Happy Earth Day! I did last Friday’s ‘Being Green‘ post on celebrating Earth Day, but it seemed an appropriate topic for this week’s ‘He Says, She Says‘ post as well. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve posted the following somewhere on this blog, but I want to start with a quote from former NASA astronaut Russell Schweikart (part of ‘No Frames, No Boundaries‘):
“And a little later on, your friend goes out to the moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but now he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And the contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and the black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through, and the size of it, the significance of it. It is so small and so fragile and such a precious little spot in the universe that you can block it out with your thumb. And you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you â€“ all love, tears, joy, games, all of it on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb. And you realize from that perspective that you’ve changed, that there’s something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was.”
The earth is something we tend to take for granted, for the most part. As the saying goes, it’s like trying to explain water to a fish. We’re born here, we spend all of our days here, and when we die our bodies are returned to the earth. But we all have a deep, abiding connection to this little blue dot in space, something Edward O. Wilson calls ‘biophilia‘. I mean, think about it: EVERYTHING we have (except moon rocks and the occasional meteoric visitor) comes from the earth. In his book ‘The Sacred Balance‘, Dr. David Suzuki talks about this in a very eloquent way. I don’t have the book with me at the moment, but essentially he says that the carbon atoms in your body once made up the dinosaurs. The breath you’re taking, right now, contains oxygen atoms that were once breathed by the ancient Egyptians. Talk about a recycling program!
Marcia and I do our best to make every day ‘Earth Day’, and for us a large part of that involves celebrating our life here. We talk to our houseplants, and they respond. Marcia says that all of my plants want to be trees (and several have become so over the years). We feed our little feathered neighbours, and if a furry creature comes by in the middle of the night and nibbles on the suet, well at least s/he is outside. We dance with life.
As a biologist type person, and as someone who first became involved with the environmental movement over thirty-five years ago, I’ve seen a lot of changes in my world. They can be hard to avoid. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Still, I try to take a long view of things. After all, compare the lifespan of an adult mayfly (one day), to the lifespan of a bristlecone pine tree (millenia). The average human lives less than a century, but the earth is over 4 billion years old. Are we changing the earth? Yes, that’s undeniable. Do we have the capacity to make it better? Yes, we do. Seth wrote:
“There is nothing more stimulating, more worthy of actualization, than the desire to change the world for the better. That is indeed each person’s mission. You begin by working in that area of activity that is your own unique one, with your own life and activities. You begin in the corner of an office, or on the assembly line, or in the advertising agency, or in the kitchen. You begin where you are.” ~ The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, session 850.
How do we do this? There are many more ways to answer that than there are people on the planet, and we have a good deal of ‘those’! We can begin with kindness, with respect, with love. We can begin with caring. We can begin with sharing. We can begin by stopping on the path and taking a moment to inhale the aroma of the flowers, or the ocean, or the spring air or the waving grass. We can begin by appreciating the little sparrow, sitting on a tree branch in the middle of a city, singing his territorial song. We can begin by honouring: honouring ourselves, each other, and ALL of the lifeforms on this planet. We can begin by appreciating what we have, and being thankful. We can begin with a smile for someone who looks like they’ve had a worse day than we have. We can begin by picking up that piece of litter off the ground and dropping it in the nearest receptacle… Okay, you say, but those are simple things, small acts, and while they may make me feel better for a moment or two, they won’t really have any effect on the world as a whole.
I have a story for that too. Then again, you knew I would.
A sparrow was flying through the forest when he saw a bluebird sitting on the branch. The bluebird was larger and more brightly coloured than the sparrow, who thought he might be wiser, too. After alighting the sparrow turned to the bluebird and asked, “How much does a snowflake weigh?” “Why, nothing more than nothing.” came the reply. “Why do you ask?” “Well,” continued the sparrow, “the other day I was sitting in a tree when it started to snow. It wasn’t a really serious storm or anything, just big flakes drifting down. I watched quietly from my perch as they began settling on everything around me, including a number of them that came to rest on a branch on a tree across the way from me. This went on for some time, the snow drifting down and settling on that branch when one snowflake – which you’ve just said weighs nothing more than nothing landed on the branch… and just like that, the branch broke off!
Be a snowflake. Anyway you can. When Marcia and I were walking along with the Earth Day Parade yesterday we were with people of all ages, of every colour. Most were there to celebrate, but there were others who were there to protest this or that. Yes, each one championed a good cause; I will tell none of them they were wrong. But we thought it was sad to take a day of celebration and make it into a political agenda, so while others were handing out pamphlets and brochures, Marcia and I handed out Hug Certificates instead. We got some hugs in exchange, too! So, no, I won’t support your protest, whatever it is. But I will support your joy. I will support your willingness to bring positive change, to make the world a better place for yourself, your family, those you care for and for all of us.
I still remember an interview I heard on the radio some years ago. The reporter was talking to an old farmer in one of the (then) war-torn countries in Africa. The farmer was planting his crops in what was essentially a war zone. When asked “Why?” the farmer said, essentially, ‘When it’s time to plant, it’s time to plant. The earth won’t wait’.
The earth has a long memory, of lives and cultures and civilizations that have come and gone and are still to come. Measured against that it’s easy to feel small, but I like to think she knows each one of us – every human, every ant, and every blade of grass.
Follow this link to read Marcia’s View.