The New York times has a climate section. In it they report about what’s happening – it’s a mix of science and politics. They also offer articles about ways individuals can be more aware, and live with less of a footprint; topics range from using less plastic to maximizing energy savings. I don’t see much written, though, about how people are dealing with climate change in their emotional lives and what their personal relationship to the planet is.
A friend we’ll call Kara (to protect the innocent) recently related a story to me about the pastor of her church. On a volunteer cleanup day she noticed the church pastor toting around a big can of Roundup with a spray nozzle attached to it. She asked him what he was using it for. He cheerfully replied that he sprays along the stonewall in the front of the church to kill the weeds. Situated on a hillside near to the ocean, the church’s stonewall hosts runoff that makes its way into waterways which in turn empty into the ocean.
Kara asked if he wasn’t concerned about the water table and the ocean? His friendly response was “well, the harbor is really dirty anyway, so what’s the difference, right?”
After pausing to gather up her best diplomatic self, Kara finally came back with “Uh, well.. the young people have been growing oysters in harbor in an effort to restore the ecosystem in there, and that could kill them faster than the kids can grow them…” She forced a toothy grin, “something to consider.” She then went on to point out that “the initiative came from the most disgusting harbor in the world- New York, where kids have been farming Oysters to restore their harbor for years and they have seen a marked improvement.”
Her story finished this way: “He bobbed his head and said ‘Oh, that’s interesting’… in a somewhat agreeable and ‘I’ll consider that’ kind of way. He disappeared with his Round Up.”
For me this story brought up the question: what is my unique and individual relationship with the planet? What are my feelings? And what is the pastor’s relationship to it? Does he feel the planet is invincible and will carry on just fine whether he sprays RoundUp or not? Or does he not care? I feel sure he does care but hasn’t thought about his responsibility to the soil he lives on.
For me, the sight of the setting sun lighting up treetops lifts my spirits. I garden to be close to the soil, and in relationship with plants. Being in my vegetable garden gives me a feeling of deep well being that nothing else matches. The earthy sweet, sensual smell of vegetables ripening in the sun, tomato leaves fluttering in a breeze, basil reaching into the sun, bursting with peppery vitality.
My boyfriend feels happiest on his bike in the woods. He relates to the landscape’s challenges, memorizes the terrain, and feels satisfied and alive pedaling over challenging mountain biking trails.
For most of us, it’s at least one thing and for many of us, if we stop and think about it, there are a lot of things that join our hearts to the planet. Maybe we take those things for granted; after all, we feel entitled to our planet and it’s always been there for us.
The snowdrops emerged in our yard today. Delicate little white bells that announce spring’s arrival here in the northeast – our first flowers of the season, and they don’t stay for long. I could not resist laying down in the grass and getting to their level to look at them.
An ephemeral gift from the great mother of us all.