Dear Partners in Green,
Kermit was right. It is not easy being green, though it is good to be green and it is certainly what I want to be. Kermit was born that way, we have to work at it.
The first question is what does being green mean to us and how can we live into what we aspire to be?
For me being green means living in harmony with Nature. It is understanding that all life on this planet has a right to be here, that balance, respect and appreciation need to be restored. We are out of sync and it becomes more obvious each day.
I think the very first step in our recovery is humility, a word many are uncomfortable with in the brazen, out-for-myself world we are living in. We may associate the word with meekness or weakness, but actually It comes from the Latin word humilitas, whose root is humus or earth. In that sense, humility implies a simple, basic, even organic character. Nothing lofty or exalted, but fundamental and essential. And the words human and humane also have the same root, so we are connected to this virtue at the core of our very identity.
Sallie McFague in her book, The Body of God, An Ecological Theology shares her thoughts on humility and the environmental crisis:
To admit that we human beings have come up against our match – the planet itself – and cannot, must not, try to manage, control and fix it, but instead ought to listen to it, learn from it and restrain ourselves (our desires, projects, comforts, even our needs, as well as our population) is very difficult. Not to act, but to abstain; not to control, but to “let it be”; not to solve the problem, but to simplify one’s life; not to want more but to accept less: all this goes against the grain.
A sensibility of abstinence and restraint suggests that we assume an attitude of humility rather than of control, and realize that we are but one species in a world that, the better we know, the more complex, intricate, and mysterious we find to be. Such a sensibility will not deliver us from the ecological crisis, but with appropriate and thoughtful technology to help us learn more about our house rules (very different from a fix-it mentality), is a prudent posture. At least we should do less harm.*
I believe that the first step on the path to assuming “an attitude of humility” and becoming green is learning more about the patch of earth outside our door. Listed below are five actions which I think are important.
- Step outside and look around. If living in a city or congested area you may want to find a park or some other green space. Take a seat if you like. Note the grass, trees, birds, and squirrels. You are now in their home. Look up at the sky, the sun, the clouds. Take your time. Breathe. Consider how being there makes you feel. (You may want to journal about this moment.)
- Learn where your local watershed is located. A watershed is a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean.
- Take a field trip to your local landfill, also known as a dump, a site for the disposal of waste material by burial. The deepest spot can be up to 500 feet into the ground. You may be shocked.
- Pay attention to the amount of trash and recycling material you take out to the curb each week. Find creative ways to reduce the amount.
- Take reusable bags with you not just when grocery shopping, but also when you shop in other stores. See if you can go for a week bringing home not one plastic bag.
It is important that we are mindful and awake. There is so much in our world to distract us. So much that seems intent on telling us that we need things to make us complete, so much that lulls us into believing that we alone are not enough. And so we focus our attention on things that do not matter and miss the things that truly do. And that could be a thought to share with our families and our friends as we aspire to being green.
I hope that these thoughts and suggestions may be helpful for you as together we work to transform our world and ourselves, heart by heart, leaf by leaf.
Thank you for being on this journey.
Till next time,
P. S. Two songs that I found myself humming as I was writing this are Kermit’s “Bein’ Green” by Joe Raposo (above) and “Let It Be” by the Beatles (below).
*McFague, Sallie, The Body of God, An Ecological Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993) 6-7.