Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day on Mother Earth

Unlike our mothers on earth, Mother Earth is our life source from cradle to grave. Unlike our mothers, Mother Earth nurtures and supports us tentatively, ultimately striking back if we damage her. Sometimes she even hurts us with no provocation, with terrifying fury, or cold indifference. It’s easy to respect our mothers, to treat them well - it’s hard to do the same for that grand mother, given her unpredictable nature and our greedy impulses.

But sometimes, when our relationship with Mother Earth is volatile, the fault is all ours - as in the incident in the Gulf of Mexico this week.

An oil spill the size of Puerto Rico is threatening the delicately balanced wetlands of the Louisiana coastline, the waters and beaches of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, as well as the Keys - and possibly even the eastern seaboard. On April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire, burned for two days, then sank in 5,000 ft of water in the Gulf of Mexico, off the southeast coast of Louisiana. There are still 11 men missing, and they are not expected to be found. The full extent of the damage to marine wildlife is yet to be seen.

We have an insatiable need for oil, and this is how we get it. Despite all the noise about freeing ourselves from our dependency on fossel fuels, the number of cars powered by anything but petroleum-based fuel is still miniscule compared to the gas guzzlers on our roads. And the emerging economies consider it their turn now, with an appetite for oil set to exceed even our American capacity.

In the face of this onslaught on our environment, what difference could one person possibly make? If I drive a hybrid car there are hundreds of thousands who don’t. If I recycle, there are still islands the size of countries made up of garbage floating in the oceans. It’s tempting to give up – the challenge seems monumental, perhaps insurmountable.

But if we waver, we only need to look to our mothers to show us the way. They know exactly what to do. When a mother gives birth to a child she faces the daunting task of not only keeping the infant alive, but of raising her helpless offspring to be a happy, well-adjusted, productive member of society - and often she does it more than once. Think of those odds. Even if she’s afraid, she does it anyway - one small act at a time, moment after moment, day after day - until the days turn into years and those seemingly insignificant actions have produced a fully functioning adult to take his or her place in the world.

We should follow that example to heal our Mother Earth one step at a time, never giving up; so that we can hand her over to the next generation, intact, in the hope that those who follow us will know how to treat her. I think we can do this, and I think that our children will be ready.

My son is building an Earth Box for me this Mother’s Day. He told me in advance, because he wanted to know what vegetables I’d like to grow.

To all the mothers out there, especially my own precious Mom - Happy Mother’s Day, and thank you for showing us the way.


  1. Beautiful post, so thoughtfully connecting the dots between nurturing children and nurturing the earth. And may the vegetables in your Mother's Day Earth Box flourish!

  2. Wonderful post - love how you compare/contrast mothers with Mother Earth. As to the idea of small acts, I have often thought that mothering/parenting is like gardening: you need to get out there often and pull the weeds or trim the shrubs before you have a huge mess on your hands. Same thing with kids or the earth. Earth day one day a year is not enough, we need to constantly be making choices that help our environment.

    And love, love, love, Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World!

  3. Thanks RA and WOS, for reading and commenting -as always.

    RA - My job now is to make sure those vegetables stay alive!

    WOS - your comparison of parenthood to gardening is really apt - it takes vigilance on the part of mothers (and fathers, of course.) Today I read a description of the journey from infant to adulthood as "the long forced march towards humanity." That sounds about right to me!


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