So, we’ve all seen the petition: “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”. I have watched many, many folks not only sign it, but then send out messages imploring others to sign the petition as well. And yet, to this moment, I have resisted signing the petition. I have continually found myself in the grips of an argument as to “why”. So this morning, after receiving a few more “invitations”, I thought it may be time to explore that path of thought a little more.
Perhaps the first thing to do is to look at the statement itself. Its quite lengthy, so the best option would be for you to hop on over to the website hosting it. Instead of attempting the longer task of going through the declaration step-by-step, I thought it would be better if I tackled what I considered to be the prime pieces for my own understanding and consideration of the overall statement. This does not mean that I think something that calls out to you is insignificant, merely that it was not something that I – as an individual – found compelling for my own understanding. I cannot speak for what is in your mind, or what calling is on your heart — if I could, then I would be you, and not me.
The opening statement, in my mind, is perhaps the most crucial towards how many folks will identify with the overall statement. After all, we may all identify within the scope of Paganism, but we are definitely not all the same. Some individuals approach their beliefs from a perspective where politics bleeds over into everything that they do. Some others, myself included, may choose the opposite part of that: keeping the political waters and the spiritual waters separate as much as possible. I have come across folks who disagree with my stance, which for me is perfectly fine. I follow this Path because it gives me the freedom to dance before my ancestors in a manner of my own choosing. But, like I usually do – I digress from my topic.
Paganism is a family of spiritual paths rooted in ancestral religions throughout the world and predating recorded history. As explained by the Pagan Federation, Paganism includes polytheistic and pantheistic nature-worshipping religions, and often includes deities of all genders, ancestor veneration, and celebrations in tune with our Earth. A full discussion of the many varieties of Paganism is beyond the scope of this statement, but we, the signatories, value life and the natural world as sacred. Thus, Pagan thought leads us to live in harmony with the rhythms of our great Earth.
This is the opening statement that is a declaration of identity for the under-signed. I guess I am slightly disappointed that there is no language for non-Pagans, but then this is a “Pagan Community” statement, so my disappointment is a minor, minor one. But the statement does note that this is not a time or place to have the wide-ranging, and free-wheeling discussion of what typifies a “Pagan” — and for that simple notation, I am extremely grateful to read.
On Towards the Statement Itself
The rest of the statement is broken into other parts: “Nature is Sacred”, “We Are a Part of the Web of Life”, “How We Are Damaging the Ecosystem”, and “What We Can Do”. The first two sections, “Nature is Sacred”, and “We Are a Part of the Web of Life” are fairly straight-forward declarations of how many Pagans, including myself see the environment around them. As an animist, I wish there was an addition how everything has life – sometimes in manners we cannot readily perceive. But that’s merely my own manner of Spirituality stepping forward.
The next two sections are where things might get problematic. After all, not everyone will subscribe to the idea of how we are damaging the ecosystem around us. But one particular sentence mended all those fences and erased all my doubts.
Our global systems of exploitation are not easily dismantled.
That one small, seemingly insignificant statement says a lot. With the advancement of the internet – not just as a means of conveying information from point-to-point, but also as a means of providing access into local economies that we have only had access to through physical travel – our local, regional, and national economies are tied together. Any changes made to any level of these economies will have ripple effects throughout the infrastructure, and those effects can have astounding, unforeseen consequences to people in ways we might not understand just yet. So, we have to tread carefully here. We have to be responsible with how we go about working the solution.
What is the Solution?
I am not sure what solutions are to be implemented. I’m not an Economist, or even a Biologist. But I do know where I would like to see changes. It comes in the next-to-last paragraph of the statement.
Fundamentally, we believe that a change in spirit is required, one that fosters a new relationship between humanity and other species and Earth as a whole.
Currently, in a global economy that views the planet and other species of plant and animal as fungible resources – there is very little value placed on things that does not have a monetary descriptive driving it. Painting with a broad brush here, we do not see the beauty in a natural view in the mountains or the forests for what it is. Rather we see how many tourist dollars can be made bringing people from other areas to see it. And those tourists miss the spiritual aspects of what they are seeing, focusing instead on the experience of “having been there” instead. Our planet is a place to see, not a place to experience.
So how do we bridge that gap? How can we change the spirit of those individuals that are driven through living in a pre-packaged, fast-food, disposable life? As dumb as it sounds, the movie “Field of Dreams” has the ultimate answer. Yes,
…build it and they will come.
Or put in another manner: show them how reverence for our environment, celebrating how we are part of our environment, finding ways to live as a part of our environment — this is where we can make the difference. There will be the naysayers. There will be those who attempt to be derisive with names like: “tree-huggers”, “dirty hippies”, “people out of touch with a modern age”. But instead of arguing with them, instead of engaging in a war of words – let’s step to the forefront, and just be ourselves. In my personal estimation, that’s more than enough. Its what I strive to do in my everyday life.
Yes, I am a Pagan, and proud to be so. Every moment of my day is spent trying to live my life the best way I know how. Trying to connect better with my environment. Doing the best I can to connect with the Gods – and to connect with my ancestors. Greeting the Sun each morning with delight, and finding beauty among the living entities everywhere around me — even here in suburban America. My actions aren’t going to change opinions overnight. Nor will anyone else’s. But I am not going to be deterred by that. This is where I draw a line in the dirt…and refuse to be what a pre-packaged, fast-food, non-spiritual world wants me to be: a cog in their machine.
Have I signed the statement with my own name? As of ten seconds, yes I have. My consternation came more from a perspective that has always been a part of my personal makeup: I don’t like to be told what to do. Its a leftover from growing up in Catholic schools with strict, regimented rules. But I have spent the time to investigate the Community Statement. And for me, the statement fits into what I believe. I’m not going to beat you over the head and tell you that you HAVE to sign it. But I will say, head over to the website, and read it for yourself. If its something you feel strongly enough to attach your name to it. Please do so. But don’t feel like you HAVE to sign anything. After all, you have your own mind…use it.
–Thomas Van Hook, signatory 4,988