[This first appeared in Luna Luna Magazine, a diary of culture, lifestyle, art, sex, and magic.]
On a recent morning on a farm outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, I woke up to the faint sound of a summer's rain. My friends--two sisters who said the farm had been in their family for more than 200 years--made me breakfast using eggs from their hens and vegetables from their garden. After gobbling up the last of our omelets, we tromped through the puddles behind their house, chanced upon a sleeping bee, and checked on a few flowering squash.
But my days are not usually a scene out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Like many urban and suburban Millennials, I spend a lot of time stuck at my computer or stuck in traffic. I know too well the haunting blue glow of my smartphone. Most of the cityscape I encounter throughout the day is gray, not green. Instead of roosters, I hear jackhammers and pedestrian signals. Even as someone who tells stories and makes things for a living, I buy more than I create. I buy my milk, my soap, my potatoes. I am not Gaia, the ancient Greek personification of Earth, the primal mother. But I want to be. I want to nurture more than I consume.
Yet so much of my lifestyle depends on debit card transactions and WiFi. If I don't pay the Internet bill or make my monthly car payment or check my email, my current lifestyle would come to a halt. So much for wearing camel's hair and subsisting on locusts and honey.
In his recently transmitted encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'," Pope Francis compares Earth to our sister. He writes, "This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will."
The thought that we are intrinsically connected to Earth and must respect her is not a novel thought and, despite being an idea rooted in Catholic social teaching, it's not an idea confined to Catholicism. Yet, climate change naysayers considered the pope's encyclical so controversial that they bashed it before they even read it. The encyclical was leaked a couple of days prior to its June 18th release date because people were that eager to read it. As beautifully written as "Laudato Si'" is, it says nothing new; the pagans celebrated the synergy between humans and Mother Nature before Christ was born. Just look at Gaia the glamour girl.
That said, despite its old message, the encyclical has tremendous value. With climate change naysayers babbling on Fox News, backwards blogs, the Twitterverse, and family rooms across America, it's obvious that many folks still don't see the negative impact human activity can have on the environment. It's hard to believe that a fellow American-born Gen Yer never read The Lorax or watched "Captain Planet," or saw "Fern Gully" growing up.
As a post-modern feminist, I know that I shouldn't have to apologize for my choices as a woman. I have the privilege of conforming or not conforming to societal expectations as I please, whether that involves shaving, giving birth, or wearing makeup. But there is one instance where I definitely apologize and that's in my treatment of the environment. Sure, I recycle, occasionally bike and take transportation, and opt for used over clothes and home goods when possible (or, let's be honest, convenient). None of these are major sacrifices. I still drive. I still eat McDonald's. I still use a Keurig. I still buy new paper books. I still opt to have print bank and statements mailed to my home. I still use disposable sanitary napkins and too much toilet paper. I still cave and nab a $5 skirt at Forever 21 every now and then.
I can do more and I can do better. We can all do more and we can all do better to protect the planet.
It doesn't matter if the message is old. It doesn't matter if we've heard it since childhood. We have to keep hearing it and keep saying it and, most importantly, keep practicing the greenest habits we reasonably can.
Mother Earth, I'm sorry, but I'm not just sorry--I'm going to do something more substantial about it. Maybe I'll finally start using a Diva cup.