I have always been a strong, stoic person. I had to be; as a single mother of four, I was the one who had to get everybody through, look after everyone else, be a strong oak, for my fledglings to lean on. But seven years ago, my beloved wolf-dog, my soul mate this lifetime, died, and since then I have cried a river of tears. They come so easily now, especially for animals, both domestic and wild, and the cruel, sad or dangerous lives so many of them live because of humans. Because of us.
Recently, I have identified the grief I carry as “earth grief”. I cannot bear what is happening to Mother Earth because of us, mainly because of corporate greed, and the leaders ruled by corporate money and lust for power, entities who are stealing our childrens’ futures for profit now, at the expense of even our questionable survival as a species. I hear so clearly how Mother Earth is crying. She is speaking her distress in all the languages she has: extinctions, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, warming seas, and melting icecaps. But when the octopuses started walking out of the sea along the Welsh coast and beaching themselves, it was too much. What is causing dozens of octopuses to walk out of the sea, night after night, lying limply on the sand, dying? Is it earthquakes underwater, magnetic activity at the poles? Warming or polluted waters? Starvation? How inhospitable a climate is the sea for them, that they prefer a quick certain death to a slower one? What is Mother Ocean trying to tell us?
I know we don’t have four more years under rule by a climate change denier to ignore the urgency of our situation. I applaud those local and regional governments which intend to continue addressing climate change (and social justice) in the midst of the chaos. I am heartened by such groups as Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, and the Tree Sisters: Women Seeding Change, who aim to plant a billion trees worldwide this year. In my village, I plan to gather a group of women and plant trees here, too, in spring, once the winter rains have stopped. Even in the rainforest, we have lost too many trees. The rainforest is changing, getting hotter, drier.
More trees will help, but not enough. For forty years, I have understood climate change and the urgent need, even back then, to switch to clean and breakthrough energy. And here we are, with fossil fuels all but obsolete, with rulers and corporations still determined to run pipes through sacred land and endanger water sources for millions. It makes no sense. The choice is always “the economy” over climate. Yet switching to clean energy systems is not only cleaner, it makes economic sense, creating jobs for millions, while easing pressure on the planet, using natural systems we already have in abundance: solar, wind, and water.
And now we have a president (sorry, no capital “P” for him), who wants to mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon, removing protections for wildlife and the wild sacred places. I would despair, except that is not an option. I feel the resignation of age and wisdom creeping over what once was my indefatigable hope: I believed for so long that the transformation of consciousness would occur in time. But humans learn the hard way. Perhaps we will transform after everything collapses and life is untenable.
Or perhaps the human experiment has failed. I know we can do better, we are meant to do better. On a smaller scale, in singular human lives, many of us DO do better. We do what we can, what we are moved to do. But the globe is full of the starving, and dispossessed, those displaced by war and by climate. Chaos, bombings, gunfire, death, destroyed lives are everywhere: warring factions who see only Other, and not our shared humanity. Heartbreak is universal on this beautiful planet, that would be our garden if we opened our eyes and our consciousness. And our hearts.
In the middle of it all, even given our misuse and abuse of her, Mother Earth gives to us so generously. Like a human mother, she gives even when we take without giving back. She gives us chance after chance, implores us to heed her wisdom, and we walk off laughing. We are still children. It is when we are old that we will remember and will realize what she was trying to tell us.
Because I refuse to give up hope, I will end with a quote from my friend, environmentalist Valerie Langer, who once said, “Mother Earth can feel your pain. Let her feel your joy too.” So I walk on the beach. I commune with Grandfather Cedar. I raise my eyes to the sky in gratitude for the gift of life and all of its beauty. Unspeakable beauty, coupled with unbearable sorrow. I speak for the wolves, for the starving polar bears, for the dying and diseased salmon. And for those desperate octopuses walking out of the sea. Wake up, humankind, while there is still a very small window of time. Wake up.
There is a very interesting and relevant discussion going on over at Sreejit Poole's The Seeker's Dungeon these days, a month of essays on the topic Rage Against the Machine. Do check it out. Some fantastic essays in there. It sparked this post, as I have been struggling with what I can only call "Earth Grief" for some time.