An Eco-Spiritual Gut Check
In some ways, the American government’s modern commitment to environmentalism began under a Republican presidency. In November 1959, then First Lady Mamie Eisenhower announced she’d be serving applesauce — instead of cranberry sauce — for the White House’s Thanksgiving Dinner that year.
The reason: FDA tests had detected trace amounts of DDT in certain lots of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce — and earlier FDA tests indicated DDT caused tumors in lab rats (for a fuller account of “The Great Cranberry Scare of 1959” see the New Yorker’s article at http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-great-cranberry-scare ).
“The Great Cranberry Scare” hit close to home for Steve. His uncle Carlisle, whose “day-job” was as a public school teacher, and aunt Agnes had a cranberry bog that they farmed on week-ends and summer vacations. They’d just finished harvesting their 1959 crop and had delivered it to the local Ocean Spray plant — but hadn’t been paid for it yet.
As you might imagine, when the extended family gathered for Thanksgiving Dinner that year, The Great Cranberry Scare was a main topic of conversation and concern — while, nonetheless, they ate generous portions of homemade cranberry sauce made from the crop Carlisle and Agnes had just brought in!
Over time the situation was resolved. Carlisle and Agnes were paid for their 1959 crop (thanks, in part, to government reparations), they modified their use of pesticides, and continued farming for several more years. For Steve, this was an early lesson on how environmental “disasters” can be handled for the benefit of all concerned. And, it created a first-hand awareness of the complex interconnectedness of all of life.
One of the researchers who’d observed the FDA hearings that led to the Cranberry Scare was Rachel Carson, inspiring her (in part) to write Silent Spring. Published in 1962, her book essentially catapulted the environmental movement to front and center of the nation’s (and world’s) ecological consciousness. And none too soon — based on what ensued.
A series of dramatic environmental episodes followed, including Cleveland’s Cuyahoga’s “river of fire” in 1969, the Love Canal catastrophe in the 1970’s, the acid rain issues of the 1980’s – 1990’s, and most recently the lead-poisoning of Flint, MI’s water supplies. Each of these (and many more — think of the Santa Barbara Channel oil spills or the Gulf’s Deep-Water Horizon calamity) dramatically demonstrated the adverse impacts that human action can have on both nature and human life.
Each (with the possible exception of the Flint situation which is still in process) also demonstrated that cooperative action can result in mitigation and remediation of the problems — for the benefit of the greater good of humans, earth’s ecosystems, and the planet itself.
Progress on environmental issues has continued over most of the past 5 decades — although certainly not without controversy and conflict between various constituencies. The most complicated and contentious challenge has been “Climate Change”. The trials and tribulations surrounding it are too numerous to discuss here — aside from the recent announcement by Donald Trump that he is withdrawing the United States from the so-called “Paris Climate Accords”.
For many of us, this precipitous move appears to be one that flies totally in the face of the course of human and planetary evolution — not to mention common sense and actually experienced reality (calamitous weather patterns and events, consequential crop failures leading to famine and starvation, reports of species extinction, etc.). Given the various ramifications of this decision, It seems almost beyond comprehension to fathom how an American president could make such a move.
If we are to to work to counter it — to regain alignment with the longer-term trajectory of environmental stewardship — the best place to begin is to reconnect with our essential nature and reality. In this instance, the best approach may be to refresh our understanding of our fundamental relationship with nature and the cosmos.
The late Thomas Berry used the term “eco-spirituality” to describe this. Writing in Dream of the Earth (page 81), Berry stated:
The natural world is the material source of our being as earthlings and
the life-giving nourishment of our physical, emotional, aesthetic, moral,
and religious existence. The natural world is the larger sacred community
to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become
destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to
diminish our own existence….
Creation … must now be experienced as the emergence of the universe
as a psychic-spiritual as well as a material-physical-reality from the
beginning. We need to see ourselves as integral with this emergent process,
as that being in whom the universe reflects on and celebrates itself.
In other words, our first “job” in the context of eco-spirituality is to be in the consciousness of our “right relationship” with all of creation — to see ourselves as part of (not separate from) nature itself. From that perspective, we realize that to harm nature is to harm ourselves. Conversely, to care for the earth is to care for ourselves.
As we grow in our eco-spiritual consciousness — individually and collectively — we grow in our strength and conviction to address things that adversely impact eco-systems. We begin to see smokestacks and exhaust pipes as “WMDs” — weapons of mass destruction whose use must be moderated if not eventually eliminated.
At face value, this might seem like an extreme view. But the time for an eco-spirituality may just have arrived. Instead of seeing Trump’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord as a problem, we might instead see it as a wake-up call that cannot be ignored. If ever these were a time for Big Love inspired action, the time is now! Let us refresh our eco-spiritual consciousness and then —
Let’s take action based on our deep eco-spiritual knowing — right now!
Olivia and Steve
It’s Your Turn!
Take some time to reflect on your personal beliefs about your (and humankind’s) relationship to the planet and other life forms. How do your beliefs relate to the Paris Climate Accords? What action are you willing to take to bring your beliefs into alignment with the Accords — particularly in response to Trump’s recent announcement regarding America’s withdrawal from this pact?
If you’re willing, please share your responses in the comment section under this blogpost as it appears on the Big Love Community Facebook page.
Big Love News:
As a symbol of our commitment to the earth, we planted an Olympiad rose this week. It is a red hybrid tea rose created in New Zealand in 1982 by combining two rose types — The Red Planet and the Pharoah. Our own “story” about this is that the names of its heritage suggests the regal nature of our planet — hence is appropriate for a tribute to the Paris Climate Accord. Here’s an image of it:
Planting this rose is largely a symbolic act. But it will remind us on a daily basis to care for the earth — and advocate for its health and wholeness. It’s a first step in Big Love’s commitment to do more!
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