I came across someone else’s blog post today in which they were reviewing some book about loving nature. This post (which I didn’t read, but skimmed) sparked an idea in my mind and I decided to run with it. Loving and respecting nature, something most, if not all, pagans will say they do or believe in. But in the modern world, we live every day with harmful practices to the earth. Just turning on a light can be the cause of harm and pollution. Lights require energy, which require a source from somewhere, whether it’s coal, oil, hydro, etc. A simple act that we all participate in every day is potentially compounding a harmful reduction in resources, which creates a chain of effects on the earth. Perhaps the only non-harmful energy source thus far is solar energy, yet even so, solar panels require production costs and materials, which in their turn use energy to produce.How do we, as modern pagans, reconcile the modern world with the desire to love and belief in respecting the natural world around us?
Not all of us believe that the earth is a living spirit or a deity. That’s fine–that’s not what I’m talking about at all. What I mean when I say ‘love and respect nature’ is more of an environmentalist stance. Love the earth means to be its caretaker, as if it were our child and we the parent. Cause the earth no harm, nourish and cherish the earth, and love the earth as the source of our lives and the being upon which we depend utterly for life to even be possible. Respecting the earth also means causing no harm, but respecting the power of nature as well. Part of the reason (but, I realize, by no means the sole reason) there are so many more coastal deaths from floods and hurricanes is because more people are choosing to live in coastal areas, and the hurricanes, floods, etc. then have more of an impact on human life. Respecting nature means realizing and respecting the power of natural phenomena as well as the nurturing aspect.
Under the generalization that is ‘paganism’, nature is considered an entity in its own right. Nature is something to be respected and revered. Yet every day we use cars, buses, subway, planes, electricity, computers, television, and more. Everyday we eat products usually packaged in plastic, metal, paper, or cardboard, all of which came from somewhere and has an environmental impact. And most of us do not even think twice about using these devices or consuming these products, despite our religious or environmental beliefs, because these behaviors are ingrained for many of us.
I know I don’t think twice about driving. It’s a necessary part of my life. I know that the emissions from my car combined with the emissions of other cars and trucks creates dirty air. There are no easily accessible buses or subway where I live. It’s either drive or don’t go anywhere. Yet I still feel a twinge of guilt when I realize that 1) my beliefs should make activities such as driving a less desirable venture, and 2) I really don’t think twice about driving anywhere unless I’m low on gas–gasoline which has another harmful effect on the environment and the earth.
Does anyone else feel this quandary? Myself, I can’t see how there is a way to cut out the activities that have a negative impact, especially those that are necessary for me, such as driving or using a computer. Unless there’s some kind of end-of-the-world scenario, or I become a hermit, but neither of those options is desirable or healthy. I can’t see any other way to honor and respect the earth aside from what I already do: recycle, attempt to minimize my impact, and appreciate and commune with nature.
This strikes me as sad, that it feels as if there is nothing to be done. And it makes me wonder what the earth feels about all of these things (I’m one of those who believes the earth to be a living, feeling entity, just not in a way that we humans can easily understand).