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)
“Measured against the agenda of human survival, how might we rethink education? Let me suggest six principles.
First, all education is environmental education.” — David Orr, What Is Education For?
I actually met and spoke to David Orr at a conference near the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin a few years ago. He is a fascinating speaker, a person who has clearly thought a great deal about how humans fit into the natural world.
Yesterday, I spent the morning volunteering in a homeschool class at a Nature Center. The children, aged 6-8, shared their journal entries during snack time. They each had spent time in a “Secret Place”, observing the natural world around them, drawing pictures, writing sentences using vocabulary words, and playing. I was so pleased to see this, and told them that they were following in the footsteps of Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Beatrix Potter and many, many others — very important thinkers and learners.
What do we need to learn from Nature? So much. I have a page on this blog called “Spiritual Lessons from Nature”. Click on the link just under the header if you’re curious about them.
Some things I’ve learned about Nature: it’s powerful and deserving of respect.
It’s complex and autonomous.
It’s vast and largely incomprehensible.
It’s older than anyone can imagine.
It’s more detailed than anyone can see.
Humans are just one small leaf on the great Tree of Life. That’s always good to remember.
Thanks to Patti for hosting this challenge and for sharing stunning photos of Fiji.
The environment. Ecosystems. We are in them and of them and we are them. We are interconnected with everything around us. We blend in and stand out simultaneously.
May all beings appreciate their surroundings, their selves, and the relationship between all things. May this appreciation grow into respect, affection, and peaceful harmony.
Thanks, Leya, for inviting us to see the ways things Blend In and Stand Out. Enjoy your forest!
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Foreword, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (of Wisconsin).
Being in a Place is about a relationship; it involves everything a relationship is about — communication, affection, honesty, respect. There’s a give-and-take, an evolving dynamic that’s always present. Places change and we change.
How do you go about nurturing a good relationship with a Place? Much the same way that you might with a Person.
First of all, slow down. Take time to listen and observe silent clues. Feel with your intuition. What is happening here? What emotions do I sense? What kind of energy seems to be flowing here?
And always remember, you are in this relationship, too. Slow down and sense your own feelings, emotions, and energy. How are you in relationship to this Place?
Living in Wisconsin, I am aware of inspirational Land Lovers like Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, and John Muir, all of whom resided here, walked here, and shaped land policy. My partner Steve and I strive to be constantly aware of our relationship with Place. I personally feel closest to the Places where human impact is minimal, and my photo library reflects that. Here is a gallery of places that we have loved and that have loved us in return.
When we broke camp in the Chippewa National Forest on Tuesday morning, the condensation on our tent fly froze instantly. Time to head south to Wisconsin!
Our destination was Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Along the way, we stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park. The river was high and rushing mightily, churning up tannin-colored water into thundering root beer cascades.
We told the WDNR ranger that we were thinking of heading towards the western section of the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest to camp and to Bayfield to visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She directed us to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for more information. Now, you might not get excited about Visitor Centers, but this one is truly amazing. First of all, it’s a quality museum facility featuring interactive exhibits, a National Park Service film, an historical archive library, a bookstore, and an observation deck – three floors of cool stuff! Outside, there’s a nature trail and research nursery. I’m pretty sure the building itself is LEED certified. BEST OF ALL, it is a collaborative effort of the local community (Friends of the Center), the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and University of Wisconsin Extension – which means that staff members from each of those entities are present to answer questions and amplify your understanding of the area. The two we talked to spent considerable time with us, giving us numerous maps and tips and sharing the vision of the Center, its history and unique features. If it hadn’t been so late in the afternoon, and if we didn’t have the urgency of finding a campsite before dark, we would gladly have stayed until closing. Did I mention that admission is completely free? Your tax dollars at work. I took a picture on each floor before heading out with an armload of information.
We camped at an old CCC site in the forest and planned our Bayfield outing. We rose to temperatures in the 20s and headed out for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands. The sun was shining, the air was cold, the eagles soared overhead, and I couldn’t have been more invigorated and elated!
We headed southeast from Bayfield to revisit a favorite dispersed camping spot in the town of Three Lakes, WI. Across the forest service road from this site is the Headwaters Wilderness, a true, federally designated wilderness. We first camped in this private paradise seven years ago. It’s in National Forest, so the site is “first come, first served”. I was leaning over the dashboard hoping no-one else was there. We were in luck, and this glorious day had a perfect ending.
The weather turned damp and drizzly the next day, so we only stayed one more night. Our privacy was disturbed once by a sole fisherman who had been tipped off to the spot and came to check it out. We had a pleasant conversation, and he left. We walked the fire service roads and revisited another spot where we’d camped one year when our favorite place was “taken”.
By this time, we hadn’t showered for eight days. I began to picture Steve as Sasquatch emerging from the forest… …which he found rather funny. On our way back to camp from our after-dinner walk, Steve suddenly told me to hold very still. A skunk was foraging at the side of the road. We waited. He crossed the road and began to forage on the other side. We waited. Then, he turned and headed straight for us. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I was barely breathing. The skunk stopped four feet from us and looked up. He turned tail and hustled away from us as fast as his short, furry legs could go! What a relief…what a delight!
Our sojourn in the forest was punctuated by encounters with wildlife of many kinds besides the skunk: beaver, deer, bald eagle, red squirrel, vole, grouse, spider, leech and slug, to name a few. Also hunter. Gunshots rang out near our campsites occasionally. Road hunters in blaze orange cruised by. We found the remains of a grouse at one trailhead. I am almost entirely ignorant of gun culture, mostly by choice. The relationship that Steve & I want to have with the world is non-violent, following the Buddhist koan “do no harm”. Our culture is, however, complex. There’s a lot that I will never understand, and I don’t want to judge. I am grateful that we were able to experience long stretches of silence and peace on this trip, in which we could contemplate our place in the cosmos. Perhaps we are atypical of Wisconsinites, or of Americans. “What do you do out there in the wild if you’re not hunting, or fishing, or riding a motorized vehicle?” We sit. We walk. We sleep. We listen. We look. And I take pictures.
I am very grateful for the land around me and for the people who work to protect and preserve it. I do my best to join in the work. I invite you to as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo journal.
Since I now have a Facebook account, I have been posting many of my photographs there to share with my immediate family instead of on my blog. I feel like I have rather neglected my Blog family, though, so I thought I’d catch you up with some of my favorite shots.
This one is simply a prairie beauty, the Fringed Gentian. Take a moment to read D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bavarian Gentians – he captures the dark, sensual mystery of this flower quite well.
I found the gentians while on a walk with my son and future daughter-in-law. They represent the Beginnings in the title of this post.
My son has asked me to do a special photo shoot of them next month down at Starved Rock in Illinois. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about that.
Steve & I had a wonderful late summer road ramble last Saturday. We’re planning a 12-day camping trip for next month, possibly to Superior National Forest in MN. I’m looking forward to photographing more Fall color, mushrooms, and another Great Lake.
And work continues at the Conservation Foundation. I try to get outside locally to remind myself why it’s important to preserve the natural spaces around here.
Thanks for visiting this blog and Happy Fall! I hope you get outside often to enjoy the changing season.
All photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2017. All rights reserved.