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Enviromental Activism

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Article ID: 8805

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Section: teen

Age Group: Adult

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Enviromental Activism

Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 28th. 1997
Times Viewed: 5,211

When I started writing an essay on environmental activism and how it applies to Witchcraft, I took several approaches. First, I wrote about my summer working for Greenpeace, and what an eye-opening experience it was: to be simultaneously learning more each day about the widespread destruction of the earth's flora and fauna, at the same time I saw the unbelievable ignorance and apathy about the part humans played in that destruction.

Then, I wrote about my journey towards becoming a Witch, and how, for me, that path has always included my deep love of the natural world. How my sadness at witnessing the effects of pollution and environmental degradation only reaffirmed my belief in the Earth as a living entity, and my kinship with plants and animals was made that much more precious as I learned of the disappearance and extinction of species: extinction brought on by us, by humans.

Then, I wrote about the philosophy behind environmental activism: the "paradigm shift" that many believe is imminent, a way of thinking that honors nature and the feminine, and conservation and renewal of resources, over the more recent tradition of growth, plunder, destruction and waste. Ah, I thought: this is the way to go, an exploration of how we need to change our ways of perceiving our world, and the ways we exist in it. Such shifts in thinking may enable us to save our planet, which is showing dramatic signs of environmental damage.

But then I started to understand that philosophy is not enough. That ideas are a powerful tool with which to begin manifesting change; but without force of action, such thinking is ultimately impotent. And thought without emotion is equally impotent, for we must fully engage our hearts in our endeavors, to fully appreciate the far-reaching effects of our actions. Believing without doing can never effect change.

Witches believe that working magic (changing the world in accordance with our will), begins with Inspiration, fueled by Will, nurtured by Intuition, tempered with Action: all corresponding to the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. This model for behavior can bring people in touch with their own elemental forces, and the balancing of them. Some "fiery" types might need to "add water, " or some "airheads" will need to "ground" themselves with more earth. This approach to magic can seem very physical, but ultimately it is beneficial to the heart, the mind, the soul, and the psyche. And forming a connection between our bodies and the elements of the planet we live on is the beginning of understanding our place within the cosmos.

In recent years there has been talk of a "new age" of spiritual enlightenment, which rejects old, outmoded beliefs. People are hungry for spiritual fulfillment, and the "Big Three" seem too limiting for many people. As women begin to take their place alongside of men, the search is on for a path that celebrates the source of life, the fertility and nurturing represented by the female in nature. As we become a global village, the need arises for us to accept more diverse ways of life, and this includes religion.

Just as "New Age" teachings based on Eastern religions and ancient spiritual practices (such as meditation and shamanic journeying) are becoming popular as people search for spiritual fulfillment outside of Western models, Witchcraft is resonating with many who think we must honor the Earth if we are to survive. Once upon a time, all peoples loved and revered the Earth; they also feared Her, and appeased Her when they thought it necessary (this is the root of many world mythologies). When spiritual beliefs began to emphasize the invisible world over the real one, the caretaking of the planet became less important. Belief in singular gods usurped systems where many deities existed: deities which represented the many forces of nature and the entire range of human experience. Now that we have an opportunity to return to ancient belief systems, to once more see the Earth as divine, we have our work cut out for us.

Many indigenous American tribes have an ancient tradition of honoring the Earth; it is clear that the imperialistic extermination and relocation of these peoples has affected their ability to act as caretakers for this continent, once rich in wildlife, diverse flora and many natural resources. The United States is one of the most powerful nations in the world; and one of the most wasteful. Other countries seek to emulate our economic power, but at what price? The very land we live on is steeped in myths that link humankind irrevocably with the land, the trees, the animals, birds and water creatures. But generations of plunder and extermination have hidden these myths from our eyes and ears. The land cries out in pain, but we are unable to hear, because we do not recognize the language or the imagery anymore.

An ancient Hopi belief holds that no decision should be made that is binding on the entire tribe, unless it has been determined how that decision will affect the tribe seven generations into the future. Tribal culture considers the fate of all its members; not just a few important individuals. And early tribal cultures knew that their treatment of the land affected the amount of food they would have. They took no more than they needed. After white men came to North America, many animal populations were wiped out, because this method of forethought was not practiced. The indigenous peoples were removed from their land, and could no longer rely on hunting or fishing for their livelihood; they became dependent upon the government for food, thus creating a cycle of poverty that persists to this day on many reservations.

