I generally don't do much to observe Earth Day. The day usually depresses me, honestly, and brings my inner cynic to the fore. "Why just one day? Everyone just gives lip service and moves along anyway". You know, Eyeore-type stuff. This year was basically the same, Earth Day came and went. A friend emailed out- "Happy Earth Day" and I replied "Call your Senator, or Earth Day is pointless".
I am generally not a cynical person. But really, what is happening on planet earth is depressing, and the failure of our society and our leaders to respond appropriately unquestionably pushes the limits of my ability to hope.
Generally this manifests as frustration, or even anger, along with a strong dose of righteous indignation. In my better moments, I do what I feel like I can, like work towards building awareness of and participation in healthful and sustainable food systems. In my less effective moments, I succumb to distraction and disillusionment.
I believe I have been fundamentally misunderstanding earth day, or at least fundamentally missing a function that Earth Day serves. Of course, it is part awareness campaign- which is important, but also where my despair lies. It's not that the information isn't out there, it is that a large segment of our population chooses willful ignorance. Awareness-raising works best with those who are unaware, not those who are in active denial. It is also a collective lobbying effort- an opportunity to use public events to alert public officials as to the desires of constituents. Color me jaded on this front as well, although I believe it is important not to give up. There are many more powerful interests groups than environmentalists. Unfortunately, the public interest that environmentalists are dedicated to- namely, retaining a livable planet, tend to be viewed as left wing. I don't understand how advocating for conditions necessary for life is left wing.
There is a third vital function of Earth Day, though, and one I've missed. On Sunday, I attended St Paul's, a United Methodist, Reconciling, and Buddhist Christian InterFaith Community. I'd never been there before, as I have tended to not be the churchgoing type (understatement), but we have very dear friends who have been inviting us for quite a long time. I noticed that the worship service would be an observation of Earth Day, with a speaker, J. Donald Hughes focused on our current ecological crisis.
I listened to the speaker recount the facts pertaining to climate change. None of them were new to me, but I sat, present, bearing witness to those facts in the presence of a room full of people doing the same thing. I felt sorrow- tremendous sadness- as I thought of the destructive forces imperiling the future of life as we know it. I felt pain as I allowed myself to feel my fears about what this might mean for Quinton's future, and the type of world he'd grow up knowing.
I also felt support and resolve. In the company of others and in the presence of my own pain, I had no where to run and hide. The choice is to act or not act, to accept reality as it exists and align my choices with the hope of The Great Turning, or to retreat into denial and inaction. When I really allow myself to feel the magnitude of the choice, there is no choice. When I refuse to show up and be present, I fail to take advantage of and show proper respect to the gift of life with which we've been granted. So I'll be observing Earth Day from now on, by bearing witness to the world exactly as it is, without illusion.