Earth Day Eve

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) 

Lens-Artists Challenge: Hello, April!

For this week’s challenge, Amy sends a colorful April “Hello” from Texas and quotes Rachel Carson:

“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 Other Side of Bliss

This morning, I posted a Photography 101 assignment on Bliss.  (You can scroll down to see that or click on the link to the right under Recent Posts.)  I “bliss out” when I am with people I love who love me.  I am a Lover by temperament.  I get all relaxed and happy and dreamy when my love tank is full.  It feels very nice, and I tend to fall asleep.  This is bliss. 

The other side of this, the fierce energy of love, is not far away, however.  I CARE about my loved ones.  I CARE about the environment.  I have a lot of beautiful landscape photos on this blog.  Those would depict the bliss I feel about loving the Earth.  But it’s not a sleepy bliss.  My relationship with Earth is not in the blissful, dreamy lover stage.  The Earth is in distress, and I am in distress with it.  The election results this week are chilling to me.  I got this letter from the Natural Resources Defense Council yesterday:

“Prepare yourself. Yesterday’s election results will put the Senate under new management, and its incoming leader — Senator Mitch McConnell — has made no secret of his pro-polluter, anti-environmental agenda.

Simply put, come January, both houses of Congress will be run by a faction of climate deniers and friends of the Koch Brothers. A list of the attacks they have threatened to unleash is as long as it is alarming —

They want to force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline … cripple the President’s bold plan to crack down on the power plant pollution that is driving climate chaos … open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling launch a full-blown attack on the Endangered Species Act … restrict the government’s ability to protect our drinking water from fracking … slash budgets that promote clean energy … and strip the EPA of its authority to block the disastrous Pebble Mine.

… GOP leaders are making a huge mistake — a potentially fatal mistake — if they think this election has given them a mandate to deepen our addiction to fossil fuels and shred our environmental laws.

Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for strong environmental protection. An ABC/Washington Post survey has reported that 70 percent of Americans view climate change as a serious problem and want the government to tackle it.

House and Senate leaders ignore these facts at their peril. …But, historically, there seems to be something about the headiness of victory that makes the fossil fuel lobby overreach and try to ram radical policies down the throats of the American people.

We’ve seen this movie before. In 1994, Newt Gingrich swept to power in the House, brandishing a “Contract with America” that never mentioned the word “environment.” But once installed, the new majority claimed a mandate for undoing 25 years of environmental protections.

NRDC and our allies fought back hard by mobilizing an enraged public; more than one million Americans wrote or phoned Congress in protest. In the end, the House leadership gambled everything — their budget, their power, their agenda — on an extremist assault on nature. They lost, and found out the hard way that protecting the environment is a bedrock American value.

We must do no less this time.

NRDC will bring everything to bear — the grassroots power of 1.4 million Members and online activists like you, the advocacy clout of our legal and scientific teams and the unmatched effectiveness of our rapid response operation — to stave off Mitch McConnell’s Big Polluter Agenda.

But playing defense is not enough. If we are to avoid the most catastrophic outcomes of an overheating planet, we’ve got to prevail on the Obama Administration to reject the Keystone pipeline, deliver on the toughest possible power plant rules and move America beyond all fossil fuels as rapidly as possible.

That is our planet’s last best hope for a sustainable future — and we are not going to let Congress stand in the way.”

I want to use the anger energy that is in my fierce love for this beautiful world to make a difference in the policies and mindsets that determine action.  I vote, I blog, I talk to people I know.  I want to raise awareness, to educate if I can.  Why are we harming the ones we love?  It is madness.  The opposite of bliss. 

Sign along Hwy 137 in New Mexico; near Guadalupe National Park and Lincoln National Forest...and oil wells.

Sign along Hwy 137 in New Mexico; near Guadalupe National Park and Lincoln National Forest…and oil wells. “Generally, any gas- processing facility where hydrogen sulfide is present at concentrations of 100 ppm or more must take reasonable measures to forewarn and safeguard people that have occasion to be on or near the area. Wells drilled where there is substantial probability of people encountering hydrogen sulfide gas in concentrations of 500 ppm or more must have warning “poison gas” signs.”

Wilderness Week continues!

September 3 marked the Golden Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act into law by President LBJ.  I posted a kick-off essay about a recent trip to a designated wilderness preserve here in Wisconsin for The Bardo Group.  Subsequently, members of that blogging community posted essays, videos, poetry and photos on the wilderness theme.  Check out the daily posts beginning that week by clicking here.  Favorite pieces gleaned from that site include How Wolves Change Rivers, The Carpathians – “Europe’s Only True Wilderness”, and In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World.

Just after my kick-off essay went online, I headed to northern California to visit my family and explore some of the natural places unique to that area.  I felt the presence of my father as I re-visited trails we had walked together and that he had walked after I moved out.  A quote that I had read somewhere kept surfacing: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”  Baba Dioum included this thought in a speech he made in 1968 In New Delhi, India, to the general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  

My father was a teacher of Math and Science professionally.  He taught Religion as a volunteer in the church.  He taught me many things, but in his teaching about Nature, he was less didactic and more mystic.  He simply wanted to be there and to introduce me to a living thing which he loved…the planet. 

Camping in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951.

My Dad in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951. (photographer unknown)

Some of the things my father introduced me to:

September 21 is the date marked for the People’s Climate March in New York City.  The United Nations Climate Summit is two days later.  Please consider what your part may be.  What do you hope for our planet?  How do you want those hopes represented by our nations’ leaders?  How can you contribute to the teaching, the understanding, the loving and the preserving of our mutual home?  Thank you for doing your part, whatever that may be.

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved