Time to build a new relationship with the world

by Wendy Elliott/The Advertiser

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Time to build a new relationship with the world

Walking home from the cinema the other night, we looked way up and saw a ‘moon dog’ or halo around the moon. It’s an optical phenomenon due to the refraction of light on ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. They are often visible in winter when there is thin, high cloud. The oldtimers believed that a halo predicted a change in the weather and they were usually right, but not last week.

I wonder if we haven’t lost the close touch that our forefathers and mothers had when it comes to the natural world. In March 90 years ago, a correspondent for The Hants Journal wrote, “Glen Brook is sending out a gurgling sound that our imagination fancies is saying, ‘spring is coming,’ and although there is no sign of leaf buds bursting, all along the banks towering up each side of the three branches of the brook there seems to be stir of getting ready, for the little rock fern that stays green through all of the frozen snow is lifting now its leaves one by one from between the lovely maple and beech roots and soon without any warning, only to the dreamers among the trees, there will come the running maple sap, after that the return of the song sparrow and the blue bird, then the old willows of the farm with trunks larger than a hogshead or puncheon, will send out their catkins or pussy willows.”

The signs of spring arriving were more tangible a century ago to the largely rural citizens of Canada. National Geographic has decreed that, despite our nasty winter, spring is starting earlier and it’s so noticeable that scientists can track it from space.

Satellites measuring when land turns green found that the spring ‘green up’ is arriving eight hours earlier every year on average since 1982 north of the Mason-Dixon line. An allergist in Pennsylvania monitored maple pollen heavy in the air March 9 when less than 20 years ago that pollen could not be measured until late April. The cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. are expected to bloom a week early this year.

Days to remind us

While the timing of spring is changing, now we have to set days to remind us of the importance of nature. For 15 years, the United Nations has been observing World Water Day March 22. Now that the world’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, we have deemed it time to take a day to ponder the challenges presented by a resource that is essential to the environment and to humankind.

Folks in British Columbia, where they are bringing in a carbon tax, are starting an initiative in Vancouver called One Day. It encourages residents to take small actions each day to reduce energy use. Then we have Earth Hour coming up March 29 at the exact hour of 8 p.m.

Businesses and individuals around the world aim to turn off their lights for an hour. BC Hydro is even going to measure the drop of the collective energy use during that hour to demonstrate how one small action can lead to something bigger.

Of course, the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, did make a difference in the United States. Groundbreaking federal legislation followed its success. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established that year, followed by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

This year more than six million Canadians are expected to join 500 million people in over 180 countries to stage events and projects around environmental issues. Nearly every school child in Canada takes part in an Earth Day activity and in Atlantic Canada we clean up a lot of beaches each April.

Eco-philosopher Dr. Joanna Macy says, as humans, we have to go even further and identify ourselves with all living beings, beautiful or ugly, big or small, sentient or not. She writes about real maturity as the development of the ‘ecological self.’ “The challenge of today is to save the planet from further devastation, which violates both the enlightened self-interest of humans and non-humans, and decreases the potential of joyful existence for all.”

What can we do?

So what can we do to further our own development? Turn off the car engine if you stop for more than 10 seconds. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided idling by five minutes a day, collectively, we would save more than 1.8 million litres of fuel per day, almost 4,500 tons of emissions, and $1.7 million in fuel costs each day. Better yet, leave the car at home and walk, carpool or bike. One bus eliminates the emissions of 40 cars.

Turn off the lights, the computer and the TV when they’re not in use.

Think about what you eat and buy local. Try a meat-free day at least a day a week. A meat-based diet requires seven times more land than a plant-based diet. In fact, livestock production is responsible for more climate change gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world.

Compost organics and recycle in those see-through bags we have to use next month. According to Earth Day organizers, the amount of wood and paper North Americans throw away each year is enough to heat five million homes for 200 years. The list of what you can do to make the world a better place goes on and on and, without sounding like a broken record, we need to support the cause.

Macy suggests that the “most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world – we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.”

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