We have a big storm moving in today. Lots of wind, rain and darkness. This is our reality in the Pacific Northwest, but I’m starting to feel like we are getting more than our fair share of inclement weather. I welcome the wind. I hope that it brings change. I welcome the rain. We can certainly use a lot of cleansing. But I’m going to need a break from it all fairly soon. 🙂
Two weeks ago, I was traveling for business and had the opportunity to be in four different airports. MIA, PHX, DTW and SEA. For those non-aerospace geeks, those codes represent Miami, Phoenix, Detroit and Seattle. Of these four airports, I am sorry to report that my hometown airport was the dirtiest. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me.
Drive up and down almost any road in Washington state and notice the litter. How can this be? We pride ourselves as being an environmental leader in the country. Our state motto is “The Evergreen State”. We are fortunate to live in country that is astoundingly beautiful, even when covered in litter. Mountain ranges, bodies of both fresh and salt water, high plains, alpine and sub-alpine forests, rain forests….we have so much beauty here.
From an Indigenous perspective, we are blessed with powerful more-than-human relatives. We share water, land and air with salmon, cedar, alder, hemlock, raven, eagle, bear, bobcat, wolf, horsetail, cattail, beachgrass, moss, scheist, granite, olivine, geoduck, octopus, whale…. They give to us in so many ways. We take and leave mostly garbage in our wake.
I’m not asking a rhetorical question. I’m very interested in the psychology of ecological destruction. It’s not just litter, either. It’s also the level of light pollution that is allowed. Forgotten is the role that darkness plays in the natural cycle. The ability to view the planets, stars and darkness of night is being destroyed. When hundreds of tires are dumped along the sides of roads, I can infer one piece of the puzzle: greed. However, I think greed as a cause is only scratching the surface. When stretches of state highways and interstates are clogged with the detritus of human existence, what are we saying about life? Where does the trash come from? Are people randomly tossing it out of pickup trucks in the middle of the night? What mindset prevails where people are accepting of the amounts of litter dirtying our environment? Why are we so afraid of the dark and out of touch with the healing that the deep night brings?
Maybe it’s just me. Knowing that most of what we dispose of doesn’t degrade; that it ends up in our waterways and in the guts of our more-than-human relatives. Missing the ability to see the stars and planets when I step out into the night – wondering how my more-than-human relatives are fairing physiologically and mentally when they also are deprived of the healing that night brings.
I believe that there is a connection between how we treat the environment and how we treat ourselves. To my mind, the litter and inevitable destruction caused by litter is a sign of mental and spiritual illness. The level of denial involved in the belief that litter doesn’t equal environmental destruction is monumental. The inability to make the connection between disrespecting the sanctity of the Natural World and disrespecting the sanctity of our Natural Selves. This level of denial is what leads us to accept much more devastating levels of environmental destruction created by industrial waste.
This isn’t simply an environmental or social issue. It’s a spiritual issue as well. I am contemplating the conundrum here: we are on a suicidal mission and yet the normal human response to danger is to stay alive. We are ridiculously weird beings.