Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Thoughts on Earth Day
For me Earth Day is always about "Place" - a specific Place - a home, a neighborhood, a region. Saving the planet gets a bit blurry when we imagine the problems caused by deforestations and mining and famines in places faraway. It is not that I think that we shouldn't care about the other places and devise policies that support indigenous peoples and their economies while sustaining Mother Earth. It is just that it is here in this Place where I am most immediately responsible - where I dance with air and fire and water and earth.
What is this Place - this neighborhood in El Paso along the Rio Grande in the Chihuahua Desert nestled beneath ancient formations of rock and sediment? Take a moment to watch a short clip on YouTube about our ecoregion. It puts things in perspective about our Place.
Largest of the North American deserts and rich in animal and plant life, our Chihuahua Desert is young geologically. It is a recent ecological development in this area that goes back a billion years with the formation of the Castner Marble that we can see along Trans Mountain Road. A nearby but ancient caldera can no longer be seen although it once exploded with the force of a thousand Mt. Saint Helens and fried an ancient beach and created a lovely white crystalline strata in the North Franklins. (It was a bad day for algae.) The forces of rifts and faults over millions of years uplifted the Franklin Mountains from ancient seas. Deep beneath the soil of the Hueco Boson is a rift that is one of the three deepest inter-continental rifts in the world - rivaling the Great Rift of Africa where populations of hominids evolved over millions of years to become modern homo sapiens. This Place has been home to volcanoes, igneous intrusions, lava fields not to mention prehistoric creatures such as the woolly mammoth who once wandered near present day Santa Teresa.
This Place, our Home, is rich and deep and high and old - very old geologically and yet very young as an ecosystem.
My friends in the Pacific Northwest do not understand how I could have left the vast green beauty of the Cascades and the deep glacial waters of Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish or the beauty of Puget Sound. Indeed, I miss those places - but this place is just as vast with flora and fauna. This spring that we are now enjoying is abundant with more species of birds and populations of birds than I have ever seen in El Paso. A Phainopepla now sings above the Bird of Paradise flowers in my backyard. The other day I swear I saw a Gila Woodpecker busy for bugs on a yucca on Richmond and Kentucky. Mexican Hummingbirds hover wherever I look.
Some call the beauty of this place Surreal - and it is and Psychedelic too. But it is also just a true natural gem.
So, I hope that we can develop City and County policies that support sustainability and prevent unnecessary sprawl and preserve arroyos and restore the lost urban canopy with native trees. I hope that we can find something to do with all of the trash that flies about and mars the ocotillo and prickly pear of our mountainside and neighborhoods. Wind is a fact but so too is careless behavior.
Loving this Place begins with each of us taking responsibility. And, yet, that sounds so juridical. Try this instead: It begins with our singing with bird and coyote and fox and dancing with the wind and venerating with souls afire all the colors of the desert day.