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EARTH DAY 2017:  We Need to Do Better

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.”   Wendell Berry

“The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge, for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.”   Marya Mannes

I try to celebrate Earth Day every time I head out into Nature, not just once a year. 

But today demands a special celebration because it is the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day. 

Today’s Earth Day Celebrations champion not just the beauty and variety of our natural world, but the role humans should play in preserving our Earth for future generations.  As stewards, we need to protect the natural world not plunder it for easy profits.  Part of this stewardship means we need to develop alternative energies, protect spiritual lands as well as national parks, work on local as well as global conservation efforts, and make strides to counter the problems of climate change.

Not everyone accepts this responsibility to protect our world.  Current government actions are even undermining protections that have long been in place to preserve the environment and not exploit its treasures and undercutting funding for the science needed to help make things better.  If you want to get more informed and more involved on some efforts to keep preserving the Earth for the future, consider joining the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy or the Natural Resources Defense Council in their efforts.

I’m sharing some of my favorite photos to show some of the wonders of Nature that inspire me with awe and reverence, that generate contemplation and reflection, that make me see the need for interdependence with all of nature.  It is easy to see God at work out in Nature!  How can we not take care of the Earth?  Maybe these photos will help suggest some of what is at stake if responsibility for protecting the Earth continues to be ignored or—worse–abrogated.

Get involved today!  If you need a reminder about the importance of Nature and all its wonders, go for a drive or take a hike! Maybe you will find some ancient voices carved in the hills.  Happy Earth Day 2017.   How are you celebrating the day?

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Some Quotes about the Need to Protect Our Earth

“We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.”   Kurt Vonnegut

“The only thing that scares me more than space aliens is the idea that there aren’t any space aliens.  We can’t be the best that creation has to offer.  I pray we’re not all there is.  If so, we’re in big trouble.”   Ellen DeGeneres

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”   Jacques-Yves Cousteau

“Every day is Earth Day, and I vote we start investing in a secure climate future right now.”   Jackie Speier

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”   Abraham Lincoln

“You carry Mother Earth within you.  She is not outside of you.  Mother Earth is not just your environment.  In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”   Thich Nhat Hanh

“Earth as an ecosystem stands out in all of the universe.  There’s no place that we know about that can support life as we know it, not even out sister planet, Mars, where we might set up housekeeping someday, but at great effort and trouble we have to recreate the things we take for granted here.”   Sylvia Earle

“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.”   Joseph Wood Krutch

“We have a moral responsibility to protect the earth and ensure that our children and grandchildren have a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live.”  Jim Clyburn

“Life on earth is more like a verb.  It repairs, maintains, re-creates, and outdoes itself.”   Lynn Margulis

“But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth. . . . The view of Earth is spectacular.”   Sally Rider

“I see a lot of damage to Mother Earth.  I see water being taken from creeks where water belongs to animals, not to oil companies.”   Winona LaDuke

“Sell a country?  Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?  Did not the Great Spirit make them for the use of his children?”   Tecumseh

“Life is abundant, and life is beautiful.  And it’s a good place that we’re all in, you know, on this earth, if we take care of it.”   Alice Walker




Earth Day Then & Now: How “Green” Are You?

I remember the first Earth Day well. I was 15 and a freshman in high school. I was already concerned about the environment. No, I was urgently worried, having just re-read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. I was aghast at how we were mismanaging our world and her precious resources.

One day at church, during some sort of Earth-Day Program as part of the regular service, I stood at the lectern and loudly chastised the congregation. After all, God had set the stage for us to take care of the planet: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:27). I focused on the word “dominion” and emphasized the connotation of care, responsibility and concern that should be a part of the power and control inherent in having dominion over the world. I was as distraught as an indignant teen could be: Just look what we were doing to the world!

I am not sure the congregation noticed my courageous and daring spirit. My mom did say I enunciated very well. Still, I felt like an activist, and I carried that sense of determination and action with me as I grew. I intended to protect the planet! And then I grew up and got a job and moved away. Life got hectic, and I slowly but surely gave way to convenience over conscience. Oh, I still felt like an activist concerned for the environment, but my deeds did not fully match that sentiment.

Now, 41 years later, I realize that Kermit was right: “It is not easy being green.” After all, green’s specialized meaning is more prevalent these days. It is most often used as an adjective, attached like a badge of honor to an activity, company, or person that works diligently to care for the earth. One is said to be green by respecting nature, preserving resources, and minimizing the impact on the world around us. In an ideal world, we all would consciously work at being more and more green, if not for ourselves, for our children.

