October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Is anyone else feeling like us humans are in an abusive relationship with Mother Earth?
I’m sad to say that as I see it, we (along with generations of colonizers and immigrants before us) are the abusers.
Like many abusive relationships it started with flattery and adoration. You’re the greatest, no one is as wonderful as you, you are so beautiful, you have so much to offer. I’ll keep showing up at your doorstep, uninvited, and eventually move in.
Then it got controlling: You belong to me, No one can love you like I do. Let’s keep others out. Let’s build a wall around us so no one can get in.
Then the physical violence: I’m going to rip trees from the ground, extract every final nutrient from the land, pollute your water and air, and attempt to suck the life out of you. Melt your ice caps, overprocess your food, overfish your seas, extinguish as much coral reef as I can.
Mother Nature has endured years and years of abuse, combined with gaslighting from climate change deniers.
I experience the earth as someone who’s done living in an abusive relationship. She’s had enough.
As with many abusive relationships, apologies follow. “I’ll never do it again! We can reverse the damaging trend: we’ll recycle all waste, compost, lower our carbon footprint, develop solar power, make electric cars, eat only organic food, stop overfishing, plant trees, bicycle more, stop contaminating drinking water, buy local, make clothing from hemp, only purchase what we need.” Heart emojis and flowers to seal the deal.
REALLY? Mother Earth wasn’t born yesterday.
At this point only ACTIONS matter and it’s unlikely she’ll ever be intimate with us again. A cordial relationship, beginning with rebuilding trust, might be the best we can hope for.
What actions can I take to interrupt violence?
For me, it’s renewing my commitment to intervene when I see or hear violence. I only have four prominent recollections of interrupting interpersonal violence.
- At a mall in New Jersey in the mid-1970s when I confronted a father screaming at his little daughter who had dark circles under her eyes. He yelled at me and told me it wasn’t my business.
- At a disco in New Jersey in the 1980s when my friend’s boyfriend grabbed her long black hair to drag her off the dance floor. I jumped in his face and told him to leave her alone. She later married him, and he locked her in the house in the mornings before he went off to work.
- In Philadelphia in the late 1980s when I went over to a man beating a woman and told him to stop. She was his girlfriend. He apologized and began crying. I took her to the emergency room, but because she was a nurse, she didn’t want to go to the hospital where she worked.
- In San Francisco in the 1990s when I stopped a man on the street who was verbally abusing a woman who turned out to be his girlfriend. He screamed at me and told me it was none of my business.
It’s time for me to commit to interrupting the violence against mother earth. As Kamala Harris said, “Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and … they will ask us, ‘Where were you when the stakes were so high? What was it like?’ We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”
I don’t have the answers, but I commit to exploring new ways to interrupt the violence and join with others who refuse to look away. Whether it’s violence against a neighbor (#listeningfromhome) OR against the earth, speaking up shouldn’t be the only thing we do, but it has to be one of the things we do.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo www.unsplash.com