Tag Archive for: Earth Day

Earth Day 2020

Sea turtle in blue water for Earth Day

Photo by Julian Berengar Sölter on Unsplash

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I’m awake at 4:00 a.m. after another restless night during the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to think of a reason to say, “Happy Earth Day.”

In 1970, the first Earth Day wasn’t a celebration, but a protest. Sparked by an oil spill, backed by a U.S. Senator, and organized from the ground up, events included thousands of teach-ins, rallies, and marches for environmental justice. (There is an excellent article on the backstory of Earth Day here.)

Over the next 50 years, Earth Day was greenwashed into a “celebration” complete with music festivals. Community groups gather to clean up trash in the park, but the movement lacks the bite it did in 1970, when the trash was dumped on the steps of town hall to protest abysmal waste management policies. 

Now, on the 50th anniversary, we are spending Earth Day isolating in our homes or braving the grocery store in masks and gloves (and creating new environmental problems with poor disposal practices). Meanwhile the environmental protections that were fought for in 1970 are being “rolled back” in the name of economic growth, but which sounds to me less like beneficial growth and more like corporate profit at any expense for the rest of us.

I have been taking a narrow approach to my advocacy. Recognizing my time and energy are limited resources, I focus my attention locally and at the state level, where my individual voice has more impact, and trust that bigger organizations have my back nationally and globally with the help of whatever dollars I can send their way. As a wildlife rehabilitator, I not only try to save individual turtles from their injuries, but I will remind you, ad nauseum, to watch out for them on roads and properly dispose of fishing tackle, and I do what I can to support projects that ensure healthy habitats and safer road crossings. 

Not only do I have a soft spot for my local hard backed friends, but I know that many species of turtles face extinction due to overexploitation, habitat loss, and climate change. To me, the struggles of turtles provides sad commentary on the state of the world’s wildlife in general and the failure of the human animal to recognize our interdependence on and interconnection to species that don’t look like us, as well as to many that do. Through turtles I relate to the environmental crisis as a whole.

I believe it’s time for the Earth Day movement to get some teeth again. The coronavirus has dumped the trash of consumerism, social injustice, and wildlife exploitation on all of our steps. Youth-led movements are back, and they are ready to teach us how we can create a clean and more sustainable future, if we are willing to listen. When we collectively demand systemic change, and we get it, then maybe we can say, “Happy Earth Day.”

Virtual in 2020

Since I can’t be in Albany today, I’m joining New York’s virtual advocacy day. There are many virtual teach-ins happening today as well. Here are a few you can join:

Earth Day Live 

Pachamama Alliance Earth Day Summit 

Youth Climate Strike Earth Day Live 

An Earth Day meditation: connecting to your animal guide

I wrote this guided meditation for an Earth Hour ritual and thought it would be good to share it today in honor of Earth Day. Enjoy the recording, or borrow the script and share the experience with your nature-loving tribe.

Guided Meditation for Earth Hour

Close your eyes and allow your breath to flow naturally. With each breath, feel your body become more relaxed.

Imagine you are standing on a gravel road at the edge of a forest. In front of you are five stone steps down to a path that leads into the trees. You start down the steps. At the first step your body becomes completely relaxed. At the second step your mind quiets. On the third step you feel peace flowing through you. At the fourth step you know you are in a safe place. As you step onto the fifth and final step your vision becomes sharp and clear and the light seems brighter and the colors more vivid.

You follow the path into the trees, fully taking in everything that you see. You notice each subtle hue of the green leaves and the brown dirt. Here and there a yellow leaf left over from the fall catches your eye. The light filters through the treetops and dapples the path in front of you. You look up and see bits of blue sky between the tall trees. You see the varying textures of the tree bark, some smooth and some gnarled, knotted and rough. You notice tiny flowers on delicate stalks nestled against the root of one tree and you wonder how they came to grow there. Twigs and pebbles crunch under your feet. You feel a slight, cool breeze that rustles the leaves. You become aware of mossy smells and the singing of birds high above you and the buzzing of insects around you. You can feel life here.

You continue down the path, stepping carefully to avoid the small green plants which have sprung up between rocks. As you move deeper into the forest the light fades and the air becomes damp and musty. The path becomes softer beneath your feet. Moving on, you notice the sound of running water ahead and walk down the path toward the sound. Suddenly you step into brighter light and find yourself on the bank of a wide stream. You can see the sun overhead here and the sunlight reflects on the water. The stream is rocky and the water tumbles over the worn stones in a series of small waterfalls. The spring sun is melting snow at higher elevations and the water runs quickly by, carrying leaves, small twigs and a few water bugs over the rocks.

You sit on the damp, cool moss on the bank and watch the water flow by. As you watch, a small green lizard scampers onto a rock, then you move slightly and he disappears between the rocks. The sun is warm despite the breeze. You are filled with peace just being in this place.

A rustling in the trees on the opposite bank catches your attention, and you look up to see an animal emerge from the trees. What kind of animal is it? Let it be whatever first comes to mind. It sees you and moves cautiously toward the stream. You catch its eyes and it stops, watching you. You know you are safe here and do not feel fear, just awe at being this close to this animal. You have a clear, unobstructed view and can see it in detail. You can see the shape of its body, muscle and bone. You can see the shape of its feet, its tail, its jaw. You know there is power in that body, the power it needs to survive in the forest. You notice its texture – fur or scales or feathers or skin. You imagine what it would feel like if you could touch the animal. You can see its colors – not just the body colors but the color of its eyes. And you look into those eyes and feel a connection, and know this animal has a message for you. What is it telling you? What would this animal have to say? Perhaps it is just a message of mutual respect, perhaps it is something else. Let the message come to you. Trust that whatever message you hear is the right one.

You repeat the message to yourself a few times, wanting to remember it. Then you look down, breaking eye contact, and the animal turns and wanders back into the trees. You watch it go, grateful for the opportunity to see it so close and for the message it shared with you. Knowing your time here is done, you stand, turn away from the stream and walk back along the forest path, through the darkness under the thick trees. A few more steps brings you back to the place where patches of light illuminate the path ahead and before long you can see the stone steps.

You walk to the steps, taking one last look at the trees behind you, then put your foot down on the first step and start to climb. On the next step you become aware of your breath. On the next step you feel your body. On the next step you become aware of the room. As you reach the top of the steps you are back in the present, bringing with you the animal’s message and the sense of peace you found in the forest. Take a few deep breaths before you move back into your day.

* * *

I’ve done this guided visualization a number of times and have noticed that I am drawn to certain animals during times of stress, other animals when I am feeling introspective or down, and still others when I am happy. What animal came to you? Did it’s message surprise you? I’d love it if you’d comment and share your experience.

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