One person I greatly admire is David Suzuki, the Canadian scientist, broadcaster and environmental activist. He is perhaps the most iconic environmental activist in North America, and in the last ten years or so, he and his foundation has worked to raise awareness and promote dialogue about the critical issue of global warming.
I ran across something on his blog the other day that I want to share with you. In a post from January, he says,
We can’t just look at the world as a source of resources to exploit with little or no regard for the consequences. When many indigenous people refer to the planet as “Mother Earth”, they are not speaking romantically, poetically or metaphorically. They mean it literally. We are of the Earth, every cell in our bodies formed by molecules derived from plants and animals, inflated by water, energized by sunlight captured through photosynthesis and ignited by atmospheric oxygen.”
Modern archaeological findings suggest that ancient peoples may have worshipped the earth as a living, female being. She was part of the mythology in a number of cultures. In Greek mythology, Mother Earth was a goddess called Gaia (“earth” or “land”) who represented the earth and was the mother of all life (Gaia, by Anselm Feuerbach, 1875 at right). The Romans called her Terra. The Hindus knew her as Parvati. And Damp Mother Earth is the most ancient deity in Slavic mythology . . . As far as I am aware, Buddhism did not have a specific “Mother Earth” deity, except for some cultural figures in various Asia countries that were independently incorporated into Buddha-dharma.
Nonetheless, Suzuki’s remarks are in line with the Buddhist concept of interdependency (pratitya-samutpada) that maintains we are all inter-connected. And when we talk about that we don’t mean just people, we are interconnected with the earth, the ocean, the sky, even the most distant stars – everything.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said,
You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment . . . Many people get sick today because they get alienated from Mother Earth . . . When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born . . . We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one.”
I imagine most of you are already on board with this thinking, but it is good to be reminded from time to time that we’ve got to go back to Mother Earth.
In 1951, blues singer Memphis Slim wrote a song called Mother Earth:
You may own a half a city even diamonds and pearls
You may buy that plane baby and fly all over this world
Don’t care how great you are, don’t care what you worth
When it all ends up you got to go back to mother earth
Now you know where Bob Dylan got the idea for his song, Gotta Serve Somebody.
In 1968, a band called Mother Earth recorded Slim’s song. Here it is, featuring the vocals of the great but still to this day relatively unknown Tracy Nelson.