Earth Day is one of those times when – as an environmental advocate and anthropologist – I feel compelled to write something. Today I’m not going to write something new, because I can’t top this post from last year (really? I thought it was farther back than that). Here are a few excerpts:
The Earth is not your mother – is not even feminine. The Earth is multi- and transgendered. The Earth is queer. S/h/it is a monstrous assemblage… no, a teeming mass of myriad different kinds of flesh intertwining in a terrifying and beatiful orgy – a consummation that is also mutual consumption. We emerge within this teeming mass more than we exist upon it…Our bodies are as much the flesh of the Earth as are the rocks, the trees, the water, and the animals.
Earth Day is a dark holiday. It is a reminder, not of the beauty of nature or the miracle of life, but of the horrors that we have wrought upon the rocky surface of this planet: decimation of forests, toxification of water, nuclear explosions, transformation of the atmosphere, mass genocides, and so on. Earth Day emerged from the recognition of these horrors just as the pilgrimages to war sites – the Nazi concentration camps, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the Twin Towers, etc. – emerge from the recognition of horrifying events that took place in those places. It is a day, not for remembering a utopic vision of a harmonious world that once (but never) was, but one for recollecting (a more appropriate term than remembering), for contemplating, for praying, for making right, and for imagining a world that could be.”
Earth Day has become a happy holiday. We wish each other a “happy Earth Day,” we plant a tree, we pat ourselves on the back for the good job we’ve done saving our “mother.” But I think it is important to remember the darkness of this holiday as well, because the earth is a dark place. If we can’t come to terms with that darkness, despair, and horrifying just as much as we can with the light, the happy, the beautiful, then we risk simply replicating our own interests. We fail to encounter the earth as it is, and as we are within it, and instead reproduce ourselves and our own visions upon it. So feel good, plant your tree, pat yourself on the back, but remember that the earth is still being destroyed every day, and that there is a lot more work to be done.