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) 

How Will I Behave Here?

This essay originally appeared in The BeZine’s September issue, for which I was Contributing Editor. 

“Environmental Justice” is a rather fancy framework – two words with seven total syllables to convey a concept. Let me give you a simpler structure – one question to ask yourself as often as possible. How will I behave here? Five important words make up this question, and each one can continue to yield insight the more time you spend with it.

hero

Let’s start with the subject – ‘I’. Bringing awareness to how you think of yourself is a huge step in understanding – not just for environmental justice, but for Life in general. Know thyself. What are you biologically? How do you fit in the ecosystem or the food chain? Do you have a beginning or an ending? What does it take for you to survive the middle? Who are you psychologically? What has influenced that and what makes that change?

The direct object in the sentence is ‘here’. What is the Here that you relate to ? I suggested in the writing prompt Tell Me: What IS Environmental Justice? that our contributing authors may look at the environment from a perspective of Nature, Place or Community. As you ask yourself this question on a daily or more frequent basis, Here will be increasingly specific.

Now the verb: ‘behave’. It’s the act of acting; perhaps it’s all verbs in one. What we do matters. In my work as a volunteer at a Nature Center, I learned a short maxim for Environmental Education. It was made up of 4 words beginning with ‘A’: Awareness, Appreciation, Attitude and Action. Action is the outcome of our character. A lot goes into making us who we are, but it’s who we are that will most influence what we do. There are those who hope to influence action from the top down and employ legislation, incentives and consequences. There are those who hope to influence action from the bottom up and employ education, compassion and liberty. Behavior is often the event that gets a conversation started, the outward and visible sign of internal forces. We see video clips in the news and wonder, “Why THAT behavior?” (the Oregon rock tippers, graffiti in National Parks, buffalo calf rescuers, photographers disturbing marine life, etc.)

The word ‘will’ in the question can be both a verb tense and a noun and makes a great pondering point. What is your Will? What do you desire, hope for, intend, long for, want, choose and champion? You get to bring all your personal energy into this question. You will behave in some way. You will act or refrain from acting one way or another, and this will make a difference.

Finally, we’re left with the very first word: HOW? This is where we’re invited to expand our imaginations and reach toward infinity. This is where creative people can lead and model and catapult the status quo toward a more distant target. It is also where we can entrench ourselves in habits, in conservative approaches that allow for little or incremental change, in comfortable measures of disturbance offset by self-congratulation. This HOW will be the expression of our will and our identity.

So, think and ask: How will I behave here? That is how you will engage in Environmental Justice.

And you will engage, whatever you do.

Ponderosa pines smell like vanilla! (photo credit: Steve Wiencek)

 

Priscilla Galasso

Text and photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. (unless otherwise noted) All rights reserved.

THE BeZINE, Vol.2, Issue 12, Environment/Environmental Justice

This is what I’ve been working on. Besides editing, I wrote 3 pieces and Steve wrote one. Please click on the Be Zine link and enjoy all the contributions! I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about sharing. This is a hugely important arena, encompassing life, health, and EVERYTHING!

THE BeZINE

September 15, 2016

The Environment is a complex array of interconnections and interbeing (as Thich Nhat Hahn would say). Steve & I have various metaphors for this. He likes to refer to “his bowling pins”. He imagines setting up a toy set of pins on a lawn and bowling at them. When they scatter, you set them back up exactly where they landed and bowl again. This takes you all over the neighborhood in endless permutations. I think of “trophic cascades”, changes in an ecosystem that originate at an extinction or other dramatic altering of balance, similar perhaps to “the domino effect” but less linear. However you try to wrap your brain around it, the nature of Life on this planet is intricate and incomprehensible. We are wise to approach it with the utmost humility. Because we are intrinsically involved, however, we must not fear to engage. We are already…

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Tell Me: What IS Environmental Justice?

As a Contributing Editors of The Be Zine , we are currently accepting submissions for the September 15 issue (submission deadline Sept. 10) that will focus on Environmental Justice, which is also the theme of our 100 Thousand Poets (and friends) for Change virtual event on September 24. In order to propel the discussion into deeper focus from the outset, we invite and encourage contributing authors to ponder a few things about their perspective and their voice on this topic.

