Earth Day: What is your legacy?

Earth Day – April 22, 2020 –  Earth Day —  Living in Harmony with and Interactions among human beings, non-human beings, and the natural world.


          One day a child, Sarah saw an older man digging a hole in the earth. She asked the man, “Must you do such heavy work at your age? Have you no to help you?” The man kept digging. “This work I must do myself.”  Sarah asked, “What kind of tree are you be planting?” “I am planting a fruit tree. “When will your fruit tree bear fruit?” asked Sarah. “In 20 years, the tree will bear fruit” responded the man. Sarah asked, “But surely do you think you will live that long?” “No, I do not think so, but I must plant this tree. When I came into this world there were trees here for me. It is my duty to make sure that when I leave this earth, there will be trees here also.”  What will your legacy be?

To sketch out possible social direction stemming from a bio-ethical approach, Peter Faulkner at Stanford University proposed  the tenets for Posterity Rights which addressed our political responsibility to future generations:

Unborn generations have the right:

  1. To an intact genetic heritage and to freedom from contamination by carcinogenic and mutagenic processes and substances.
  2. To enjoy both plant and animal wildlife in the same variety and environment existing today, and,
  3. To a proportional share of the earth’s resources.

One of my favorite environmentalists is David Henry Thoreau, who believed in the inherent goodness of people and nature. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” wrote Thoreau in his famous book Walden. Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist was one of the founders of the Greenpeace movement. He articulated Three Laws of Ecology:

The First Law of Ecology states that all forms of life are interdependent; The Second Law of Ecology states that the stability (unity, security, harmony and togetherness) of ecosystems is dependent on their diversity/complexity; and The Third Law of Ecology states that all resources(food, water, air, minerals, and energy) are finite and there ae limits to the growth of all living systems.  The Hopis believe it is their sacred duty and responsibility to care for the earth. Caring for the living earth is a natural extension of caring for oneself or one’s family or community.

We are one with nature and the animal world. Deep ecology, which seeks to harmonize humans with the nature and will of the land which owes its insights to Arne Naess. Arne was an important figure in the environmental movement. The key term of his philosophy is “deep ecology”, which describes one of two main environmental approaches which Næss recognized in current environmental efforts. In his view, activities as recycling or car efficiency provide only technological fixes and therefore, they are a part of “shallow ecology” that cannot solve the ecological crisis. He claims that the solution requires fundamental change of human behavior and values, both in society and individuals. The ideas of deep ecology basically stand against anthropocentrism. According to Næss, the earth is an interconnected system of relations, and all the organisms have their own value regardless of their benefits for human beings. Næss valued diversity, equality, decentralization, and grass root activities. He proposes:

  1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves….These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
  2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
  3. Humans have no right to reduce the richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
  4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
  5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is worsening.
  6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting situation will be deeply different from the present.
  7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living.
  8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

(Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings, John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, and Arne Naess – New Society Publishers, 1988).

  Being an educator for 58 years, I have striven to weave a set of environmental moral principles in my curricula over the years. I challenge you to do likewise, K – through college, encouraging students to live in harmony with the environment and other species. In his book, Our Wild Calling, Richard Louv observes that animals and nature can teach us “how to live in the moment, interdependence with each other, humility, how to listen more carefully, how to live within our means, and to use on what we need to survive or thrive.” Traditional school curricula focus from the neck on up; what about the habitat of our heart?

Each of us must decide what steps we are willing to take, and then make them at our own pace. Do not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of change required to live in an earth-wise fashion; let us remind ourselves that each small step we take benefits not only ourselves, but Mother Earth and all living creatures.

Many guidebooks and internet sources on ecologically responsible and practical living are available. To prevent information overload, keep it simple; and here are a  few obvious, yet simple strategies that can make a difference in healing the earth: 1. Plant trees around your home or in your community; 2. Reduce your driving time; 3. Recycle paper, glass, and aluminum cans; 4. Eat low on the food chain; 5. Become more energy efficient at home; and 6. Invest in the environment.

Because we are all interconnected in a deep ecological sense, working on a single-issue project, such as recycling, has a bearing on the Amazon rainforests, reduces global warming, and conserves energy. This perspective keeps us from feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the global crisis. What are your practices? Let us live more simply so others may simply live. St. Augustine reminds us, “It is better to lack a little than to have too much;” and Gandhi says, “We have enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

Ode to the Earth

“I am the one whose praise echoes on high. I adorn all the earth. I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams. I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life. I am the yearning for good. (Hildegard of Bingen)

Ode to Animals

“We ate no flesh in Eden, but afterwards, when things got hard, we forgot the peaceful kinship of that ancient kingdom. As our teeth sank into their flesh, we had to deny them. So, we said they had no souls, no reason, no thumbs, no speech. We were so different. We made a chain of practices to protect us – fire, medicine, our locking houses, many kinds of clothes. And we renamed them – farm product, fur crop, renewable resource. Pray that we will see their faces again in the mirror of creation, the miracle of animals, their clear eyes meaning more than profit to our own. (Jean Pearson)

Healing our Whole:

“We who have lost our sense and our senses – our touch, our smell, our vision of who we are; we who frantically force and press all things without rest for body or spirit, hurting our earth and injuring ourselves; we call a halt.

We want to rest. We need to rest and allow the earth to rest. We need to reflect and to rediscover the mystery that lives in us, that in the ground of every unique expression of life, the source of the fascination that calls all humans and creatures to communion. We declare a Sabbath, a space of quiet for simply being and letting be, for recovering the great, forgotten truths, for learning how to live again.” (U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program)

The Ecological Self:

“Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves. (Chief Seattle)

The Daily Round:

“The food which we are about to eat is Earth, Water, and Sun, compounded through the alchemy of many plants. Therefore Earth, Water, and Sun will become part of us. This food is also the fruit of the labor of many beings and creatures. We are grateful for it. May it give us strength, health, and joy. And may it increase our love. (Unitarian Prayer)

The Cycles of Life:

“Spring, summer, autumn, winter – birth, growth, fading, death – the cycles of life turn, and we turn with them. Ideas are born, projects are consummated, plans prove impractical and die. We fall in love, we suffer loss, we give birth, we grow old. We are renewed, we are reborn, even as we decay and die. Our psychic energies are renewed in their deepest sources by this participation in the cycles of change within the natural world. (Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon)

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