Dear Partners in Green,
I am writing this letter on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Let us hope that one day there will be no need for an Earth Day, for every day will be Earth Day, for people will have finally learned that degradation of our natural world is indeed a form of collective suicide and that the care of the Earth is the responsibility of all.
Many may not see themselves as contributors to the climate crisis, but by inaction and blind eye we all have been complicit. But there is hope. We can use our actions, our voices, our political weight to stem the tide, but help may also be coming from the most unexpected arena, indeed from the global catastrophe, we call the COVID -19 pandemic.
As catastrophic as it has been, the Virus has offered the Earth a moment to breathe, as driving, flying, drilling, mining, dumping, spewing and seeping have been drastically curtailed. Lately, the news has been filled with photos of blue skies where none have appeared for years, of species of rare birds now appearing at feeders, of clear views of the Himalayas and clean canals in Venice.
But the Virus has also exposed unfairness, inequity, and inequality in our system. The cause is the love of the mighty dollar at the expense of the marginalized, the elderly, the poor, those who are black or brown, those in most need of support, all of whom are disproportionality victims of the pandemic. The statistics are staggering and heartbreaking.
In time this may all be behind us. We hear people anxious to open up society and to get back to “normal.” This unprecedented period in history has been extremely difficult, unsettling, frightening. Many fear that they or their children or other loved ones will contract the disease. Many are struggling financially, or are dealing with depression and other mental issues related to isolation.
But the answer is not to get back to the old normal, but to create a new normal. Not the normal in which money determines the life or death of those who are marginalized. And the same is true with our Earth. Environmental justice goes hand in hand with social justice. There is a correlation between the treatment of the Earth and the treatment of our fellow human beings. Our responsibility is to care for both, for all.
The thousands of deaths expose the unfairness of our system, while the blue skies and bluebirds expose the impact our lifestyles have on the created world. A country that does not address these issues puts society and indeed life itself in peril.
What do we do? We do what we can. We vote, we speak, we write, we stand up, we step in. We demonstrate our caring, our concern, and our love. But we also must shift our mindset, alter our way of thinking. We must find teachers who can show us another way of being and of seeing.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, uses Native American stories to give us a road map to how we may become the people we need to be. One way is to see the fruits of our world as gifts and not as commodities, “that we live in gratitude and amazement at the richness and generosity of the world.” Another is that “we bestow our gifts in kind, to celebrate our kinship with the world.” She writes, “We can choose. If all the world is a commodity, how poor we grow. When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become.*
She also speaks of being a people who know how to say “thank you.” I believe this is important for all to say and for all to hear. Gratitude for the Earth does not imply ownership, but respect and appreciation. Does that not apply to our fellow human beings regardless of age, economic status, or color of skin? If only we could be a society that is grateful for all of its members, that values all, and cares for all, and that they might know this by both the words we speak and the care we give.
May it be so!
A task for the month of May
- Work on creating a mindset of gratitude. Practice thinking in terms of gratitude. What are you grateful for? Spring unfolding, longer days, flowers budding, friends, old and new, the people who pick up your trash, the farmers who grow your food, the musicians who wrote your favorite songs, the beauty and richness of our cultural diversity, the seniors carrying the wisdom of years, this beautiful planet that you can call home.
And then say “thank you” over and over again.
I share with you this song by Louis Armstrong which has become one of the anthems of this time in our history
And leave you with this poem by John Daniel
*A Prayer Among Friends
Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.
Wishing peace and health to you and your loved ones.
Thank you for being on this journey.
Till next time,
*Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweet Grass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants (Canada: Milkweed Editions, 2013) 31.
*By John Daniel from Of Earth. Lost Horse Press, 2012.