The following piece is and adapted version of a post that originally appeared on the Peace Resource Center of San Diego’s (PRCSD) Facebook page. Stephanie Knox Cubbon, Director of Education at the Metta Center, serves on the PRCSD board.
Every year for Earth Day, San Diego holds Earth Fair, which bills itself as the “largest annual free environmental fair in the world.” Last year, I rode my bike to Balboa Park, where the fair takes place, a bike route that I frequent as I go about town. The difference on this particular day was the traffic: normally not congested, it was bumper-to-bumper, and I huffed and puffed my way up the steep hill, choking on the exhaust coming out of the cars. This is no way to celebrate Earth Day! I thought. There should be less traffic on Earth Day, not more…
Things only got worse as I got to the park. Consumerism was rampant, and booth after booth was selling things—cheap t-shirts, junk food, things we don’t need. I felt a sense of dismay. The spirit of so many people wanting to come out and celebrate the Earth was positive, and seeing people come out to enjoy the park on a beautiful day and be in community was lovely, but how we were celebrating this day—a day originally intended for awareness-raising and conservation—troubled me. It seemed like we were missing the point. The very event that was supposed to celebrate and care for the Earth was committing violence against it, with all the pollution, over-consumption and waste being generated. Is this really how the Earth would want us to celebrate her? I kept thinking, and How does the Earth want to be celebrated?
This year, for these reasons, I did not participate in this particular Earth Fair, but the day itself offers an opportunity for reflection on my relationship with the Earth and how I might live more sustainably and more deeply commit to the Great Turning, as Rivera Sun recently wrote. I try to celebrate Earth Day every day, and some of the main ways I do this include: eating a plant-based diet, riding my bicycle as much as possible, driving (my hybrid vehicle) only when necessary, buying things as a last resort. I find Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs an inspiring guide for consumption:
I realize I am lucky in that I live within biking distance to the park, and I am healthy and able to ride my bicycle. I know this is not the case for everyone. But I know there are many more of us who could do this, and many of us could take public transportation. While San Diego’s public transportation system is inadequate and slow, Earth Day is a great reason to take it, even if it takes an extra hour to get there. Maybe the long bus ride will provide inspiration to share our voices for better regional planning, and demand more buses, trains, trolley lines and bike lanes rather than freeway expansions.
We can get caught in the trap of “buying green,” when really what we need to do is simply buy less. Yes, it might be better to buy the greener version of a product, but ultimately we need to ask ourselves if we really need the product. Just because something claims to be green doesn’t mean that it actually is, and often the greenest thing we can do is to not buy at all. We can ask ourselves: Do I really need another organic cotton t-shirt, or can I make do with the ones I have? To paraphrase our friend Gandhi, there’s enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed, and we can ask ourselves this question (need or greed?) each time we think of consuming or using something.
Of course we are much more than just consumers, and our relationship to the Earth is not just based on consumption. We are the Earth. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says:
I am still working on how I can better celebrate Mother Earth, take better care of her, protect her and live in greater harmony with her. It’s an ever-evolving process. Next weekend I’ll be participating in the Earth Holder retreat at Deer Park Monastery to learn how to take better care of our precious planet together in mindfulness community (full report to follow!).
The Earth Peace Treaty Commitment Sheet from the Mindfulness Bell Magazine can serve as inspiration for how you might celebrate Earth Day every day. There’s something all of us can do, and it’s going to take all of us to heal our precious planet.
How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day this year?
As you reflect on your relationship to the Earth, what commitments do you want to make?