Being an educator for 58 years, I have striven to weave a set of environmental ethical 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.
According to a folktale, one day a child, Honi saw an older man digging a hole in the earth. Honi asked the man, “Must you do such heavy work at your age? Have you children to help you?” The man continued to dig. “This work I must do myself.” Honi asked, “How old are you?” The man answered, “I am 80 years old.” “And what are you planting?” “I am planting a bread fruit tree,” was the answer, “and the fruit of this tree can be made into bread.” “And when will your tree bear fruit?” asked Honi. “In 25 years.” “But you surely will not live that long,” said Honi. “Yes,” said the man, “I will not live that long, 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 there will be trees here also.” What will be your legacy?
Let us strive to consciously be living in harmony with the earth. Deep ecology strives to harmonize humans with the will of the land as articulated by Arne Naess. He believes we need to ask deeper questions and challenge our ready-made assumptions about economic and political public policies. He writes in Ecology, Community and Lifestyle, we are not outside the rest of nature, and therefore cannot do with it as we please without changing ourselves. He proposes an eight-point platform of deep ecology:
- The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves.
- Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
- Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
- The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with human population growth or decline.
- Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation appears to be rapidly worsening.
- Policies must be changed to benefit everyone for the sake of the greater good.
- The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life equality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living.
- Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an ethical obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.
“I must become the change I want to see in the world.” Gandhi
The Hopis believe it is their sacred duty to care for the earth. Caring for the living earth is a natural extension of caring for oneself and one’s family or community. We are a living part of nature, thus, to be responsible for ourselves is to be responsible for the entire earth. There are limits to human expansion and growth, consequently some political questions are going to be decided in a higher court or even the United Nations. With this present political administration, hopefully the emerging color of politics will be greener in terms of environment and not greed. We must be aware of and sensitive to the limits of any human endeavor, the actual voice of the natural world, the rights of trees and rivers to exist and to perform their rightful functions, the right of the wolf to howl, and the liberation of the earth from any exclusive and narrow-minded, self-serving human vision. Let us strive for unity through diversity.
Prayer for the Healing of the Earth
We join with the earth and each other – to bring new life to the land, to restore the waters, and to refresh the air.
We join with the earth and each other – to renew the forests, to care for the plants, and to protect the creatures.
We join with the earth and with each other – to celebrate the seas, to rejoice in the sunlight, and to sing the song of the stars.
We join with the earth and with each other – to recreate the human community, to promote justice and peace, and to remember our children.
We join with as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery for the healing of the earth and the renewal of all life.
-U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program.
I have belonged to various organizations relative to nature, the environment, wildlife; and one of my favorites is the National Wildlife Federation which helps advance and expand important conservation-minded programs such as:
- Public Lands which are committed to protecting and expanding public lands and water treasures – nwf.org/publiclands.
- Recovering American’s Wildlife Act – where one third of all U.S. wildlife species ar already imperiled or vulnerable. This vital act is the linchpin to reversing this dangerous decline. nwf.org/rawa.
- Pollinators – declining pollinator populations could have alarming consequences for natural ecosystems, as well as food production for people. Nwf.org/pollinators
- Wildlife Corridors – The habitats animals’ corridors are being destroyed by countless human-made barriers. Nwf.org/wildlifecorridors.
There are many ways you can be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak for themselves, so we must, and we will.” -Theodore Roosevelt.
- To date, the National Wildlife Federation has created more than 1.1 million acres of conflict-free habitat for wildlife. Nwf.org/adoptawildlifeacre
- Charity Resource: The Amazon rain forest is the planet’s most biodiverse region, and its well-being is threatened by deforestation, mining, ranching, and other activities. Founded in 1996, the Amazon Conservation Team (amazonteam.org) works with indigenous communities to protect and manage the forests. With programs in Brazil, Suriname, and Columbia, the organization does not just work to conserve the land itself, it runs sustainable-livelihood programs to enhance local communities’ farming practices, help them generate income, and let them access basic services. ACT also supports governance initiatives that aid indigenous group’ efforts to plan and advocate for their future. Along with its 78 partner communities, the organization has established 193,000 acres of parkland, created 13 indigenous associations, and improved sustainable management of some 5.8million acres of land. – This Week, March 26, 2021.
In his most recent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates. While Gates’ blueprint for how to address the most alarming crisis of all, it does not “hold all the answers,” Gates “understands that many countries cannot lift people out of hunger and poor health unless energy use in those places rises rather than falls. Gates maintains that the world produces 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases; and Gates argues that zeroing it out will require technological innovation and advancements that make noncarbon energy cheaper than fossil fuels. Will we listen to these prophetic, environmental voices? “Protecting something as wide as this planet is still an abstraction for many. Yet, I see the day in our own lifetimes that reverence for the natural systems – the oceans, the rainforests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living beings – will be so strong that no narrow ideology based upon politics or economics will overcome it.” – Jerry Brown.
Finally, by way of conclusion – Let us reflect on the depth, breadth, and wisdom of quotations about nature according to Native American Spirituality– quotations are like laser beams which penetrate to the heart of nature and scratch the underbelly of our soulful yearnings to be in harmony and one with nature.
“Let every step you take upon the Earth be as a prayer.” – Black Elk – Lakota
“Peace will come to the hearts of men when they realize their oneness with the universe, it is everywhere.” – Black Elk
Crazy Horse (Chief) c.1840 – 1877
“I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.” (sat smoking the Sacred Pipe with Sitting Bull four days before he was assassinated)
Dan George (Chief) 1899 – 1981
“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass… speaks to me.”
“The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky
the rhythm of the sea… speaks to me.”
“The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning
the dew drops on the flower… speaks to me.”
“The strength of fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun
and the life that never goes away.
They speak to me and my heart soars.”
Geronimo 1829 – 1909
“There is one God looking down on us all. We are all children of one God. God is listening to me. The sun, the darkness, the winds, are all listening to what we now say.”
Mourning Dove 1888 – 1936
aka Christal Quintasket
“Everything on Earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.”
Seattle (Chief) 1780 – 1866
Suquamish & Duwamish
“We are all children of the Great Spirit; we all belong to Mother Earth.”
“The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. 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.”
“All things share the same breath: the beast, the tree the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”
“Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people.”
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us.”
Yellow Lark (Chief) 1840 – 1914
“O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me: I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.”
Sources Unknown: “May the sun bring you new energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your beings. And all the days of your lives may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty.”
“Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,
we borrow it from our children.”
“Walk tall as the trees.
Be gentle as the spring rain.
Live strong as the mountains.
Be kind to everything that lives.
Keep the warmth of the sun in your heart.”
“Honor the Sacred. Honor the Earth, our Mother. Honor all with whom we share the Earth. Walk in balance and beauty.”
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein.
“Time spend among trees is never wasted.” -Katrina Mayer
“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect we humans.” – Steward Udall
“My wish to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet
“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” -Henry David Thoreau
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson
“We don’t earn planet Earth; we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.” – Steve Irwin