Everyone's an Environmentalist!
by Stephen Wing
published in Co-Options and Evolve! magazine
Everyone's an environmentalist!
Don't we all eat, drink and breathe to survive? Doesn't everything we eat, drink and breathe come from our environment? Even the staunchest foe of special interests like "public health" can't deny it. Everyone's an environmentalist!
Where does my ecosystem end, and yours begin? It's all one single endlessly differentiated ecosphere, from the Earth's warm core to the cold edge of space, and every single one of us is not just in it— we're of it.
We're made of it, composed of its elements, governed by its laws, born of its characteristic urge to procreate, multiply and evolve, subject to its inflexible rule of aging and decay and the invariable corollary of transformation and rebirth.
In our post-modern free-market mythology, we think of ourselves as consumers, whose relationship with the Earth is to take from it whatever we need to eat, drink or breathe. The only bill we owe is to the corporations that extract, process and deliver our necessities with all their clever technologies. But in fact, beneath all that social conditioning, everyone's an environmentalist. All three of the basic things we need to live— air, water, food— connect us at a profound level with literally the Whole Earth.
Just breathing air, we interact with the entire planet's mantle of captive gases— one of the three basic states of matter. Despite variations where natural gas seeps out of the ground or leaks from a pipeline, where factories and cars emit smoke, and so on, all the elements that make up Earth's atmosphere blend in a single soup which all of us, breathing separately, share in common.
Inhaling, we make this world of gaseous matter a part of our bloodstream, our cells, our selves. Exhaling, we contribute our own waste gases to the mixture, making ourselves a part of it. Though the plants around us appear to be separate entities, the oxygen which is their waste product keeps us alive. The carbon dioxide which is our waste product keeps them alive. A few minutes without this intimate relationship, and we lose consciousness; death follows shortly. On the gaseous level, we are one with our environment.
Everyone's an environmentalist!
By drinking water, we interact with the entire planet's water cycle— the second basic state of matter. All around us are temporary storage and delivery systems for water: oceans, rivers and lakes, clouds and rain, groundwater seeping through the soil. Trees and plants, diverting water up their stalks, create shade to prevent evaporation and runoff. And then there's Homo sapiens, chugging enough— I hope— to stay right around 70% H-2-O. That's roughly the same as the planet's water-to-land ratio, last time I checked, though shorelines are observably shrinking as the seas rise.
Your next sip of water may come from a spring, delivered by a truck in a plastic bottle. But before it bubbled up in that spring, it traveled underground for miles, fell in a rainstorm, drifted across the sky, evaporated from an ocean after winding down a river to a delta on some another continent. Maybe, at one point, it even went through a human or animal who bent down to drink it. A few days without replenishing our inner water supply, and we dehydrate to death. On the liquid level, too, we are one with our environment.
Like I said: everyone's an environmentalist!
Eating food, we interact with the third state of matter, the realm of solids. Our bodily selves seem to require the assimilation of other solid living bodies to be properly fueled. All foods except salt were once biologically alive, but most deliver trace amounts of iron, zinc, potassium and other minerals— a taste of the soil that grew them— which our bodies seem to crave. In some places, eating soil is considered medicinal.
The consumer who swallows today's genetically engineered, pesticide-sprayed, irradiated and processed food may imagine the transaction is over when the grocery or restaurant bill is paid. But after our digestive system processes the meal into fuel for the body, there's one last balance to be paid. In return for each plate of solid nourishment, we must deposit some rich solid waste that nourishes the Earth, partaking in yet another eternal cycle of nature. Go without food for a few weeks, and you're dead meat— literally, as far as the worms and bacteria are concerned. On the solid plane, we are one with our environment.
Everyone alive is an environmentalist! No exceptions!
Of course, some philosophers prefer to identify not with their bodies, but with an eternal soul that goes on after death. I certainly intend to live on after I die, if at all possible. But while I'm here on Earth in a biological body, I am, obviously, an environmentalist.
Our indigenous ancestors— the ultimate environmentalists— felt so connected to the places where they lived that they never needed a word for "environment." They took good care of the air, water and soil because their connection to these life-giving elements was clear and direct. In our day, the Earth's life-maintenance systems are so compromised that we need more than just a word. We need to mean it. Each of us post-modern environmentalists must develop a conscious awareness of the web of life that connects us to every aspect of Creation.
We have to make a spiritual discipline of learning as much as possible about raw materials extraction, energy use, chemical byproducts, labor conditions, trade policies, transportation, packaging, recycling potential, etc. Whether comparing products in the grocery store or making split-second decisions in traffic, it must be the environmentalist in us that chooses and acts, not our habits, conditioning, or self-indulgent desires.
Because, as you know, before our newborn nakedness is swaddled in human identity, on our deathbeds after it's been stripped awaym, and in every conscious or unconscious moment in between, everyone's an environmentalist.
Thank you, Creator Spirit! Thank you, Mother Earth! Thank you, all my relations!