[Author’s Note: This is the second of a 2-part essay on this topic. Part 1, Toxic Avengers, was posted on Thursday.]
Part 2: Turning Down the Thermostat
So the most toxic fumes polluting our planet may be coming right out of our very own mouths, churned up by the fires scorching our very own hearts.
Now, with the ever worsening state of bad news, bad policy, bad economy, and bad moods, each existing and new threat to the Earth understandably throws a spark on environmentalists’ waiting tinder. Admittedly, it is so hard not harbor anger over some of the policies and practices of our current administration (as well as past administrations), or of big business around the world, or of our fellow citizens who seem to care more about horsepower than living, breathing horses.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that we must not give in to our anger by acting and speaking hatefully or violently. I ask, how does it feel, in your heart and in your entire body, when you are in the midst of a fit of seemingly “righteous indignation”? Is it any wonder that “ire” rhymes with “fire,” not to mention “pyre”—as in funeral pyre? (Yes, yes, think here of the Doors song…go on, sing it in your head….) And so whenever we speak or act motivated by this fire within, we pollute the planet with burning negativity…and burn ourselves in the process. The energy we generate has no moral distinctions; it simply flows out and has its effects, just as coal smoke and exhaust simply rise into the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat.
This is the worst pollution in so many ways. According to James Lovelock’s “Gaia hypothesis,” the planet is one immense living being in which everything exists in a state of essential symbiosis. So if we imagine the Earth, Gaia, as a living body, then our hatred is like a gland releasing toxins into the bloodstream and so poisoning the entire system. In a healthy body, every single cell and every part of every cell functions with the others in order to maintain homeostasis, so that the entire being is one vast system of mutual support at all levels. By contrast, some of the most debilitating conditions involve parts of the body attacking each other, as happens in the various auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and celiac disease.
We are at a point now where we must rely upon the love and compassion we feel for the life of our planet. We must let this love be our motivation as we strive to make changes in our individual lives, in the lives of those around us, and in the laws that govern society.
I ask everyone, then, to act upon this insight, to be engaged in the spirit of Gandhi when he said that “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And I ask other “environmentalists” especially to be this change. Follow the present Dalai Lama, who has been able to watch the Chinese government exile and kill his people yet sees that same government as “my friends the enemy.”
We environmentalists have made too many enemies in our efforts to save the Earth.
In this challenge to save our living Earth, easily the greatest challenge in human history, we have no true enemies…we have only friends of many different kinds. Without a collective effort in which everyone is not “my friend the enemy” but simply “my friend,” then I fear that we cannot make the changes we want to see.
If we keep polluting the Earth with our hateful energies, our angry thoughts and words and deeds, then I fear that we are defeating ourselves in every step we take to do good and depleting the healthy energy of the life-force flowing through us all…and that “the centre cannot hold” for much longer.
We truly need to cultivate a “green” life without making it a mean life in the process.
If we can achieve a “green with heart,” then I think…I hope…that we can finally come together in one momentous effort to save our precious Earth.
Then, perhaps, we may come to know true wealth, true security, true community, true peace….
Then, perhaps, the lion will lie down with the lamb, the Republican with the Democrat, the farmer with the banker, the hunter with the animal lover, the environmentalist with the developer, the priest with the pagan…“and the forests will echo with laughter.”1
1. Led Zeppelin. “Stairway to Heaven.” [IV]. Atlantic Records, 1971.
You often hear that “sex sells,” anger works to gain support, etc., all suggesting that extreme measures are the best measures. But do these appeals to emotions and knee-jerk reactions really work in the long run? Is red paint, coming out of a can or out of one’s mouth, really a good tactic? And besides anger, what other motivations for “doing good” are potentially counterproductive and self-destructive?