Thursday, May 27, 2021

Earth and Ashes

It's Earth Day 2021, and it feels, well, it feels a bit strange.

Earth Day has always been a little peculiar, as holidays go.  It's only fifty one years old, and not really a holiday, given that we generally keep bustling about our lives as we always do.  It lacks rituals and liturgies and traditions, beyond an amorphous set of warm sentimentalities and dreamy aspirations.  Growing things are nice, we think.  We really, really should start taking better care of our planet, we say, nodding sagely, as we have for every one of the last fifty one years.  Now is the time to act, we say, as we get into our SUVs and drive to pick up a case bottled water for little Tyler's travel league team.

There are pictures of green things, and talk of seeds and planting.  Perhaps we put a tree into the ground.   Perhaps we repost some meme with a smiley heart earth, or a pastel drawing of a multiethnic group of kids holding hands in a circle with butterflies and flowers.  That's just so nice.

It just doesn't feel right.  It feels dissonant.  Like we are, somehow, missing the reality of where we stand.

It reminds me a little of something that well-meaning earnest progressive Christians started doing a few years back on Ash Wednesday.  That's the day in the Christian ritual year when we Jesus folk remind ourselves that we are mortal, fleeting creatures of dust, and that our time here on this world is little more than a blink of an eye.

We typically mark ourselves with a sign of ashes, to remember that we are fleeting and mortal and small.  This is meant to be reflective.  It's meant to be somber, because hard truths are that way.  But we don't like to do somber, because somber makes us sad and stuff.  So some folk decided to mingle glitter with the ashes, because it was sparkly and fun.  Let's celebrate our earth-wrought mortality with shiny bits of plastic!  

Oy.  I mean, you do you and all, but oy.  It just felt like missing the point.

"Celebrating" Earth Day feels a bit the same way to me now.  All is not well on our little planet.  We are past the inflection point for dealing with climate change.  We're already seeing the effects, as vast planetary systems are starting to shift.  Wildfires and droughts, storms and rising seas.  Even if we somehow manage to come up with a concerted effort, we're in for a rough ride.