When we talk about Justice, it is sometimes assumed that people will agree on what is ‘the right thing to do’. However, as with anything else, our decision-making about Justice is influenced by our values, by the things that we deem ‘special’, ‘important’, or ‘sacred’. I propose that there are (at least) three categories of valued environments, or ‘Holy Ground’: Nature, Place and Community. Think about these three different arenas and how you see Justice being applied to them.

For example, if Community is your value, you may feel that Environmental Justice has to do with how people are impacted and how human activity creates change. If Place is your value, then questions about Justice probably will involve a particular area with borders of a physical or conceptual nature. It may be that feelings of injustice are felt in terms of ‘This, not That’ or ‘Us, not Them’ or in a desire to see a Place resist change. If Nature is your value, then you may see Justice in more fluid terms as the balance of resources between producers/consumers and prey/predator is in a state of constant flux with perhaps no ultimate goal.

So, as you sit down to write about Environment Justice in your unique voice, identify your values. Perhaps use the lenses of Nature, Place and Community to focus. What is important to you? Why? How does it affect your decision-making? What factors impact this ‘sacred’ ground? How do different cultural models or systems impact your cherished home? What feelings arise in you – what empathy for Living Things or Living Habitats? What fears?

Thank you for spending time with these concepts and these questions. Your presence, your life energy, your embodiment of love is a gift that we are privileged and honored to receive. Please, share your thoughts, your words and pictures with us!

— Priscilla Galasso and Steve Wiencek

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure, Pristine Wilderness

Untouched, virgin wilderness is perhaps an impossibility on Earth these days. Are there any places that haven’t been touched with acid rain, air pollution or light pollution? Not likely, even if they have never been trammelled by human footsteps. Still, wilderness is an idea worth supporting and fighting for. Pure may only exist in our imagination, but it can have an impact there. What would the silence of machines, herothe darkness of the night sky,

sunset 2 the solitude of a forest mean to you?

wildernessPure delight or pure dread?

wildernessforever
Pure
Pure

Broadcast News

I was interviewed by a local news station on the 4th of July and asked about what it’s like to wear 19th century clothing in 106 degree heat.  The interview lasted about 10 minutes, and I talked about the resilience of the pioneers and how they adapted to their environment and lived in harmony with it instead of attempting to control it at all costs…or something like that.  In my mind, I was reaching for a thoughtful perspective.  However, the editors chose about 10 seconds of me talking about evaporation, hydration and not lacing up my corset so tight that I can’t breathe.  I can’t figure out how to link to the MOV file that I have in order to show you.  Watching myself on camera is humbling.  Why are my nostrils so large?

Peering through the open-backed pews at St. Peter’s


Happy Interdependence!

We survived the festivities at Old World Wisconsin in 104 degree heat!  I wore a very special costume that had only been worn once before.  It was silk and “tropical weight” wool with beautiful accents of military buttons and lapels and florets. 

I was interviewed by Fox 6 News about my experience wearing 19th century clothing in the heat.  I relayed information about what I was wearing and how it felt and then said that I thought people in the 19th century lived more closely in harmony with their environment instead of trying to manipulate or change it.   Therefore, they get used to variations in temperature and become more resilient….or something like that.  Then I went into the church and played a few hymns on the pump organ while the assembly sang.  Then another interpreter took over and I sang descants along to some more hymns.  When that concluded, we closed the building and got ready for the parade.  I was part of the Temperance Society and marched singing a song to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic urging the whiskey shops to close!  Steve carried the banner of the Democratic candidate who lost to Rutherford B. Hayes.  There were stirring speeches, but we omitted the reading of the Declaration of Independence in order to keep the program short.  It was, after all, about 95 degrees in the shade.  After that program, I got to go take my lunch in the air-conditioned break room and sample the potluck goodies (including root beer floats!) that the staff had contributed.  The afternoon visitors were few and far between, so I spent the time doing some sewing and mopping my head and neck with a handkerchief dipped in cold pump water. 

After work, I dropped my costume off and changed into 21st century clothes.  Now I’m home sipping a cold Wisconsin beer and lying nearly naked in front of a fan.  It’s 90 degrees in the house, but that’s still cooler than it is outside!  No matter how independent we think we are, we are still part of the environment, still interconnected to life, still dwellers in a habitat, trying to survive.  That teaches me to respect the planet and everything on it and to strive to become happily interdependent in the world.