Photograph by NASA

Of the Earth

words by willow defebaugh

The Earth is not a day or a month, it’s something we belong to. Now more than ever, it needs our love—and protection.

“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

Terry Tempest Williams

Hello, dear reader. I’m afraid April has nearly passed us by and I’ve yet to address the elephant in the room: Earth Month, that special time of year where everyone and every corporation is an environmentalist. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt strange about the word environmentalist. Does loving life’s tree really warrant a special identity? That it is not simply another word for human is a reflection of how we see the Earth: as something separate.


What we call “environmentalism” is treated much the same—to our planet’s detriment. It creates a paradigm in which some people believe that because a special group of us is advocating for the Earth, they don’t have to. And it builds a barrier for those who do want to join in; I personally know many people who feel like they “aren’t enough of an environmentalist” to be able to get involved or use their voice to speak up about the climate crisis. I’m sure you do, too.


But we don’t need everyone to become an environmentalist. We need everyone to realize that standing up for our only home should be an inherent aspect of being human. We need everyone to realize that they belong to the Earth in an irrevocable sense. When you understand that you’re intertwined with something so deeply, you begin to understand that to act on behalf of its well-being is to act on behalf of your own—that your very destiny is the same.


Don’t get me wrong: I love that we have a month dedicated to this beautiful planet. My problem is with the rest of the year. I feel about it the way I feel about fast fashion brands that have “sustainable” collections; yes, it’s great that you’re doing this, but by default, aren’t you admitting that the rest of your products are unsustainable? This is why I prefer the word “holistic.” One aspect of something might be sustainable, but if the rest is poison, what good does it do? Above all else, our orientation must be toward wholeness.


You cannot abuse someone 11 months out of the year and then claim to love them for one. Not when they love you every day under the sun. And make no mistake, love is what we are talking about here. As I’ve written about for this newsletter before, the climate crisis is a crisis of love—for what is love if not a longing for unity, an expression of wholeness? And it’s not just love for what we call “nature,” but for each other as well—for everything is of the Earth.


I believe that people are afraid to explore the full depths of their love for this world out of a fear of losing it. But all this equates to is more climate doomism and apathy, which is exactly what the extractionists want. It’s easier to dismiss something as already gone than to give ourselves to saving it, therefore making it easier to destroy. To give your heart to something you know you might lose is perhaps one of the most courageous acts there is. And it’s our greatest hope. 


When you love someone, they are a part of you. They are part of the breath you breathe and the reason that you breathe it. They are the oxygen in your lungs, the blood in your veins, the salt in your seas. You see, when someone you love cries for help, you don’t pretend not to hear. You don’t tell them it’s not the right time of year. The Earth is not a day or a month, it’s an hourglass, a thousand grains of sand slipping past. It’s now or never.

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