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  • Writer's pictureSarah Patterson

Earth Day Musings 2024

I love Earth Day.  This may seem like a silly thing to say given that every day is Earth Day. We can have no days without a thriving ecosystem to support us. So, throwing in a token day among the 365 we are given each year is a mere trifling when what we need is a total reimagining.  I know this.  But there are nevertheless reasons for my appreciation of this day. 

 

First of all, the establishment of April 22 as International Earth Day in 1970 marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement and an awakening to the fact that we need to shift our understanding from the earth belonging to us back to a paradigm where we understood that we belong to the earth.  It is not without a keen awareness of the irony that it was during this same 54-year period that we pushed the pedal to the proverbial metal and exponentially exacerbated the ecological and existential (which are really one and the same) crisis that we now face. 

 

Thus far, 2024 has seen each month break heat records – something so astounding that it is having climate scientists rethink their predictive models. We have also entered into a new era of ocean warming and coral bleaching. And because we are doubling down on our current trajectory, the World Economic Forum is forecasting an increasingly dire global outlook.   



But I began this particular musing by stating that I love Earth Day so let me explain that position. 


The main reason that I appreciate this day is that it forces us to be conscious of the bounty and beauty of the earth that will sustain us all if we just allow it to. We are not saving the environment – something external to us, but rather saving ourselves - from ourselves. This day, perhaps above all others is asking us to grapple with our understanding of who we are and what we are creating. 

 

For the past many years, Nate Hagens, one of my heroes, has done an annual Earth Day podcast that has come to mark this day for me. His seminal talk on Earth Day 2021, continues to be a part of the Common Earth curriculum. So, I was confused when April 22, 2024, came and went with no word from Nate.   

 

Today he shared that he is still working on this year’s talk and we can look out for that in the days to come.  But in recognition of the fact that it has not yet been released, he has given us 7 thought experiments to consider in the meantime.


I love thought experiments such as these because they encourage us to tap into possibilities and creative perspectives that we tend to limit ourselves from in our everyday. They underscore how illusory it is that we are in a world that is immutable and instead let’s us see the potential for a more just, more sustainable and happier world going forward. 

 

John Trudell was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. He once said that: 


All human beings are descendants of tribal people who were spiritually alive, intimately in love with the natural world, children of Mother Earth. When we were tribal people, we knew who we were, we knew where we were, and we knew our purpose. This sacred perception of reality remains alive and well in our genetic memory. We carry it inside of us, usually in a dusty box in the mind's attic, but it is accessible - John Trudell

And the best way I know to open up that dusty box is to pry it open by imagining what is possible. Do this every Earth Day, and as often as you can.  What would happen if instead of asking your partner about their day, you asked them to reimagine something they thought they knew?  What if instead of making small talk, we normalized asking thought experiments?  People tend to not enjoy having their ideas challenged but when you ask them to come out with a story, you aren’t challenging them, you are co-creating a new story, which is exactly what we so desperately need right now. 

 

 So, thanks for the thought experiments, Nate. I encourage you to play with his ideas and come up with some of your own.  Share them with us because we love knowing what you think and who knows what might emerge from your kernel of idea! 


Sarah can be reached at spatterson@commonearth.com.


Green plants draw the number 2024, and the zero is replaced by a globe.

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