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Putting Heart Back Into Earth Care

Earth is an anagram of heart. So are tear and hear (kind of). If we can hear the pain of the earth, shed tears of compassion and commit with all our heart to living more mindfully, we can make amends for at least some of our reckless misuse of the planet. If the earth’s pleas fall on deaf ears, we humans will be the ones shedding tears of regret.

How many climate change deniers does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with the light bulb. The darkness and burnt out bulb don’t prove a thing.

I often get myself in trouble for laughing at these sorts of fundamentalist perspectives. But you have to admit climate denial is low hanging fruit, or as is the case this year with our early Spring, no fruit at all. Hopefully, a little light hearted fun can add some perspective in a country where even presidential candidates deny the science of climate change and economic policies ignore the reality of global warming.

Fundamentalism is not the only low hanging comedic fruit. The idea that we think we can “save the planet” by separating paper and plastics is just as delusional. As George Carlin said, “The planet is fine. It’s the people who are messed up. The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are.”

Then there’s the hypocrisy in human nature that talks a big game but will only act as long as we aren’t too inconvenienced. Conflict is one of those inconveniences. It’s worth tickling the soft underbelly of your conviction from time to time to give yourself a bit of a giddy up.

How many progressives does it take to change a light bulb?

None. We wouldn’t want to exclude those who prefer the darkness. It’s better to live in the dark than offend anyone.

We have a habit of betraying our convictions to keep the peace. It’s like the progressive church that changed the Ten Commandments to the Ten Suggestions? Thou shalt stand up for what you believe…..unless the costs are too high.

I’ve decided that this would be the favorite Bible verse for progressives,

Finally, beloved, WHATEVER is true, WHATEVER is honorable, WHATEVER is just, WHATEVER is pure, WHATEVER is pleasing, WHATEVER is commendable… think about these things. Philippians 4.8

Whatever! Whatever! Whatever! The progressive mantra! There are MANY mysteries in life and lots of room to move. But when it comes to a suffering world and a groaning planet, whatever is not an adequate response. And if discomfort and unpopularity are part of the price you pay for your principles then it’s a small price.

I’m yet to meet anyone who openly admits that they don’t care about the earth. We all SAY we care. The real question we need to ask is, “What are we prepared to do? How far are we prepared to go in our activism? Will we make radical changes to our lifestyle for the cause?”

Legend has it that Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist and author of “Walden Pond”, sat in jail, imprisoned for protesting against an income tax, newly-enacted to finance the war with Mexico. His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him. Looking through the bars into Thoreau’s cell, Emerson asked, “What are you doing in there, Henry?” Thoreau replied, “The better question is what are YOU doing OUT there?”

Are you prepared to be arrested for your convictions? Are you prepared to bleed for a cause? Dare I ask, is there anything that is so close to your heart, that you would be willing to die to bring the reality a little closer?

After a career in the Canadian Coast Guard and then after helping to found Greenpeace, Paul Watson established the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He has led over 200 expeditions to defend ocean wildlife. In the process he has recruited many partners and kindred spirits to join him. One of the questions he asks prospective partners is, “Are you prepared to die for a whale? If you’re not, he says, don’t join us.”

This is a challenging question. If you truly see the scope of the problem, if you see your lifestyle as part of the problem, if you see the role of silence in perpetuating the problem, is there anything you wouldn’t do to effect change? It’s not that there is any glory in dying for a cause. It’s a rhetorical question designed to nudge you out of your comfort zone and challenge the strength of your conviction.

Or to put the boot on the other carbon printed foot- what is it that you’re trying to preserve? If you truly see the urgency of the situation, then comfort and convenience may be short-lived. Rearrange the metaphoric deckchairs a little- preserving your comfort and lifestyle in the midst of the earth’s destruction is akin to sipping a margarita on a deckchair while the Titanic sinks into oblivion.

Preserving your life and protecting false comforts is not truly living.

Another way to phrase Paul Watson’s question is, are you prepared to truly LIVE for what you value?

What we need to do is put some strength into the soft underbelly of our concern. Awareness of climate change is a step in the right direction. In some communities it’s a brave perspective to hold. But we need more than awareness and more than bravery. We need abs of steel, a six pack of courage and conviction. We need to transform concern into conviction, bravery into courage and awareness into action. And we need to keep doing it, even if it becomes unpopular and even if the odds of making any progress are so stacked against us that we can barely see the decimated woods for the struggling trees.

This isn’t about saving the planet. Its about living authentically, which gets at the heart of who you are and why you are alive.

As Paul Watson said,

In the great scheme of things what matters is not how long you live but why you live, what you stand for and what you are willing to die for.

This series on earth care teases out the issue, by exploring multiple motivations to get active. When it comes to earth care, people are motivated in many different ways. Some are motivated by fear of the crisis, and others are motivated by the vision of healing. Some people are motivated by getting up close to nature, and others are motivated by a wider perspective. Some are motivated by economics (what affects the pocket book) and others are motivated by future generations. What motivates you? The next articles in the series take the issue deeper.

This is a five part series on eco-activism.

1. Putting heart back into earth care.

2. Facing up to the reality of climate change.

3. Getting up close and personal with the earth.

4. Taking a cosmic perspective on the earth.

5. Learning perseverance from nature.


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