April 22, 2012

We Are the Earth

The mantra "Earth Day Everyday" has rung clear as a bell in my head ever since I first started celebrating the holiday as a youth, probably in high school, possibly earlier. I've been an environmentalist so long that when my art therapist asked me to picture an image of "my authentic self" for a self-reflective assignment, I couldn't come up with anything other than visual images of nature. One, two, three, four days later, and I still can't come up with anything other than rainbow colors, rivers, forests, a crescent moon, silhouetted mountains.

But is it because I am an environmentalist (which term I once loathed to admit publicly for all the negative press the term has gotten over the years, but now embrace wholeheartedly with pride) or is it because, at heart, we really are inseparable from the Earth that sustains us? This is not a philosophical question I'm asking. I really do think that the reason why "Earth Day Everyday" is so hard for some folks to adopt is because little by little, our human community has grown further and further from awareness of its roots as utterly, inextricably, and incredibly dependent on the Earth's ecosystems that sustain it.

Granted, not every society or individual has that same level of detachment from Pachamama. Thank goodness, otherwise we would not have so much indigenous wisdom to drawn on as we try to right our often erroneous path with regard to how to best tread on this planet. Thank Goddess for invisibly steering the hand of passionate scientists who decode the inherent wisdom of Earth systems and sustainable technologies that may allow us humans to inhabit the third rock from the sun for a more peaceful and prolonged period of time.

Even though it's Earth Day everyday at our house, I'm not bragging because I know I could always do more. I know I have way too big of an ecological footprint than I could have (we obviously don't have 2.19 Earths, my score), and that I make way too many excuses for not doing things as ecologically as I could. That might be an intimidating statement for someone who doesn't do the type of things that we do here on a daily basis, like buy organic, use cloth diapers, irrigate our fruit trees with greywater (used washwater), collect rainwater, feed kitchen scraps to our chickens and collect our own eggs, plant native cacti, make my own herbal remedies, and recycle practically all our solid waste.

Despite doing all of the above things, we're still "on the grid" in that we use gas, electricity, city water, buy produce that probably was farmed with sludge or sprayed with pesticides. We drive an old truck that burns good old-fashioned gasoline, and don't ever walk or bike to the grocery store (I claim only partial responsibility for that—the local roads are way too dangerous for us to currently consider it an option). Okay, so I need to get more involved in local Queretaro politics...umm, sure. I'll get right on that tomorrow.

But this guilt is not stemming from a desire to want to "keep up with the Joneses." Rather, it's a frustration that there's aspects of our lifestyle that I'd green over in a heartbeat. If only the government would do their part and put in bike lanes. If only organic food and solar panels were less expensive. If only biodiesel was more popular here. If only, if only, if only. So I do what I can, and change the things I have control over. I'm working on it, and I assuage my guilt by knowing that's better than many.  I also avail myself of inspiring ideas on how to do what we're doing better, like those being carried out at my former coworkers and good friends at Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center in New Mexico (hi Amanda & Andy! You're my EDED heroes!).

One thing I decide I can do in addition to greening my own lifestyle is help inform others how they too can tread more lightly on the planet. That's how I became an educator actually. I think people would be surprised to find out, especially now compared to 20 or even 10 years ago (shocked I can say that with authority), that greening their daily lifestyle is a lot easier than they might think. It isn't actually that much more expensive, especially if you're into D-I-Y. And even when small things are a little more pricey, like food, just think of the words of Birke Baehr "Either pay the farmer, or pay the hospital." I love that an 11-year old could re-inspire curmudgeonly old me.

Which is why today, on "Earth Day," I permitted myself to feel proud of the little things we do every day. Sometimes they're annoying (dealing with chickens), inconvenient (turning a subterranean valve covered with cobwebs to direct our greywater to the right fruit trees), expensive (organic dairy products), or just plain gross (rinsing cloth diapers). I don't do these things to feel good about myself—I do them for the rest of the Earth's inhabitants, like wildlife, and also, for our children, and their children, to be a model for those who might also decide it's time to start giving the Earth the due respect she deserves.

p.s. I forgot to mention that I actually did do something special just for Earth Day, which was plant a pine tree outside our house, who along with a banana tree and a few other ornamentals, will soon receive rinsewater from the kitchen sink. Even though digging the hole wore me out, I just think of how beautiful that tree will be 10 years from now. But wait a second, does that mean I could see myself here in ten years? Hmmm....

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