Monday, June 28, 2010

Motherlove and Caring for the Environment

The full Mother's Moon took me by suprise. It has been a busy couple weeks of gardening, summery outdoor activities and get togethers with friends so I had completely lost track of what the moon was doing. Then on Friday night I was driving home and the almost full moon jumped out from behind a tree or a building and BAM, it was the Full Mother's Moon. The weather was finally feeling summery so I took a late night stroll in the moonlight. Not dark until 9:30, night time walks in shorts, flowers and growing grass and warm breezes - it is finally summer!

The main energies of the Mother's Moon are those of the unconditional love a person, animal or land deserves just for existing. Annette Hinshaw describes this as Motherlove and contrasts it with Fatherlove, the love one earns through their merit or accomplishments. We know about this dichotomy in the raising of children - kids need to know they are loved for who they are no matter what, but they also need to be praised for striving and doing good work, and reprimanded when they choose harmful actions. We can bring this idea of Motherlove and Fatherlove out into a broader realm of dealing with our planet, the Earth we walk on, as well. When I was a ranger at Crater Lake National Park a man asked me, "What do we do with all this water?" I didn't really understand and am sure I stared at him blankly for a moment. "How do we use this water? Is it used for power generation or do people fish in it?" he asked again. "No," I finally stuttered out, "It's just here to be beautiful." This man wanted to care about Crater Lake because of what it does for us while I (and the forward thinking individuals who created the National Park Service) understood that sometimes we need to care about nature for it's own beauty and presence, not for anything it provides us.

One specific area that this Motherlove for Our Planet has been popping into my thoughts lately is in our culture's use of plastic. Cat over at Quaker Pagan Reflections has recently felt a leading to examine her use of plastic and is documenting it in her newer blog Chestnut Tree. A few days after reading her blog I came across Beth's website Fake Plastic Fish. Beth has spent the last two years reducing her plastic use and helping others understand the threat plastics pose to our environment and how to find more appropriate options. I'm not sure I have sensed the same urgent leading Cat has felt, or the same level of revulsion-leading-to-action Beth has had but I am on my way.

As these two blogs, and all the other articles out there show, there are many, many reasons to avoid plastic (and many, many equally good reasons to use plastic). The arguments against plastic usually fall into two camps - the it's bad for us camp and the it's bad for the planet camp. In the it's bad for us camp are arguments about leaching toxins, off gassing, hormone disruption, and the unsustainability of petroleum production that will leave us in a nasty lurch if we don't wean our habit now. These are good reasons to avoid plastic. But the reasons that really get to me, make my lip sneer up in disgust and give me indigestion and insomnia, are the motherlove type, it's bad for the planet reasons.

Our use of plastic, or more specifically, our improper disposal of single use plastic products, leave an enormous mark on our planet. As a person with a lot of science and specifally geology training I find it hard to believe that we as individuals or humans in general can really make a mark on the geology of our planet. The processes that make rock or create volcanoes are massive processes that cover emense amount of time and space. But we are. Our plastic garbage has collected in the Pacific Ocean to form a a giant patch of plastic garbage that might be as big as the continental United States, or it might just be as big as Texas. No matter how big it is the pieces of plastic are ending up in everything from albatross to diatoms. And, as I learned from my favorite TV Geologist (Iain Stewart... swoon!) in his new series on National Geographic our plastic detritus is actually getting into the ocean sediment that will, over geologic time, create new rock. Someday, millions of years in the future, geologists will look at some future incarnation of the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas and see bits of plastic in among the snail, fish and whale fossils. How gross is that?

Iain also told me about a mud volcano in Indonesia that has been erupting for years and has covered entire villages with dozens of feet of hot mud and displacing thousands of people. What does this have to do with plastic? The "volcano" is actually a broken well pipe from a drilling rig exploring for gas and oil, the raw materials for plastic. And I don't need to remind anyone about the tragic Gulf of Mexico "oil leak" (as NPR insists on calling it. Yes, I have written letters. That's no "leak", my friends). That disaster is not going to stop getting bigger, let alone start getting smaller, anytime in the forseeable future. I am quite confident that huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast will be uninhabitable wastelands before it is all said and done.

Our actions show a profound lack of basic respect and love for our planet and the other living things that live here with us. We are absolutely failing to show any amount of Motherlove to our planet. And thats no way to treat any one or any thing.

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I have been thinking a lot about the importance of building the world we want instead of focusing on destroying the world we don't want. My hero and personal astrologer, Rob Breszny, once said in an interview "The new culture is a blend of rage at what exists and love [in creating] something you like," Brezsny explains. "The answer isn't just to say 'no' to what's going on, but to imbue it with your own spirit." How does this apply to massive, planet scale environmental degredation rooted in thoughtless personal habits? We have to work at consciousness raising and use all the tools in our toolbox, including righteous rage, to bring the problem to people's attention.

We also need to work at how we build the new world we do want. How do we live a life without plastic, or without disposable plastic? How do we rearrange our priorities so that bringing reuseable shopping bags, cups, and to-go containers is not an inconvenience but simply the way things are done? How do we plan our lives and the lives of our cities so that we can use less oil for transporting our bodies and the goods we need to live? I certainly don't have answers to these questions, but maybe asking them - in the spirit of motherlove to all of creation - is the first step.

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new." - Socrates

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