When people talk about recycling products, reusing materials, reducing clutter and repairing items they often like to link these practices with the idea that we are “saving the planet”.  While it is true that doing these things helps with the problem of trash disposal, I believe that the positive impact of these actions upon our environment is actually pretty small.

What is important about doing these things is that it changes our self-centered mindset. By actively thinking about other ways to use something before sending it to the landfill, people begin to see “the environment” as something directly affected by their action or inaction. They begin to realize that not only are we a part of this world, but that it is a part of us too. How we treat it reflects upon us as a species.
The world is more than just a resource to be used by people, but those resources are not there just to be protected from people either. There is a balance. When we use something of the Earth, we need to make sure that we take only what we need and no more.  And, that in doing so, nothing else is harmed.  Furthermore, we need to give something back in return. 
We need lumber to build ourselves a house, but we don’t have to cut down the whole forest. We need food to eat, but how essential is it to fill every vacant lot with a McDonalds? We have just as much right to be here as all the other animals do.  Unlike the other animals, however, we are supposed to be intelligent.  We have choice, not instinct.
If we wanted to, we could make intelligent choices – not selfish ones.  We could see that as important as we think humans are, the most skillful painting or technically perfect photograph of a tree is nothing compared to the beauty of the actual tree itself. 
We have a lovely pink dogwood that hangs over our backyard deck.  When my daughter was three, we were sitting outside underneath the branches of this tree when she looked up and asked me, “Mommy, what is this tree’s name?” I told her that it was a dogwood, but that’s not what she wanted to know.  She wanted to know the “name” of this particular tree!
When I told her “I don’t know”, she said, “She’s so pretty, I’m going to call her Cindy!” Ever since then, our family has referred to this tree as “Cindy”.  As in: “Oh, look there’s a little yellow bird sitting on Cindy!” or “Let’s take our lunch outside and sit under Cindy!” 
It wasn’t just a tree to her; it was an individual worthy of a name. I do realize that she was just three years old and didn’t have the understanding of the world the way an adult does, but wouldn’t it be great if we all valued each plant and each animal as deserving as much right to exist as we do?
We dig in the earth and sow the seeds. With the help of sun and rain, the seeds grow into plants. The plants feed us and give us air. Let’s use what we have carefully. This planet is our salvation, not the other way around.
I want to go way out where
the sky is green where I can tear up
certainty and make irregularity
out of string and strip
the departed the muted the rare
good primary labor
the sort that does not leave
spots or streaks or dust or bits of bone
just the broken subtlety
of found cloth hard to come by
fields of yellow flower and wild thyme
and salt and pepper ‘case the witches come
where you can piece yourself
get the dust out and winter burn
rise up in the morning time
every stuff of your own all there no pattern
just over the hills a scattering
of fog and white pine and the young
mother singing to her baby
lulla lulla
rain do come down my beauty
it do come down—
– Eva Hooker


Born to read, forced to work.

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