Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day April 22, 2015

It feels a bit strange to say it—Happy Earth Day—a bit like saying “Happy Memorial Day” or “Happy Holocaust Day of Remembrance.” Some things are important to think about, and to honor, without being particularly happy. I don’t know about you, but I spend quite a bit of time thinking about climate change, about the mass extinction of species, about the continent of plastic congealing in the Pacific ocean, about oil spills and tar sands and deforestation and all of the untold ways that we are razing our planet, and happiness is pretty much the furthest thing from my mind. It’s a grief I live with, like the terminal illness of a beloved family member.

But maybe Happy Earth Day is not such a bad idea. The grief of environmental degradation is a daily presence, a pervasive background noise of daily life. It could be that what we need to counter that persistent growl is a day of celebration for the glory of the Earth, which not only sustains us humans, but also an astounding variety of life.

Just recently scientists in Costa Rica discovered a new species of glassfrog—frogs that are so translucent underneath that you can see their internal organs. Only this one looks like Kermit the Frog, bright kermit froggreen and bug-eyed. How can that not make you happy?

Did you know that dung beetles use the moon and stars to navigate as they push their balls of dung along in straight lines? Did you know that platypuses have receptors that allow them to detect their prey by their electric fields? That the mantis shrimp can not only break glass with its claw, but also has 16 kinds of cones in the eye to see different colors, while we humans have a mere three?

The Earth is amazing. The myriad beings, plant and animal, who inhabit the Earth are amazing. And sure, it’s not all bright-feathered birds and cuddly pandas—it’s hard to be delighted by, say, bed bugs. But even after all of the species we have lost, after all the habitats we have destroyed, the Earth is home to astonishing diversity and beauty, from majestic giant sequoias which can draw water from the air as well as the ground, to the miniscule tardigrade, which is aquatic, but can live for a decade with no water at all.

Happy Earth Day. Happy glassfrog, platypus, sequoia, tardigrade, orchid, orca, Orkney vole day. Happy day of celebrating the wonders that surround us, including the common grass under our feet.

There is so much to be done, so much to heal, so many forces pushing against a life that is sustainable. The only way we will be able to find our way through will be through cherishing this holy place where we dwell, which was never given to us as a resource to exploit, but which holds us in sacred interdependence. May that sacred interdependence bring you joy. Happy Earth Day.

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