As we approach Earth Day on the 22nd of April, four images are playing a slideshow in my mind. The first is from the inaugural Earth Day in 1970 when I was in sixth grade in Fairbanks, Alaska. Our class walked to the nearby University of Alaska campus and attended presentations there. My memory is of an illuminating newness that I had not experienced before in my young life.

The second image depicts the defilement of Nature. Industrial smokestacks belch pollution into a dark sky while teeming garbage floats on dirty water in the foreground. I must have seen this in Life Magazine as a youngster. It is shocking that our society, at some level, has accepted this ugliness as a necessary byproduct of progress.

The third image is of pristine wilderness in the nearby North Cascades Mountain Range of Washington State. Here, old growth fir and cedar live in a deep valley that cradles a wild river, with fern and moss growing all around. Visiting this place brings me back into harmony with myself.

The fourth image is a set of satellite photographs comparing March 2019 and March 2020 views over certain metropolitan areas in China and the United States. The amount of atmospheric clearing due to reduced human activity is astonishing.

Yes, life right now is indeed weird. The coronavirus outbreak has reshaped our way of being together on Earth. Most of us have never experienced so much disruptive change – and so quickly – in our lifetimes. Suddenly we are sharing (or not sharing) homes, workplaces, and public domains in entirely new ways. The group mind, which we are more connected to than we may realize, is not used to dealing with the wide-open uncertainty we are facing.

Many of us have time on our hands that we hardly dared to dream of a month or two back. Hard times are here for a lot of us due to job loss, and some of us have suffered greatly at the hands of this terrible virus. We are also receiving the gift of a slowdown from the quickening, relentless pace of modern living. Life has simplified. What an opportunity for self-reflection and for contemplation of what is truly essential for each one of us. Family. Friends. Home. Food. Sharing. Laughter. Gratitude. Love. These are some of the themes hitting home big-time right now.

Earth, too, is experiencing much change. Air and sound pollution is dissipating as industrial activity and the movements of planes and automobiles have declined. How quickly Earth heals. May there be aspects of our world that we won’t want to continue in the same way after the coronavirus outbreak subsides? “Spaceship Earth”, a name coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, is a precious vessel moving elegantly through the cosmos, in orbit around a life-giving star. We are passengers on this vessel, the only vessel we have, and it gives us all we need to live. As such, we need to cooperate for the well-being of the ship and crew.

We have an opportunity to contemplate not only our relationship with each other during these challenging times, but also our relationship with Earth. Crazy me, I believe that Earth is alive, a magnificent, incomprehensibly large being sailing through space, providing a home to countless children in the domains of flora, fauna, and beyond. I speak of ‘Earth’ rather than ‘the environment.’ The concept of environment seems sterile and abstract, hard to relate to, while Earth is a physical entity evolving creatively over the eons, growing ever more novel forms of life that thrive on her land and in her water.

Let us enjoy and be grateful for what we have. Being home. Being with loved ones, at home or virtually. Sharing food. Feeling the warmth of the sun on the skin. Listening to birdsong echo in the air. Taking a deep breath and letting out a big sigh. Knowing that in this very moment, right here, right now, everything is OK.

With Love and Blessings,
James Papp

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