by Cindy Briggs
All over the world on June 5th communities celebrate a shared belief in the power of positive action to protect nature and the planet Earth. All this started in 1972 when the United Nations Environment Program chose a city, picked a theme and got people mobilized. The primary goal each year is to make issues heard through media events and through direct action, like a massive tree planting event in India in 2010 which made the Guinness Book of Records. This year’s theme is “Small Islands and Climate Change” with the slogan, “Raise Your Voice Not The Sea Level.” The UNEP website says “when multiplied by global chorus, our individual voices and actions become exponential in its impact.”
So, it may seem odd in the context of small islands that are threatened by rising sea levels, but today as I read about this year’s goals for WED, I thought of Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, a seriously desert environment which requires people to treasure every single drop of water out of physical necessity. For the Zuni it is also a spiritual necessity. As the seas rise from the changes humans are inflicting on the planet’s climate, the deserts are getting drier. The Zuni know this. They have always known the forces of nature and the actions of man are not separate. Their prayers and ceremonies reflect this deep understanding.
When I first started teaching, in a room with a cement floor, metal walls and no outside light, I put up a poster of a flowery meadow with a line from a Zuni prayer: “Cover my earth mother four times with many flowers.” At that point I had no personal awareness of Zuni or the people who have lived there from before recorded history, but the words served as a window just as much as the photo of the meadow. Now that I have come to know some people from Zuni, I have an even deeper appreciation for the gift of their words, beliefs, and wisdom. There is reverence in their rituals, but there is also power and belief in individual action, particularly when it is part a whole community’s goals.
So, today, I have done two things for World Environment Day. I have written this to help raise awareness. I have planted Moonflower and Heavenly Blue Morning Glory seeds, to “cover the earth mother four times with many flowers” – may each leaf turn the over abundance of CO2 we have created into the oxygen we need, even if on a very small scale. And may the beauty of the flowers lift the soul.