Tomorrow is Earth Day. The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, when
“twenty million Americans displayed their commitment to a clean environment. It was called the largest demonstration in human history, and it permanently changed the nation’s political agenda. By Earth Day 2000, participation had exploded to 500 million people in 167 countries. The seemingly simple idea — a day set aside to focus on protecting our natural environment — was the brainchild of U. S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. It accomplished, far beyond his expectations, his lifelong goal of putting the environment onto the nation’s and the world’s political agenda.” (from The Man From Clear Lake by Bill Christofferson)
That simple idea – that Earth deserves the attention and respect of all its human inhabitants, and protection from harm – seems to me more fundamental than any other ideology formed around life on this planet.
It boggles my mind that damage done to one magnificent cultural edifice can command more attention than the complete destruction of countless forest cathedrals, that concern over relics of antiquity can eclipse the horror of the extinction of living species…including our own.
“In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have been destroyed to make way for palm oil. Almost 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years. We are losing over 6,000 orangutans a year.” (from The Orangutan Project website)
“The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the Sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is a current event, and is one of the most significant extinction events in the history of the Earth.” (Wikipedia)
I want to present to you, on the eve of Earth Day, an invitation to reflect on our hubris, our ignorance, and consider ways to protect, conserve, respect, and champion our planet, perhaps with the affection you might tender towards a venerable ancestor.
She’s been around a long, long time. None of us would be here without her. And we have treated her badly. We have made grave mistakes. Perhaps now we can admit we were wrong and make reparation.
For example, PLASTICS. They’ve only been in existence for 60 years or so. We lived without them before; we can live without them again. No big deal…except if you’re protecting the plastic-producing industry instead of the inhabitants of Earth.
Steve and I found a quiz on Climate Change Solutions that yielded some surprising information. I challenge you to test your assumptions about effective ways to curb climate change by clicking HERE.
How will you honor Earth Day this year?
How are you changing habits that have proven destructive?
How are you encouraging love and respect for the environment in people you know?
Like my hero, Jane Goodall, I have hope in the ability of humans to make moral choices about how to behave towards the planet. In an interview with Mongabay, “Dr. Jane” gives five reasons to have hope for the planet:
The energy, commitment, and hard work of young people once they understand the problems and are empowered to discuss and ACT upon solutions.
The human brain.
The resilience of Nature.
The indomitable human spirit – the people who tackle seemingly impossible tasks and won’t give up.
My most recent reason for hope is the power of social media.
I feel acutely the urgency of making better decisions and practicing to do no harm in whatever way we can. Please leave a comment if you would like to share examples of your practice that may edify me and others.
Thank you for reading this post. May you enjoy the beauty of the planet where we live, Earth, in a deeply personal way tomorrow.
(all photos in the gallery under copyright by Priscilla Galasso)
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–
the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”
Here in Wisconsin, the temperatures are just starting to creep up into true Springtime levels. This morning, there was no frost on the ground, so the maple syrup season will start to taper off, and soon April will show off her new spring colors. Last year, we had a late snow storm that caused a major interruption in spring growth. The first brood of sandhill crane chicks on this property died, the deer ate all the tulip shoots, and my garden planting energy never really recovered. Here’s a contrasting shot of the last two years in the turkey mating season.
I’m looking forward to seeing the forsythia bloom.
I am looking forward to seeing the first woodland wildflowers take their brief turn on the forest stage.
How this Spring will actually unfold, however, is uncertain. Instability in our global climate has resulted in unprecedented changes that manifest locally in more alarming ways each year. I am not sure who April will be when I meet her this year. However, I will surely observe and photograph her, and find her beautiful.
There is something infinitely healing, I believe, in accepting Nature in all her autonomy and taking responsibility for the ways we abuse her.
The southern portion of Badlands National Park is jointly managed by the National Park and by the Oglala Lakota. The hope was that one day this section of the park would be the first Tribal National Park in the country. Those plans have not yet become a reality. The northern unit of the park hosts the scientific interpretation of the land and holds all of the associated resources you’d expect at a National Park.
The southern unit is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation. At the White River Visitor Center, you can hear the historical interpretation of the people of this area, from paleo-Indians to European settlers to US Army Air Force troops in WWII who used the reservation land for a gunnery range and bombing practice. Just under 350,000 acres were acquired by eminent domain from the Oglala Lakota in 1942 on the pretext that it was “unused, unoccupied, and blighted”.
Wounded Knee is not within the boundaries of the Park. Its history is told in signs, tombstones, graffiti and the living words of people who live in extreme poverty, mistrustful of neighbors and governments and directly impacted by changes in climate and habitat for the animals that provide their sustenance. I am grateful to Mr. Apple (age 25) and Mr. Fast Horse (age 13) for sharing their story.
My heart aches for these people, for their wounded dignity, for their invisibility, for their spoiled livelihood. That “living off the land” was ever possible for humans in this place year-round is doubtful, especially after the buffalo herds were decimated by European immigrants. This is an area of seasonal extremes, a place to which you’d make a sacred pilgrimage, spend a time in awe, and respectfully vacate.
To see the land as sacred, wild, and autonomous allows an attitude of humility to flourish and banishes thoughts of domination, extraction and exploitation. It brings truer balance and harmony to the relationship. Perhaps from this new understanding, a more sustainable future will develop for our species.
“For this week’s challenge, do some visual storytelling with your photography.”
Once upon a time…
I am terribly afraid that this story will end in mining and development and that the places where these photos were taken will be forever altered. However, there is always a chance to re-write the ending.
It’s a natural process. Waiting for the sun to rise in the sky. Waiting for its warmth to reach the earth, to reach this spot. Waiting for the vessels to dilate, the blood to flow, the muscles to quicken. Waiting for life to unfold in its due time.
The desert is a good place to wait and a good place to watch for changes. It has much to teach us. We would suffer if we lost so great a teacher.
Here is a gallery collage of photos from my recent series, An American Adventure. In a two-week road trip, I visited eight National Parks and Monuments in Colorado, Utah, and South Dakota. If you would like to see the entire collection of 17 blog posts, click on the banner headline An American Adventure.
We head out today from Wisconsin toward Utah, where canyonlands beckon. Steve used to volunteer for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument helping with archaeological and anthropological studies, and it ignited in him a passion for indigenous desert cultures. This will be our fourth trip out West together. Here is a photo from our first trip. This is Mesa Verde in Colorado:
Here is one I took in the Ojito Wilderness in New Mexico on our last trip:
On the way back, we stopped at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic site in Illinois where we saw the remnants of a pre-Columbian city of approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Some of those Mississippian peoples also settled in Wisconsin at what is now Aztalan State Park, where we’ve visited several times.
The more I learn about cultures who thrived in this country long before European settlers arrived, the more I appreciate the relationship they had with the places they lived. Our heritage as human beings is written on the landscape. We need to learn from the evidence of how we’ve impacted the resources of desert, woodland, or any other habitat. What we will pass on to the next generations of Earth inhabitants hinges on this collective wisdom.