because it is the right thing to do. May we start right now to respect and love and connect with (on a deep soul level) every single part of our environment, whether we live in cities and decide to go outside to appreciate the tenacity of a dandelion sprouting in a crack of concrete ... or whether we live in rural areas and spend our day building compost bins for our gardens .... or live in small towns and spend today or tomorrow or the next day working to build a community food garden or bike path or a Habitat for Humanity energy-efficient home ....

May we always feel the presence of our Mother the Earth, beneath our feet, may we feel her heartbeat in concert with ours, may we know the love of the earth deep in our hearts and bodies and minds. Not just today, Earth Day. May we know these things with our whole selves every day of our lives.

Happy Earth Day Everyday, Everyone!


Bitterroot said...

M, this is a marvelous post. Thank you for the words and the images. And Happy Earth Day to you as well, belatedly!

maureen said...

hey, EO -- thanks. I'm glad to know someone is reading these posts. sometimes i wonder. ... heheh

Bitterroot said...

I read you regularly, my dear! I love both blogs.