Creating a Safe Habitat for All People: An Expanded View of Earth Day

From a Google search I found “What is Earth Day and why do we celebrate it?”

The answer: “Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day continues to grow as a worldwide phenomenon focused on promoting clean living and a healthy, sustainable habitat for people and wildlife alike. Celebrating Earth Day serves as a conscious reminder of how fragile our planet is and how important it is to protect it.”

The part that stuck out to me was the idea of promoting a “healthy, sustainable habitat for people and wildlife alike.”

As indicated in a report by the United Nations, climate change has consequences with far-reaching implications and “it will be the most vulnerable and the least able to cope who will be hit first. There is no choice between a stable climate and the fight against poverty — without the first, the second will certainly fail.”

While the traditional view of Earth Day is one that focuses on protecting the environment and addressing climate change, I feel like the expanded view of Earth Day should be one that puts forward a message about protecting the people of the earth as much as the earth itself. I think about the millions of people who are far from living in a healthy, sustainable habitat for interconnected reasons ranging from poverty, food insecurity, housing insecurity, systemic racism, fear of violence, inadequate educational opportunities, lack of physical and mental health services, prejudice, and more.  

I am writing this blog under the shadow of the trial of Derek Chauvin, whose verdict was announced as I was writing this blog. No matter the outcome, the violence against people of color continues on a daily basis across the nation. It is disheartening and heartbreaking. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the risk is highest for black men, who (at current levels of risk) face about a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police over the life course. With police in the United States killing far more people than do police in other advanced industrial democracies. I’m probably preaching to the choir in terms of who reads my blog, but I just felt pulled to write about these statistics today as I anticipated the jury’s decision of the trial over the death of George Floyd. The problems still exist and the deaths and violence continue.

LGBTQ communities are also targeted for violence—particularly in those who are transgender and gender non-conforming. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a total of 44 fatalities marked 2020 as the most violent year on record since they began tracking these crimes in 2013. And, Arkansas just made it illegal for transgender people to receive appropriate medical care.

Of course, I know I’m leaving out the issues of immigrants fleeing from their countries for fear of death, Asian Americans being targeted because of their supposed connection with COVID-19, Native Americans who have long been delegated to the very fringe of humanity, my dear friends in Brazil who are facing the ravages of COVID and a government that is raping the country, people in larger bodies who are subjected to prejudice of all kinds, and so many more.  

What is the problem?

I can’t bring up all of these things without at least trying to discuss the problem and what we can do about it. The problem is, of course, so broad it is way beyond the scope of this small blog. But I can say that at least part of the problem is our lack of awareness, compassion, and kindness. The problem is that so many of us live in conditions that are comfortable and, speaking as a white, middle-class, privileged woman, it is too easy to get lulled into complacency with the ease of our lives. As long as I’m okay, why worry? Right?

Wrong!

We are not living in a vacuum and we can’t ignore the plight of others if we expect our planet, our earth, to remain intact. We really do need to look, to read, to make ourselves witness the devastation in order to be moved by it. When we look away, we distance ourselves from our own humanity. When we are moved by it, we act.

What can I do?  

Again, there are more things that we can do than are within the scope of this article, but I will take a stab and you can take it from there.

1. Don’t look away. Continue to read and to be educated about the state of the inequities in our world. Educate yourself about the lives of others who are less fortunate than you are. See if you can in some way take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Follow the action that leads from this knowledge.

2. Give money. Sometimes giving money feels like a cheap way to help, but it isn’t.  Organizations are working hard to make the lives of others livable and sustainable and they need finances. Pick a cause that you feel particularly moved by and it will be easy for you to find a place to give.

3. Give time. Volunteer your time to help with a cause or issue where you feel you can make a difference. Sometimes it’s as easy as writing a letter to a congressman or woman. Again, a quick Google search can give you all of the information you need for places and the opportunity to give of your time.

4. Challenge your own views. We all get stuck in certain ways of seeing the world and it is healthy to challenge yourself to see through others’ eyes. Try to not be so quick to judge another until you have researched various points of view. Learn to listen more than you talk. (Yes, I know that’s difficult.)

5. Support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). One of the things I’ve been asked to do recently is remind people to shop at BIPOC businesses. Here is one website where you can buy a variety of interesting products from 181 black-owned businesses. If you have other lists, please send them to me and I’m happy to share.  

6. Make your services or products more available to others, particularly those in need. I decided at the beginning of the pandemic to create a sliding scale for my Eat for Life classes so that they would be more accessible to everyone. The price already felt pretty low to me, but the sliding scale has opened up the class up to many more people. Although I need to make some money, my financial circumstances are such that I can use this offering as a way of giving and helping reduce suffering in the world—promoting a way of living that ultimately creates a healthier and more sustainable habitat for each other.

7. Keep your eyes, mind, and heart open.  You never know when an opportunity to give back will arise. Be on the lookout for where you can speak up, give, challenge, support, and help all of the people of the earth live in a more humane way. It’s daunting, for sure. But with everyone doing their part, we have a chance to make Earth Day one that really means something.

I write this blog often to remind me of what I need to do. This one falls into that category, for sure. Bottom line: The only way to really savor life is by supporting the lives of everyone. Set the intention to welcome everyone as part of the family of Earth as best you can. We won’t be perfect at it, but we can certainly make the commitment to do better.

Happy Earth Day!