At Little Piney, I hear the wind coming before I feel it on my face. Of course, if I choose not to listen, the wind comes anyway—I just get surprised. It’s the same way with rain. The damp air, the slight drop in temperature, the changing light all signal coming rain. If I ignore the signs and linger by the lake the rain will catch me unprepared and unsheltered.
Many times we choose to ignore the signals given by nature. If I am having a wonderful time, I might ignore the coming rain and deal with the consequences later. Getting wet is not that bad!
Given more serious consequences, we might ignore the signs from nature because of a protective mechanism called denial. If the truth is catastrophic, and we feel powerless to change what is coming our minds may turn away from the truth. If we can only tolerate our feelings for a moment at a time, we bury the information that terrifies us. The problem is that if we stay in denial too long we miss the window for experiencing the emotions that will prompt us to take action. That is what is happening with the environmental issues facing us now—we are in denial that the consequences of our actions are destroying the earth as we know it.
Much of the damage is irreversible, and for the most part we don’t know how to recover from the position we are in. Unfortunately, we can’t stop the ice melts before they raise the sea level and increase the speed of global warming. We probably won’t clean up the miles of plastic soup in the Pacific ocean destroying sea birds and marine life. We can’t help the birds and butterflies confused by warmer temperatures who start migrating before their food sources and nesting grounds are ready to receive them. We can’t replenish the aquifers we have depleted or regrow the ancient forests that clean the air for us. Many of us check out right here, telling ourselves it’s too late, or someone else will fix it, or it’s “fake news” –but please stay with me.
We can’t hold on to the mindset that our actions don’t matter, because if we do we will fall into hopelessness and despair while continuing to make matters worse. While scientists and researchers monitor the temperature change and ice melt and look for ways to create fresh water, we have to think of what we can each do on a personal level.
We can’t change everything we do at once, but we should do as much as we can as soon as we can. Holding the idea that the choices we make have an impact on the earth, our home, changes our priorities. If we see our home as a resource to use up as we see fit, we end up without a home. If we think of our home as a living world to care for that also cares for us, we might be able to have it longer. Even if we think that the earth is dying, we should want to treat this planet who has served us well with reverence and dignity.
Some things we can do for the Earth:
- Talk to elected officials. Let them know that we support an end to reliance on fossil fuels and that we are willing to pay the extra cost for alternatives.
- Think about the food we eat. Is it local, organic, sustainable? How does its production impact the environment?
- Find alternatives to plastic such as mesh vegetable bags, reusable grocery bags, glass containers. Ask our grocery stores to “go nude” (no plastics), and avoid processed and packaged food.
- Recycle and compost everything we can.
- Change our mindset from consumption to conservation. Buy second-hand when we can; use appliances, furniture, and clothing as long as they last.
- Give up water-wasting lawns and replace with native plants to save water, reduce use of lawn chemicals, and provide food and habitat for species that are struggling. Native plants are the best support for native insects and birds.
- If you are not an activist, support activists and conservationists financially.
Do I do all of these things all of the time? No. But I am trying. Don’t know where to start? Pick three actions that sound easiest and work on those. Most importantly, think of what this earth means to you and hold that thought as you go through your day taking action after action that impacts the future of this planet.
For most of you, none of this is new information. But if any of it is new and upsetting to read that’s okay, too. Our emotions are our best resource for action. If we don’t feel grief about what we have done to the earth, and we don’t feel fear about the consequences, we are likely to continue to destroy what is left.
For resources, check out the articles below.
Ecological grief and seabirds
This moving video documentary portrays the work of Joanna Macy on acceptance and activism interwoven with the story of seabirds who ingest plastic.
Decline in bird population
A report from Cornell University documenting the decline in bird population since 1988.
Arctic ice melt
Explains in laymen’s language why the Arctic ice melt is such a threat–
The Global Impacts of Rapidly Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice BY PETER WADHAMS • SEPTEMBER 26, 2016.
Another article on ice melt–
The Big Thaw:As the climate warms, how much, and how quickly, will Earth’s glaciers melt? BY DANIEL GLICK
In This Moment
As I am finishing this post, the rain is actually coming in. I feel the cool air on my arms as I type. Bluebonnets glow in the dimmer light. The sky is dark but sun comes through the lower clouds to the north behind the pines. Now the sky lightens. Will it rain or pass over, I don’t know. All I know is this moment, and in this moment a bright red Cardinal eyes me from the feeder. I hear the wind rolling through the pines. A black butterfly with ragged wings bounces through the wildflowers and disappears into the woods. Brown needles shake loose from the pine tree and drift down, down.