Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd. It’s a day to deepen our sacred connection with the Earth – our mother – and to recommit to our lifelong relationship with this planet which births and hosts us. In many ways it’s our annual bEarthday.
Earth Day’s humble beginnings grew from activism. Former United States Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed Earth Day as part of a grassroots movement in order to protect the earth’s environment. Dreamed up in the revolutionary energy of the late 1960’s, the first Earth Day was in 1970.
20 million people gathered across the U.S. on April 20th of that year to protest, teach, and discuss ways to defend the planet from continued pollution and environmental abuses. It remains the largest single day protest in human history and helped created public support for the creation of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). It also contributed to the passage of the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and many other environmental laws around the world.
The beginnings of Earth Day were small, but the impact of our behavior on our home planet is massive. If we harm ourselves, we harm the earth. If we harm the planet, we harm ourselves. We are truly part of a larger ecosystem and not simply a separate entity from all that surrounds us.
The Gaia Effect
Defending the planet from overwhelming pollution and environmental degradation is more important than ever before, as innumerable activist groups and policy makers have shown. But how can we, as a collective, remember what the Earth is to us and who we are to the Earth? How can we reconnect with our intimate connection with this planet?
In 1979 scientist James Lovelock called the Earth “Gaia” (from the Greek goddess of the earth), which he defined as “…a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.”
The Earth creates an optimal environment for us to live and we are part of that holistic system. We are much more than simply beings going about our lives on an inert piece of rock hurling through space. Lovelock says: “If we are ‘all creatures great and small,’ from bacteria to whales, part of Gaia, then we are all of us potentially important to her well-being.”
Lovelock says now that we have had the opportunity to see the planet from space, we are able to see how special this planet truly is. We can see that other planets nearby are barren and different from our wonderful, vibrant habitat. From this viewpoint, we are able to better recognize the sacredness and the sentience of Earth.
“It may be that one role we play is as the senses and nervous system for Gaia. Through our eyes she has for the first time seen her very fair face, and in our minds become aware of herself. We do indeed belong here. The earth is more than just a home, it’s a living system and we are part of it,” says Lovelock.
Earth Day can be a time to re-write our story with Mother Earth/Gaia and intentionally look from a more objective perspective at what is truly at stake. Because the life of Mother Earth contains each of our lives as well.
Co-Creation of a Harmonious Earth
How can we return to our sacred understanding of how deeply enmeshed our lives are with the life of our home planet?
In a Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Creation Myth, the Earth is formed with the help of the animals. A woman falls from Sky-World into the water world. Turtle races up through the ocean to catch her and give her a place to float safely in the water. Realizing that she will need a place to stand, many animals take turns diving for mud to create land. In some versions of this story, an animal gives their life to dive deep enough to find the mud to save Sky-Woman and create the Earth as we know it.
These beings worked together and made a home for the woman who would bear children and begin the human race. It is not a story of dominance or control, ownership or greed. This story, like so many indigenous creation stories, shows sentient beings working together within a larger sentient cosmos, creating a safe space together.
Humans become part of a greater cosmology, a world family that includes not only animals but all that exists on this planet. We are welcomed into a place where all things are alive and aware that they are intimately connected, and concerned for the welfare of each other.
You are Made of Stars
It may sound cliché to say that we are made of stardust, but science has born this out to be true. We contain about 97 percent of the same kinds of atoms as our surrounding galaxy, and these elements of life appear to be more prevalent toward the center of our galaxy, research found.
We are not simply surrounded by a galaxy of elements that make up the building blocks of life. We are those elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Our proportion of those elements are different, but we truly are made of star stuff.
Breathing Earth Gif
John Nelson, a data visualizer who works for a software company, created two animated GIFs, designed to visualize a year’s worth of seasonal transformations on Earth. Using 12 cloud-free satellite photographs, taken monthly for one year from Nasa’s website, he put them in a sequence to show what Nelson describes as “the annual pulse of vegetation and land ice.” https://laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/BreathingEarth1.gif
We Are One With the Earth
So when we celebrate Earth Day, remember we are not separate from the Earth. Mother and child are one. Creation stories from around the world share this same sentiment. We are a single system, working together, in concert with all other sentient life on this planet and beyond, into the far reaches of our galaxy.
Bloom Post is a freelance writer, ceremonialist, teacher, and author of the books Shaman’s Toolbox: Practical Tools for Powerful Transformation and Plant Spirit Totems. For more information: www.BloomPost.com