The United Nations’ International Mother Earth Day, 22nd April 2017, has the
theme Environmental and Climate Literacy. It is being celebrated this year
to remind us that the Earth and its ecosystems give us life and
sustenance.We are reminded of a collective duty to promote harmony with
Nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social,
and environmental needs of present and future generations of Humanity.
I guess this is the UN mission statement for Mother Earth Day. But when I
searched for references and background to shape this homily, there were
constant predictions of global warming, natural disasters, and species
extinction. Words full of despair and cynicism at the futility of changing how
things are. I began to think that this was a VERY GLOOMY TOPIC.
The case is made that the Earth, our only inhabited planet, is dying at our
own hands by or love of carbon fuelled transport, cheap plastic things and big
beef steaks.
I am not a climate denier, or a diehard feminist, but I found I kind of agreed
with Unitarian Minister, Rev. Gretchen Hayley, that Humanity was acting like
spoilt children – wasting food and smashing toys just because they were
confident their mother (Earth) would always come to their rescue and clean
up after them.
This entitled notion the Minister blames on a belief in separation of Mind from
Body that sprang out of the 18th century philosophical movement called the
Enlightenment. In it Mind was designated Rational and Masculine, Body
contrasted as Irrational and Feminine.
This dichotomy has shaped how we’ve subsequently viewed Mothers,
and Mother Earth. The ideal Mother knows exactly what to do at all times
and does it perfectly, at the same time loving us unconditionally. She acts out
of love not reason or rationality.
The idea of ‘Leave it all to Mother’ presumes that Mother Earth is all powerful
and all loving and will return things always to the status quo. I don’t know
about other Mothers out there, but if Mother Earth was a real living conscious
entity, after the way these kids have been behaving, I would be afraid, very
afraid.
She could simply shrug her shoulders and wipe us all off the face of the
planet. I don’t think it has come to that but the normality of Mega Cyclones,
100yr floods, Catastrophic Fire Ratings and World Wide Earthquakes
suggests Mother Earth is waking up and taking notice.
If we don’t clean up soon we may become like the proverbial Dodo extinct,
very extinct.
Species are currently going extinct at the rate of one every 15 minutes.
when Dodos went extinct, no-one knew that a species of large tropical tree
would be unable to have its seeds germinated, without Dodos to chomp up
their hard outer shells. When these trees began to die off some hundred or so
years later, whole ecosystems of insects and lizards and small creatures
faced extinction as well. They’d become co-adapted to those trees.
We don’t know what species might go extinct and cause our own downfall.
We may be a wonderfully adaptive creature able to eat almost any thing and
live anywhere BUT we are part of the WEB of LIFE interconnected to every
other being on the planet.
This interconnectedness of all things was declared by Buddhists
2500years ago and only now is science beginning to recognise how
connected we are. For example we know we share 96 % of the DNA of
Chimpanzees, but we even share 60% of the DNA of Bananas and 85% of
the DNA of mice.
Who Knew?
All beings on earth, plants, animals, fish and fowl are part of the great
biodiversity this planet supports, that by living : allow us to live. Not simply to
feed and survive but to appreciate the beauty of a landscape as a living
symbol of the Sublime made Manifest.
The Web of Life or Interconnectedness of All Beings brings me to Teilhard de
Chardin who completed his book ‘The Phenomenon of Man’ in 1930.
In it he condensed his deep experience of Palaeontology into a beautiful
spiritual expression of Evolution. He saw life as beginning with simple
individual cells which over time clumped and evolved to more and more
complicated organisms. The direction of evolution was, over time, to greater
consciousness. Homo sapiens, our own race was noted as a breakthrough
moment where evolution became conscious of itself.
Teilard de Chardin argued that continued evolution would bring about a
Noosphere – a collective consciousness of Humanity, a thinking layer that
would envelop the earth. Eighty years ago this just sounded weird, but no-one
then knew about the internet. It wasn’t in widespread use til the 1990s, and
not until 10 years ago commonly available on cellphones. So I guess you can
all imagine the Noosphere and collective consciousness now.
The internet gets pretty bad press, due to some aspects, one that it is as easy
for pornographers and scam artists to access as it is for legitimate
researchers and our own friends.
It is simply an immense engine for spreading ideas, true or false. It was used
as such during the Trump election campaign by internet Trolls who harassed
Trump detractors and flooded social media with Pro-Trump, Anti-Hillary
images. These small packets of information, became copied out and spread
by receivers on their own social media networks in turn. They became small
bits of reproducible culture. Exactly the definition Richard Dawkins gave to
what he called Memes. They’re like catchy melodies that worm their way into
peoples brains and spread across whole cultures changing behaviour.
Teilhard de Chardin saw the Noosphere as a membrane of collective
consciousness enveloping the world and then increasing in complexity,
infolding in the manner of a cauliflower, increasing its surface towards a
closer reflection of God who is and who is Love.
I believe the Internet is spreading ideas for good around the whole Earth.
Ideas such as Education for All, e.g. Malala, Compassion for Others, e.g.
movements such as Gay Marriage, Black Lives Matter, and Assisting the
worlds struggling poor in our Global economy e.g. Micro-loans.
If anything is going to save Mother Earth it is the internet, spreading
compassion for our fellow planet dwellers, whether Human or animal.
Supporting movements to put aside wildlife refuges, to prevent habitat
destruction, to oppose exploitative labour practices, and enable multinational
corporations to see profit in ethical practices. We will know Mother Earth is
safe when we Human animals are no longer satisfied simply with food and
shelter for ourselves unless the whole world is fed and sheltered too.