New European settlers interfered with other populations, too. Natural predators (like mountain lions and cougars) are now nearly extinct from centuries of hunting, and so animals like deer overbreed and starve to death. This then affects the plant and animal life in any given area, creating further problems of food shortage for the inhabitants. Though nomadic North American tribes often would travel from winter to summer lands, to follow the hunting, the early settlers simply moved on to a new area once they had stripped it of what was useful. This practice of raping the land has led to the indiscriminate squandering of most of the natural resources of a continent once rich in them, so much so that we now must export many things we once had in abundance.

This blind greed is the root of our plight: commercialism and the pursuit of the dollar. Greed and the zealous drive towards growth have created a society where natural resources are seen as objects to be used up, not cared for and replenished. For example, the careless use of petroleum products for fuel has created a fragile system of dependency on other countries that affects our political and economic stability. Farming relies heavily on commercial pesticides, to increase yield; this has destroyed nearly all of our naturally-occurring topsoil, and poisoned many sources of drinking water. Small farms cannot compete with the chemical-laden practices of agribusiness; these farmers have been forced out. Deforestation (for cattle grazing and lumber) has destroyed many delicate ecosystems, killing off many species and upsetting the balance nature has worked thousands of years to create.

The symbiotic relationship of insects, animals, fish, trees and plants, not to mention the myriad fungi and bacteria that flourish in any given location, is crucial to its survival. When one species dies out, the others are all affected. It is how the food chain works. A squirrel eats the nuts from a tree. The decaying matter from the nutshells adds nutrients to the soil, which in turn feed the fungus that attaches to the root of the tree, which in turn provides shelter and food for the squirrel.

All the world's ecosystems, whether forest or desert, icecap or riverbed, exist on this fundamental principle of interconnectedness. If the balance is upset, the ecosystem breaks down. The disappearance of a species from any given area (like the Spotted Owl from the forests of the Northwest) will adversely affect that area's remaining species. Ocean plankton are now nearly all contaminated with heavy metals, mercury, dioxin compounds, or worse. The tiny creatures that eat the plankton are eventually eaten by fish. Humans eat the fish, and thus are eating the contaminants and poisons we dumped into the ocean in the first place. This is poetic justice, is it not?

Humans are very adaptable, but there is no way we will adapt to the world we have made. It is all happening too fast. Man has interfered with the natural way of things, and that interference will not go unnoticed. Humans are paying the price: in a disappearing ozone layer. In acid rain. In the annihilation of animal and plant species. In diseases that attack our own immune systems, which are already weakened from daily exposure to toxic chemicals. In a complex, stressful way of life that accepts as normal children carrying guns and mothers giving birth to cocaine-addicted babies. It is difficult to acknowledge the violence and pain of our world, and so we retreat into our fortresses with our TV sets and computers, away from our communities, widening the rift between families, increasing our sense of isolation, losing our sense of who we are and where we live.

We have lost our way upon the Earth. We can no longer feel the ground beneath our feet, the Common Ground that unites all of life.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped caring for our Mother.

Somewhere along the line, we forgot to consider the next seven generations.

As Witches, we are in a position to help effect change on a global scale. All dramatic moments in history have occurred as a result of the actions of one person, who affected the actions of a small group, which then touched thousands. We are witnessing the dawn of a new age of humanity. The Age of Aquarius which we have recently entered is meant to be a time of great unity and change. A time when new ideas and new ways of becoming will flourish. Much activity in the outer planets of Neptune, Uranus (which rules Aquarius) and Pluto point to increased awareness of metaphysical concepts. The time is ripe for a magical awakening of humanity, and there is no better reason for humans to come together than to save their home.

Every move you make is part of the web of life. Every word you speak, every touch, every thought. You can choose how to make your connection to the world.

This essay will not be followed by a lecture on how to recycle, how to conserve energy and water, how to reduce your consumption of manmade goods (including textiles, paper, and petroleum-derived products), how to protect the rainforests, how to stop drilling in Alaska, how to save Buzzards' Bay, how to stop forest fires, how to become a vegetarian, how to build a composting toilet, how to bike to work, how to disarm nuclear warheads, how to overthrow the state, or how to walk lightly upon the earth.

Listen to your Mother; She will tell you what She needs. Listen to the Great God, Her son and lover; He will guide your actions.

But only you can ultimately decide what action you will take. The truth is all around you. Many years of war, destruction, capitalism and technological development have bestowed on us a rare but frightening gift: we have been shown our future. We are now capable of speeding up our karma, if we choose. Or we can stop, take a breath, and halt this march towards destruction. It is time.

The earth has tasted blood today. I bought these leather shoes in the marketplace. I paid in gold.


Peg Aloi

Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

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