The earth and all creatures are
imbued with intrinsic value
and worthy of reverent care.
Tomorrow is Earth Day 2017 and a reminder that we are all tasked with being care-givers for our beloved planet. As with most tasks, this one is easier to fulfill when it flows naturally from deeply held values such as reverence for the Earth and all its creatures.
Reverence is one of those words used rarely enough that we may be excused for being a little unsure of its meaning. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, "a deep respect for someone or something". The Reverence Project, a programme of the Spirituality and Practice website, says that reverence enhances worth and awe and balances or counters wastefulness and ennui (a kind of world-weariness). It is a way of being and acting embraced by ancient cultures and valued, now, by our own indigenous communities.
Spirituality educators, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, describe the basic spiritual practice of reverence this way:
Reverence is the way of radical respect. It recognizes and honours the presence of the sacred in everything - our bodies, other people, animals, plants, rocks, the earth, and the waters. ...
Nothing is too trivial or second class for reverence. But it has to be demonstrated with concrete actions. Don't abuse your body - eat right, exercise, get enough rest. Don't abuse the earth by being wasteful of its gifts. Protect the environment for your neighbours and future generations.
Reverence is also a kind of radical amazement, a deep feeling tinged with both mystery and wonder. Approaching the world with reverence, we are likely to experience its sister - awe. Allow yourself to be moved beyond words.
So, how might we take concrete action to show reverence for the Earth and her creatures tomorrow and in the days to come? Here are just a few suggestions:
1. Spend time in nature every day - what we learn to love we will want to protect.
2. Make a baby-step change in your daily habits: don't leave the water running when you brush your teeth, turn the lights off when you leave a room, walk or bike or take public transit, fix a leaky faucet, give up bottled water, buy local, go paperless.
3. Make a phone call and encourage your elected representatives to follow through on the environmental promise to reduce methane emissions, no matter what other governments are doing or not doing.
4. Do everything possible to save green space - and where you can't, plant new trees to help compensate for losses.
5. Insist on power from clean, renewable resources.
6. Develop a greener spirituality. Learn more by reading books like Essential Writings by Albert Schweitzer, A Sacred Place to Dwell: Living With Reverence Upon the Earth by Henryk Slolimowski, Sacred Trees by Nathaniel Altman, Field Notes by Barry Lopez, The Hidden Life of Trees by Tim Wohlleben and Tim Flannery, Why I Wake Early and A Thousand Mornings and others by Mary Oliver, At Home On the Earth edited by David Landis Barnhill or What are People For? by nature poet Wendell Berry.
7. Get involved in a community garden. Grow and share your own fresh produce.
8. Volunteer for an environmental charity.
9. Join a March for Science.
10. Go vegan or vegetarian.
11. Have an eco-swap party. Trade good old stuff with family, friends and neighbours.
12. Support green political initiatives.
However you choose to mark Earth Day 2017, do it with reverence and allow yourself the joy of participating in the protection of this wonderful world.