It's Earth Day today and a sort of birthday for me.
When I was 11 years old (28 years ago!), I went with my Jewish community to plant trees on Martin Luther King Way, in Seattle. It was a "basic tree planting" community gig. I'm not sure I thought much about it...but I never forgot it.
Here was a group of people, lining the street, planting trees in front of homes, adding to the beauty of the city. But it was more. The people in the homes were not the tree planters and they came out to say thank you. The tree planters were all ages, all abilities, and all willing participants. I witnessed that warm feeling when people come together for a common thing. We weren't "saving the earth." We were *just* planting trees, it seemed. It was such a SMALL gesture, I see now.
But it made an ENORMOUS impact on me. That summer I figured out a way to organize an environmental day camp for younger kids. I called places to see if they'd take us on tours of green spaces, we made cool tshirts, birdhouses, learned about recycling, etc.
Then I joined an adult, Jewish, environmental group. I was 11, bringing the average age down only a little. I learned about stuff that was over my head in many ways but the adults were happy to listen to an 11 year old ask questions and inquire about why things are geared only to adults...kids are interested too!
Ever after that, I have been staunch environmentalist. I practice it in different ways, that usually correlate with my ability and willingness at the time. We were car-free for several years, then owned an electric car for a short time. We now drive two cars because of our jobs, but we still carpool and use public transportation as much as we can.
Clothing-wise, I used to buy all sorts of clothes, from sweatshop-using brands (before I knew better) and now my clothes are primarily used because that's easy for me to do and I feel way better. K only gets new clothes if it's a necessity or they are bought for him.
Food-wise, we used to eat primarily raw vegan until I needed to increase my good cholesterol. Now, the pendulum swings away from raw because our lives changed. We grow what we can in the backyard. We can go back to a stricter eating lifestyle any time.
Child-wise, we can be wasteful. Lots of things are designed disposably. And yes, for some (me) cloth diapering is challenging for reasons other than convenience. We do try to scale back on the consumption, when it works for us. Believe me, I tried to be dogmatic about it and it was agonizing.
We still consume and we still use (and sadly, waste) resources, but we're partnering with The Community General Store, in West Seattle, to share bigger purchases with others because we don't use all that we have right now. And we don't need to buy things new. We don't need new toys, or new books. We'd rather share the space and be with people.
It's silly to think we can dogmatically be one way forever. Even No Impact Man couldn't stay No Impact forever...but that's not the point. The point was to examine conscious choice and decide intentionally what was needed vs. wanted.
I share all of this because it's not about being one way forever. But we can examine the choices we have made and then re-examine them again later, to see if we still want to be doing that. We have a big home now, but we're looking to design a smaller, most sustainable home in the future.
On Earth Day, I don't just celebrate the Earth, I celebrate the beginning of my conscious relationship with the Earth. I don't just practice environmentalism because I'm told the world is falling apart. I am actively partnering with the Earth. I can't live in Seattle like I did in the Findhorn Community. That takes a level of commitment that would likely be easier in a different location and within a different culture (I have tried, it is HARD to live like I did there, without living in an intentional community). But I know I will go back there often, and for longer stints to do it more.
The Earth might benefit more from us partnering with it, rather than trying to save it. It's powerful, it will eject us when it needs to. But we can partner. We can listen. We can act, even in small ways. It does make an impact.