SAN FRANCISCO — We San Franciscans have played more than our fair share in creating a day for commemorating awareness of our (inter)relationship with our mother. Earth.
There had been a catastrophic oil spill down the coast, in Santa Barbara. It became a lightning rod, a call for action. But the disaster was only amplified by the bureaucratic maze that then presented itself in trying to address and rectify the problem.
At a UNESCO conference here in town, 1960, John McConnell brought forth the concept of an Earth Day. It didn't meet with massive opposition: no one saw difficulty in the idea itself. I recall the first one was largely grass-roots. The City agreed to close Van Ness Avenue for a brief period while we marched to City Hall Plaza. It felt like we were relatively small in numbers, but a largely cohesive body. Many already knew each other, and welcomed the opportunity for networking with a wider community.
Mayor Joe Alioto issued the first Earth Day proclamation. A year later, the UN held its first conference on the environment, in Stockholm. There's an interview with Northern California anthropologist poet ecologist Gary Snyder in the current issue of Inquiring Mind, the locally produced, free tabloid of the national insight meditation community. He recalls:
Endangered species were a big topic at that time. Large charismatic mammals got people's attention at first — especially the whales, who became the poster children of the environmental movement. Some of the international agreements to curtail whaling worked for a few years, but then the Japanese and the Icelandic people started whittling away at the regulations. Now we have to fight for the whaling restrictions every year and go through all the same arguments again and again.
This year's San Francisco Earth Day looks massive. Yes, there's its fair share of marketing and consumerism. But I'm looking forward to attending and finding ways to deepen my awareness, direct my actions.
We may yet still need some large-scale catastrophe to serve as a wake-up call. As happened in Santa Barbara, ±40 years ago. If we don't love our mother — earth — — really love her — — conservative conservationists and progressive activists, alike — — we may well be attending local events — within our life time — training us in how to face our extinction as a species.
¿Did you know? humility comes from humus, meaning soil.
Pick whatever slogan you like. There is no "other." We are the Earth, the Earth is us. Think global, act local. Everything is interconnected. It all changes. Pay attention.
Gary Gach is author of The Complete Idiot's to Buddhism, (Nautilus Book Award), and editor of What Book!? ~ Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). His work has also appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Atlantic, BuddhaDharma, Harvard Divinity Review, Language for a New Century, The New Yorker, Technicians of the Sacred, Tricycle, and Yoga Journal. He's just begun a collaboration on Buddhism and film with Rev. Danny Fisher, Seeing in the Dark. A member of the Order of Interbeing, he facilitates a mindfulness practice group at Aquatic Park Community Center, Tuesday Mornings, 9—10:30 a.m., and a zen creativity circle on Tuesday evenings, 7—9 p.m. at Dragon's Leap Hermitage; coming this summer, mindfulness Wednesday evenings, at Buddhist Church of San Francisco. Visit http://word.to.
Copyright © 2012, Gary Gach