Happy World Environment Day! Today we join minds across the planet to celebrate the natural world. Which is everything isn’t it.
‘The environment’ as a word or a term has been one of my bug bears for quite a while, mostly because to me in its populist use it invokes something ‘out there’ and quite remote. ‘Saving the environment’ often comes with pictures of dolphins or polar bears or trees in forests on the other side of the planet, as if these things have some kind of glorious glamour born of photogenic inaccessibility. I hear society saying ‘oh yes, you’re allowed to care about those because they’re cute, it’s sweet of you to care about fluffy animals. And they’re far away, as in not here where you will get in anyone’s face and be inconveniently disruptive. We’ll use the media point our finger at the oil spill over there to distract from the slow chipping away of the integrity of the ocean in your own backyard. Yes of course we care about the environment, vote for us and buy our products. How dare you insinuate that there is any environment close by.’
As an Earth Warrior maybe you can relate to my cynicism. You know perfectly well that these poster cover species are not all that constitute ‘the environment’. You are out there defending and protecting and rebuilding the places that supply our drinking water, our food, and habitat for our wildlife (even the ugly ones, even though they add no measurable value to human existence – yet). You see that our towns and even our houses are our environment. You know we can make a huge difference with everyday choices like what we buy and what we choose to take it home in, what we flush down the sink, and what we plant in our garden: ‘the environment’ is not remote.
I will take this one step further.
What if ‘the environment’ were the air that is in your lungs right now, or the water that transpires off your skin to go back to the clouds? What if it were the vast diversity of microbes which populate your gut and do things like digest your food and regulate your mood – that outnumber your human cells 10:1? What if ‘the environment’ were you, with your animal body that has evolved with the Earth over millennia, with an ancient ancestry that spans back through primates, fish, and Eukaryotes? With your heart which cries out to spend time in nature, to blend with her, and dedicate your life to protecting her?
We are ‘the environment’. There is no separation.
It can be easier to say it’s out there and separate, devolves responsibility somehow. It gives us the illusion of choice of whether or not we bother with it, as well as a whole different perspective on what it means to work with the environment or ‘save’ the environment. It can also bring up a whole shitload of fear and insecurity. Do you feel the same way about yourself as you feel about ‘the environment’? Can you appreciate yourself and love yourself as much as you do Nature?
Today I invite you to not just honour the external natural world, but to also honour yourself and the part of you that knows there is no separation – your inner Earth Warrior, and the part that struggles with it. Let us be grateful for it all.
PS. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below!