I still think of myself as a champion of the world, but—in reality—that is not true. And I do not think I am alone in that lack of commitment. We all know what we could be doing, but it is a challenge to break old habits and give up convenience. Do you recycle, everything? Consolidate errands to one big trip—or explore online shopping? Avoid bottled water in favor of re-useable containers? Buy green products whenever you can? Walk to work, or maybe carpool? Drive an electric vehicle or even an energy-efficient one? Properly dispose of oil and cell phones and such? Maybe volunteer to help clean the beaches and fields that so often are clogged with our refuse? Vote to try and elect officials who will work to preserve our resources and avoid such atrocities as the recent Gulf Coast oil spill?

I know I answer “No!” to way too many of those questions. But I do want to be green! Going green is often one of my new year’s resolutions. It will take more than desire, however; it requires action to truly become green in word and deed. About a year ago, I did take one small step in the right direction: I became a Melaleuca preferred customer.

Melaleuca is a company that has been producing over 350 household, personal care, and wellness products for 25 years now. But, more importantly, Melaleuca has been a pioneer in environmental wellness since its inception. In fact, being green is one of Melaleuca’s core values. The company demonstrates its core value by using sustainable natural ingredients as well as no caustic chemicals, by reducing packaging as much as possible which includes concentrated products and reusable bottles, and by conducting extensive research to ensure they are producing the most effective products.

I have been using Melaleuca products for months now and am finding them very effective. The convenience of online ordering is terrific, and I am spending no more than I was before and sometimes even saving money. The best thing, however, is that I feel a bit more green these days. I think my teenage self would be pleased.

What are you doing to be more green?

NOTE: If anyone is interested in exploring Melaleuca, just go to their website and poke around. The company keeps costs manageable by avoiding national marketing and distribution, which simply means you have to go to them to find their products. You need to be sponsored to become a preferred customer, so if you are interested, just let me know and I can help.

God’s Favorite Color

Alice Walker was right: “It pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Over the last few years, anytime I’ve ventured out into the wilds, I’ve been absolutely delighted by purple. Irises regally posing by a dilapidated fence. Wild lupine dancing in the breeze. Tulips running across a field. Even thistle fighting for its spot along the roadside. Yes, purple is a wonder that always demands attention. But it is not alone in its splendor.

Other colors as fervently showoff their wares. Indian Paintbrush hangs on, hugging a steep red wall. Pesky dandelions dance anywhere they can grab hold—a meadow in the Grand Tetons or some tidy lawn in the suburbs—until a gentle breeze or a youngster’s wish sends them off to an encore performance in the next field. The frail pink fronds of the Eurasian Salt Cedar seem so unreal. Surely they must be fans left behind by Puck and friends, discarded evidence of a reality beyond our own? Orange carpets of California Poppies go unswept, hillside after hillside.

The list is endless: precarious pink blossoms, carefully posing atop a cactus’ thorns; the soft purr of pussy willows along a creek; the vast glory of roses; the heavy sweet white of honeysuckle and gardenias; the gentle sway of daffodils; and the ever vibrant parade of day lilies.

But if these colors—purple and red and orange and yellow and white—capture our attention and wonder, there is a sweet and subtle shade that too often goes unnoticed. It’s everywhere, no matter where we look. Green is our constant companion. Green is the foundation that makes all else possible.

And if we stop and notice it—really notice it—the variety is overwhelming. The dusty sea-green of desert sage. The delicate weave of ferns. The yellow green of new aspen leaves, shimmering in the sunlight. The dark rich green of pines and firs, boldly defining a mountainside. The cool sheltering green of a tree canopy, filtering in the sun. And—of course—the continual wonder of green sprouts, valiantly breaking through the earth seeking warmth and light.

It is green that so dramatically lets the more brilliant hues stand out, anchors them so they can be praised. Without green, would we have as much shade, as effective camouflage, or an awareness of the seasons? Green even gives us the very oxygen we breathe. If purple is God’s way of capturing our attention, then green must be a demonstration of love and concern.

NOTE: I wrote this posting years ago as part of a small photo booklet I had created called Natural Musings: Reflections from a Roadside Naturalist. With Earth Day fast approaching, I thought this would be worth sharing at this time.

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