Today is Earth Day and our church went on a nature hike to celebrate this occasion. 14 of us walked the Bluff Wilderness Trail near Timberlea and we walked approximately two and a half hours. There were two teenagers, a few seniors and a majority of people aged 40-50. We stopped once to reflect on the day and one of the walkers shared that she had read a study that concluded that if you walk under trees your stress goes down, your contentment goes up and you feel a sense of peace. These conclusions have been measured and the outcomes seem certain. Throughout the walk I sensed a peace in our group and I further sensed that the landscape, scenery and the earth beneath our feet were having an effect on our souls.
As persons who came to this land from the European cultures we have benefitted greatly from the utilization of resources found in great abundance on this continent. Our faith in technology and science and progress has brought us a standard of living, cure for diseases and a longer lifespan than ever before. These accomplishments are not to be too easily dismissed. There are people all over this globe who would give anything for these blessings. BUT as time passes this separation from the land is becoming more and more apparent among the affluent. The rapid growth in eco-tourism speaks volumes, so does the odd simulation of spas as some kind of nature experience, the popularity of parks and trails, not to mention ads like the ones I see from my bus seat telling me I can be in my wilderness backyard 20 minutes outside the city if I move to this rustic subdivision (Long Lake?).
This appetite for fresh air, abundant tall trees, greens all around, the ocean or a lake nearby and trails we can walk with our families, seems to be growing and growing. The medicines we want have an organic quality, many persons I know who live with serious medical challenges treat themselves with natural medicines.
This hunger seems to me a deficit that stems from our addiction and faith in technological progress. The philosopher George Grant believed that North America’s religion was progress, we believed in it wholeheartedly. The irony is that those persons whom today refer to themselves as conservatives are likely the greatest practitioners of progress on the whole planet. The term conservative derives its core witness from the notion of “conserving”. Conservatives are supposed to be in the business of “conserving”. But when it comes to nature there is no such approach, nature is to be utilized as a resource, period. Nature is a commodity and nothing more to today’s conservative. Liberals today may speak about climate change and appreciation of nature but they too put their faith in progress and nature is part of that process.
Only when we as a culture shift to an understanding of nature as a subject, not just an object, will we begin to turn the corner in this disconnection we have to the Earth that gives us life Only when we learn that the Earth can teach us, amaze us, heal us, inspire us, give us hope, will we move away from this binary choice we seem to have today; treat the Earth solely as a commodity or treat it as a fragile resource to be protected and appreciated. Only when we learn to love the Earth and what it can do for and with us will we begin to shift to something new, something old.
Happy Earth Day!