Earth Day In A New Story

Earth Day In A New Story
Credit: Markus Reugels, LiquidArt

The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity — then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.

-David Suzuki

Daniel Quinn, the author of the book ISHMAEL, writes,

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet.

I think Mr. Quinn sheds light on a lot of interesting things about our culture that we don’t see on the surface, or at least things that we don’t let ourselves acknowledge much of the time.  You might say that the story we are in right now is one that sees the earth as a resource – a thing to be used – complete with a hierarchy of power with the richest of humans at the very top.  You might say, as Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee does, that “We are the inheritors of this culture {story} that has banished the relationship to the sacred from the Earth.”

Yet even if we know all there is to know about how stuck we are in this story, we are still stuck.  Today, April 22, 2014, is Earth Day.  To be fair, I’m glad the current story has an Earth Day.  But I want to be in a new story that doesn’t celebrate Earth Day– because the characters in the new one won’t need a reminder to live as one with the whole of the earth.  How do we shift our thinking into an awareness that breaks free from our conditioning and our fear of doing things in a radically different way? How do we tell a new story?

Much of the time, I have no idea.   Or I have ideas but too much fear to act on them in full.  Or I come up with some kind of plan to do things differently, and then get distracted by the everydayness of life.  Or I forget that every failure has the potential to be a foundation for success, eventually, if I would only see them as stepping stones instead of black holes.

But maybe, when we recognize that we are in a story that doesn’t end well, we CAN take action to change it. It won’t happen overnight, even though we want it to. It will surely take planning and doing things that make us feel uncomfortable and stretch our boundaries. It will likely be frustrating since many people around us will want to remain totally invested in the old story and unable or unwilling to listen to the new one that is finding its voice through us.

Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother Culture humming in the background, telling her story over and over again to the people of your culture, you’ll never stop being conscious of it. Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you, “how can you listen to this stuff and not recognize it for what it is?”       -Daniel Quinn, Ishmael

Can two stories live side by side if some people choose not to recognize the illusion of the broken one they have been in for so long? Maybe they can for a while. I am inclined to think that the old story has to fade away for the new one to continue and thrive.  For the earth to regain wholeness and vibrancy, we need to see with new eyes and remember the sacred in ourselves that IS the earth. Then maybe we can get unstuck and into a new story – one that sets people up to live in accord with the world.


Earth Day, 2014.   How will you celebrate?

Below are some ideas – from simple to more involved – to get your chapter in the new story started:

-Pray, if praying resonates with you, for the health and healing of the earth.  Without ceasing.

-Enjoy time outside regularly, in gratitude for what the earth provides.

-Switch from conventional light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)

-Use a reusable canvas bag when shopping.  Skip the plastic produce bags, too.

-Start a compost pile.  Plant a garden.  Frequent the farmer’s market.

– Carpool, ride your bike to work, or telecommute  1-2 days per week.

– Meet your neighbors.  Share things with them.  Chances are, they’re nice and value similar things.

-Plant one native berry-bearing shrub or tree to provide food for birds.

-Buy local, even if it’s not convenient and costs more.

-Join a CSA (community supported agriculture)

-Limit showers to 5 minutes.

-Turn off the car when waiting to pick up the kids or when at the bank drive through.

-Make 15% more of your purchases from providers that commit to fair trade and/or organic practices.

-Commit to buying nothing one month.  Maybe longer.  Maybe as a part of a group. 

-When replacing appliances, install energy efficient models.  Or ditch the dryer and get a clothesline.

– Invest in solar hot water or electricity for your home.  Or subscribe to a solar garden, like the one in Minneapolis.

– Give up plastic.  For good.


We can tell a new story.  Part of it is already being written as you read these words.  What is your next chapter going to say?