As an inquiring mind, I am interested in many vital subjects, including health, finding balance, sociology, and the environment. Throughout history, various cultures around the world have created, developed, and maintained very different philosophies, laws, and ways of being. These traditions directly affect the way humans interact with the planet, which provides for our needs and sustains our ability as humans to continue to live and reproduce. Some traditional hunter-gatherer cultures, such as our Native American forebears, most of which have been supplanted by more aggressively conquering cultures, constantly adapted individual human behavior to the requirements of their environment. Taking only as much as needed, these types of cultures lived in harmony with their habitat. As in the story of Cain and Abel, the hunter-gatherers were decimated by the builders of cities and civilizations. This story is very intriguingly explained in the philosophical tale Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. In the tale, Ishmael is a wise mountain gorilla who can transmit his thoughts telepathically. He tries to locate a receptive person to share his knowledge about sustainability and the regrettable choices and collective fate of the human race.
Generally speaking, mythologies equate the planet Earth itself as a feminine figure or mother. Abundance, nurturing, and an infinite variety of creative strategies to live and adapt are just a few characteristics of our Earth. Even in human terms, many of us think of mother figures as individuals whose lives are dedicated to giving and to serving others. A more mature perspective is perhaps one in which we not only show gratitude for those gifts, but also dedicate ourselves in service to those who have given so freely and selflessly of their time, energy, and love to us.
We live in a time in which human populations are larger than our Earth can sustain, especially given the post-industrial lifestyle that a large majority of the world would like to emulate. We know about sustainability, global warming and climate change, green energy and building practices. We know the advantages of organic farming and a mostly plant-based diet compared to the feedlot farms and widespread use of pesticides and hormones in farming. We know that clean water supplies, our most precious resource, are limited. We know that what was believed to be a panacea–better living through chemistry–is not what our hopes invested in these technologies would have produced in actuality.
And so we need to step back, to consciously reduce greed and unlimited taking from Earth. We need to give back to our planet and live in harmony with her. In ancient China, the wise philosophy of the balancing of all energies may one day inspire us to respect the feminine, which is the more passive and receptive of the two forces–the giver of life. It is my personal hope that we may collectively learn that we cannot expand without end and use all available resources for our own benefit. The masculine energies of activity, expansion, and domination can happily be balanced by the feminine. Slowing down, enjoying family life, spending time in and with nature, creatively reusing man-made and natural products, using our ingenuity to create sustainable ways of living and producing energy, and admiring and respecting the wonders of our world are just a few ways of returning to balance. Our Earth needs our cooperation as much as we need her support. For this year’s celebration of Earth Day, please remember that we are all part of nature, and nature is part of us. Loving and caring for our common heritage is just as important as taking care of our own bodies, our families, our homes.
DCPL owns and shares many wonderful works related to environmental awareness and self-responsibility. Here are a few fairly recent books about sustainable living that you may find enlightening:
On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, 2013
Do-It-Yourself Sustainable Water Projects: Collect, Store, Purify, and Drill for Water by Paul Dempsey, 2013
Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James E. McWilliams, 2009
The Organic Family Cookbook: Growing, Greening, and Cooking Together by Anni Daulter, 2011
What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden? 100% Organic Solutions for Berries, Trees, Nuts, Vines, and Tropicals by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, 2013
Compact Houses: 50 Creative Floor Plans for Efficient, Well-Designed Small Homes by Gerald Rowan, 2013
The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer, 2010
The Island President (DVD recording), 2011
Earth Day Everyday by Lisa Bullard, 2012
Earth Day Birthday by Maureen Wright, 2012