Earth Day – A Personal Insight

0501161038a-2This Earth Day, more than any other, was quite bitter/sweet for me. I have a fairly long history with Earth Day. I knew Denis Hayes, the first ED of Earth Day, when we were both students at Stanford in the mid-1960s. I was a supporter of Senator Gaylord Nelson when I was in graduate school in Politics at University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1966-67. And I was a supporter of Congressman Pete McCloskey throughout his legislative career,

I was respectful of Earth Day from the very beginning of its celebration, but I, I am chagrined to admit, actively participated in a celebration for the first time only in 2010. In 2010, I was Executive Director of Sustainable Business Alliance (SBA) in Oakland/Berkeley. That non-profit organization was and is focused on building a strong community of locally-owned and locally-operated businesses in the San Francisco East Bay. SBA had a table at that 2010 Earth Day celebration outside Berkeley City Hall, and I staffed that table throughout the day. Thousands of people streamed through the Earth Day celebration over the course of the day, and it was a great way to gather new recruits for SBA.

At the end of Earth Day, April 24, 2010, I got a call from my step-daughter who had just delivered identical twin grand-daughters. So my association with Earth Day very much includes that whole web of family, and particularly those grand-daughters. I have been fortunate to spend many hundreds of hours with them since 2010.

The bittersweet element of this, I realized as I was walking to the celebration, was that this was probably the first year of my life in which I was encountering Earth Day as a possible landmark in the already long-progressing crisis which elegant New Yorker columnist, Elizabeth Kolbert refers to as “The Sixth Extinction.”
At this point, I believe that we must accept, and openly speak of the probability that human beings are living on the edge of a potentially catastrophic abyss they have created for themselves. While I believe the chances we can avoid toppling into the abyss are small, I believe that we have to live our lives with the counter-intuitive conviction that we can avoid this personal and collective collapse if we direct all of our energy, imagination, and love, into transforming the way we, as human beings, operate upon the face of the earth.  At the core of this, we must recover the realization that we (human beings) are not “above nature,” or “against nature,” but “of nature.” Once we recover this realization, and only if we recover this realization, do we have a spiritual and intellectual  infrastructure from which we may be able to devise a strategy for survival of all remaining species into future decades. For if we become reconciled with the worldview that we are “of nature,” we will finally escape the perception  that we can exploit nature (with nature including all of the human beings on earth who do not happen to be members of the dominant culture — and that would be US!)
by Mark McLeod