April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, which began in 1970 as a way to raise our consciousness about environmental concerns. It occurs to me that it is also is an opportunity to bring to the forefront two concepts directly applicable to peace: awareness and oneness. I’m not sure why we don’t celebrate Earth Day every day of the year, but at least we have set aside one day to honor and recognize our relationship with our mother earth. Like so many other things in life, our relationship with the earth is a reflection of our inner feelings, thoughts, and relationship with ourselves.
I was recently asked what peace activism has to do with Earth Day . . . or was it what Earth Day has to do with peace activism? To me, the answer was obvious, as I see the people who are concerned with peace and nonviolence issues are generally also very concerned with environmental issues. This goes far beyond war issues, where the obvious environmental effects of bombing and destruction are easily seen. No, the connection is more rooted in the recognition that if our environment is toxic and does not sustain life, the people who live in that environment are not likely to be at peace, as they are in a constant state of fear, or depression, or hopelessness. Conversely, when the environment is maintained and improved, this brings about a sense of peace and security. People who are sensitive to, and who understand the source of peace, also tend to understand that peace extends beyond our human interactions, to this place we call Mother Earth, and the need to protect, embrace and honor it.
Once we are aware of the impact each of us has on the environment, we can then take action to bring about change. What we recognize is that everything in the universe is connected, that each of us cannot separate ourselves from the consequences of any of our thoughts or actions, no matter how inconsequential they may seem at the time. How many times have I dropped some trash on the ground, or threw a cigarette butt out the window, never to be thought of again? But if I am aware of the consequences of each of these small actions, I might well do something much different, and by doing so, be in integrity with myself and the unity of life.
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Nonviolence extends from me, not just to my brothers and sisters, but to the earth as well, to every living thing. When we act in a way that violates the unity of life by polluting the air, by wasting resources, by not paying attention to our actions, then we will find our health, our peace of mind, and our happiness seriously affected, just as the environment is affected.
Each of us make the final decisions about what is bought and sold in the stores, how much carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere and what is dumped into the lakes and rivers and ocean. Each of us can begin to heal the environment by changing our daily habits. For me, this earthly environment is a reflection of my internal environment, specifically, the way I think affects the way I treat the earth. When I put my attention on my internal environment, when I am aware of my actions, I am not only making myself more secure and fulfilled and at peace, but I am also making an important contribution to the health of the environment – my hope is that each and every one of us sees this as well.
Whether we are learning techniques to be at peace with our neighbors, or at peace with the earth, the goal is the same – provide a world that works for all. We do this by developing an awareness and implementing strategies that enhance and protect our environment. I can look at my attitude and actions about the environment and make changes, I can take responsibility for my footprint on the earth, because peace begins with ME!