Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Every Day is Earth Day

Happy Earth Day. I hope that you were able to enjoy some of it out in our world, enjoying the weather.

Every single day is Earth day. How could it not be? Can you imagine a day not being a day sustained and made possible by the Earth? When we wake up tomorrow, will it somehow be human day, where the only thing we all need to live is humans? Will it be Mars day? No, it will always be Earth day. Maybe the calendar should have a little fine print on every square that says "This day made possible by the generous contributions of Mother Earth." I think a lot of people these days forget how intertwined we are with our natural world. Think about it. If I can urge you to do one thing on this day, change one behavior, it would be to look for the links.

When you prepare your dinner tonight, or order it in a restaurant, stop and think. Where did that pasta come from? Grains that were grown in the soil, given life by the Sun, and then mashed into long thin strips to be boiled in water which was recycled by the water cycle that has been persistent for billions of years. What about the tomatoes, or the lettuce in a salad? They were also grown in the ground. Where? On a farm, probably hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from where you are consuming it. Who brought it to you? People, human ingenuity, life. What about the meat, if you choose to consume meat today? The meat came from an animal that was raised on a farm, where a farmer diligently woke up every morning before you or I could ever imagine waking up unless we have some flight to catch. And the farmer woke up every day before the sun to feed and hopefully care for that animal. What did the animal eat? Corn, wheat, rice, soy. He sure as heck didn't eat chips, cookies, crackers, frozen pizzas, canned soups, or anything else that has to be processed. He ate from the ground. And he spent months and months growing up off of this food, living his life. Eventually when it came time for slaughter, the animal was butchered up, packaged, labeled, and shipped by human beings, far away from your table. What about your drink? Wine, beer? Grapes, hops, barley, etc, all grown naturally. Milk? Same story as the animal. Water? That one's a given. It may seem like you simply bought or ordered your food and then ate it, but it was not chance or coincidence that the food was made readily available for you. It all traveled from thousands of miles away to meet on your plate tonight.

Thinking about where our food comes from connects us to the land, to nature. Consider just where your meal came from. If you truly can't say, maybe think twice about putting it into your body.

What about the building you are living in or studying in? Was it built from the land? Yes. The wood was cut from trees in some forest far off, hopefully sustainably harvested (but not likely). The concrete came from cement; sands, limestones, water, and a few other natural products. The plaster in the walls (the drywall) is made from a mineral called gypsum which is mined from the Earth. How about bricks? Well they are natural too. Nails, steel, iron. Mined.

The paper in your book or notebook? Trees. The gas in your car - like it or not, came naturally from the Earth, by decomposition over millions of years of marine organisms. The electricity I am using to type this post with was generated from coal, which is mined from the ground, either in Wyoming or West Virginia probably. The coal was created naturally too, like oil.

It can be easy to forget this day-to-day, when we drive in our cars and live in our rooms, work in our offices, all which have benefited from human ingenuity to be the way they are, but have lost the obvious qualities of the natural world. If the car wasn't painted and looked like the rocks the metal was mined from, we'd see. If the walls had chunks of sand and rocks in them, we'd know. And if we wrote on slabs of wood, we'd get it. While we get a lot of use from our natural world, it is the idea of separateness, of us vs. nature, of nature being there solely for us to exploit, that is the problem. Understand that we rely on nature to sustain life, but also that nature is precisely that itself. Nature is life! So when you sit under a tree or simply pass one on your way to class or work, think about how much you share with that tree. How the tree sustains your life, but how you sustain the tree's life just the same.

If we could see those connections, then caring for the Earth would no longer be a feel-good virtue that we strive for or hope that we can "figure out," but rather a natural impulse, as organic and innate as caring for oneself.


Nick N. said...


Devin E said...

shoot.... i knew someone was going to call me that. cover blown