The air was fairly clean this morning and I could breathe without difficulty, although there was a little haze in the sky. By early afternoon, the sky was a strange yellow-orange tinge and the air, when I stepped outside to the back deck, stank of wood smoke. There are more than five hundred forest fires burning in the province of British Columbia and twenty in this province, and the entire western half of Canada is blanketed by smoke. The end of the forest fire season with the rain and snow of autumn and winter is at least two months away.
If “the Earth is our Mother, we must take care of Her” is true then the ecological heedlessness of this destructive extractive society which has caused global warming and climate change is blasphemy against the sacred natural order. If we take the notion of Wicca as a nature-worshipping religion seriously (and not just as an excuse to indulge in Romantic fantasy and role play) where are we and what are we doing about this?
A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 6th set forward in rather more detail than we are used to seeing what it is that humanity faces. Briefly, the amount of global warming that will happen in the next ten to twenty years could cross any of several thresholds that would result in a feedback loop of warming outside of humanity’s ability to intervene. The melting of Greenland’s ice cap appears to already be slowing the circulation of the oceans’ deep currents which regulate large scale climate, there are signs of the start of massive releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, currently sequestered in permafrost or hydrates in the ocean floors. This would result in large parts of the equatorial countries becoming uninhabitable by humans, wholesale ecological destruction and a mass extinction event, and the death of the overwhelming majority of humanity. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/07/31/1810141115
Of course, none of this is completely new to anyone that’s been paying the slightest amount of attention. But many of us have been paralyzed by fear, or overwhelmed at the scale of the problem, or looking to small-scale lifestyle adjustments as our get-out-of-jail free karma card. It doesn’t work like that, “the Secret” is not going to save us, and Mother Earth does not hold a soft spot in her heart for humanity.
So, how can we, as religious people, as Earth-centred and nature-spiritual people, respond to this crisis? We can pray, but only if our prayer is expressed in action. The goddesses and gods don’t bother with the prayers of people who do nothing in service. We can speak out as and from our positions as animals and as part of our natural world, as the voices of the natural world in all human councils. We can speak with the consciousness of our place in the chain of generations extending back to the remote past and forward to a remote future (and not one, I dare to hope, in which a tiny remnant of humanity struggles to find food and cannot even remember the glories of its past).
We can act in our own lives, as individuals we can move to share our housing, to use public transit, to grow what food we can and at the least plant flowers for the bees. I won’t bother listing individual and personal acts, because these acts alone will not save the world and individual shame is a bad way to build community and change the world.
The new world we need to build must have more music, and joy, and personal freedom, and beauty of all kinds in it than the disenchanted alienating world of consumerism that is destroying the ecology that supports human flourishing. We must be moving because of love, and because of a real worship of the divine moving through nature.
To quote from “Invocation to Gaia” by John Seed from Thinking Like A Mountain (which is, by the way, an essential text of Earth spirituality and Earthy ritual).
“We ask for the presence of the spirit of Gaia and pray that the breath of life continue to caress this planet home.
We call upon the spirit of evolution, the miraculous force that inspires rocks and dust to weave themselves into biology. You have stood by us for millions and billions of years — do not forsake us now. Empower us and awaken in us pure and dazzling creativity.
O stars, lend us your burning passion.
O silence, give weight to our voice.
We ask for the presence of the spirit of Gaia.”
Blessed Be, sisters and brothers on this journey. May we, together, clear the air, plant new forests, and build a civilization that loves the Earth.