February 11, 2025
Too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans
Every time it registers another birth
Paul Simon in Born at the Right Time on his Rhythm of the Saints Album
The planet is fine. It’s the people who are f*cked. George Carlin
The Earth We Walk Upon. The Kingdom. Malkuth. These are a few of the terms used in my spiritual tradition to refer to our home, this planet called Earth. For us humans (thinking back to last week’s entry on humanity), it is really all we have. Space travel is nowhere near where I thought it would be when I first saw a man walk on the Moon at the age of six (where’s my flying car) and earth is where we are. Although I am a huge fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, science fiction, and the notion of space travel, the most important resource we have, the most important place that needs our attention now is our very own planet.
So here we are in the year 2015, and most of us don’t seem to have grasped the idea that if we don’t stop abusing the resources provided to us by this lovely planet, we are going to be in all kinds of trouble, and fairly soon. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old timer, I see the casual every day way in which many of my college students waste resources, don’t clean up after themselves, and generally don’t seem to think very much at all what that could mean for other people. Sad to say, we can’t place the blame on the youngest generation since it is obviously ours (and our parents, and their parents before them) who set much of these casual attitudes into motion. I was taught in grade school that water was a plentiful resource that would never run out. It never occurred to me that pollution could kill off so much wildlife and poison the water that it would put human lives at risk. It never occurred to me that climate change could mean so much water –from the melting of icebergs – would change coastlines, and turn my hilltop home in Pennsylvania into beachfront property.
When I first heard of the Gaia Hypothesis back in the early eighties, it was an idea that made sense to me. James Lovelock put forth the notion in 1979 that the Earth is a single, living entity upon which humans, animals, and every kind of life form and rocks and continents and the whole nine – are all part of this organism. Interestingly, in a work of fiction – the film Avatar – this kind of idea is embraced wholeheartedly by the beings who inhabit the fictional planet of Pandora whose entire existence is symbiotic with the planet they live on.
While it is a lovely thought that there may have been a time in human history when humans were as lovingly entwined with Earth as the Na’vi were with Pandora, looking back at our long and painful history tells us this can not be so. Archeological evidence shows us that so many sites in antiquity were abandoned simply because the residents overused the resources and went elsewhere.
I am not sure why so many people are so resistant to the science that presents the facts telling us what will happen if we do not change how we use the resources on this planet. We have imperiled ourselves and continue to do so as time goes on. Yes, the Keystone Pipeline would free the United States from foreign oil, but we have seen the effects of what it can do to our environment elsewhere.
The Earth itself is an immense subject, and when asked to write about it this week, I felt overwhelmed. Where to begin? When thinking about how to not just save the Earth, but to keep it thriving, it may seem overwhelming. And yet the things we can do as individuals can make a difference, and if more individuals take up the challenge of recycling, re-purposing, driving better (hybrid) cars, and lessening our carbon footprint, we may stand a chance of surviving this age of global climate change.
If we can all just think of ourselves as not just living on the earth, but as actually being a part of it, perhaps we can see the importance of investing in taking better care of the earth. I may not be able to plug my hair into a tree or an animal in order to communicate with it (like the Na’vi were able to do) but I can feel the effects of how the weather has changed, I can smell the poison of smoke from factory fumes, and I can feel the changes coming as I get older. I can feel the heat rising from pavement from an area where trees where taken down for landscaping purposes and know that a once living environment has now changed forever.
I was always reminded in Catholic school to “Remember who you are, and where you are.” (This message came to me from priests, nuns, disapproving friends, etc). Let’s think of this in different terms – Let’s remember who we are – we are part of the earth. Let’s remember where we are – we are on the earth. Let’s take care of the earth better then we take care of ourselves. Our future depends on it.