For International Mother Earth Day we invited Rachel Helms, Coordinator at the Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens, to contribute to her thoughts on this increasingly important day.
Would I write the guest blog on ‘International Mother Earth Day’?
I’m a mother and I work in a garden and ‘earthy’ is kind of me so “Of course!” I said before realising it was actually a big topic!
A few things sprang to mind… some pertinent to me as an individual, some regarding the times in which we live;
Should I write about what it means to be a parent, a female parent, a mother?
Could I explore whether the idea of Mother Earth excludes male parents, women and men without children?
Would I dare to suggest that if the Earth was our actual mother, and humankind were children that we could be characterised as stroppy, ungrateful, entitled youngsters on the verge of being thrown out?
I was getting lost in thought, so I asked a friend; “Oh, Mother Earth, that’s what we used to call women in long skirts, surrounded by children, playing the guitar with one hand and stirring a pot of lentils with the other”. Not too helpful!
It all seemed a bit ‘out there’, especially for my debut blog. So I decided to put my musings to one side, and root my reflections on the framework laid out by the instigators of ‘International Mother Earth Day’, the United Nations (UN).
The UN currently has 193 Member States and its aim is to promote cooperation between nations and foster peace. For more than 50 years the UN has been trying to increase awareness of the interdependence of people, other living species and our planet. This has been supported by the development of agreements between nations to recognise a collective responsibility to balance the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity, and also by the development of sustainable development goals. Plans to grant the Earth rights, in the same way that people and nation states have right, are advancing.
One facet of the work of the UN is to increase support for these environmental goals amongst the populations of the very diverse member states. And so we come to ‘International Mother Earth Day’. A name chosen because the concept of the Earth as a mother is a widespread cultural trope with a long history. The celebration of this day is to remind us that the Earth and its complex balance of systems provide us with life and sustenance. On this day we are asked to reflect on the challenges facing our planet and the life it supports.
And so I have been reflecting with people in my community about the state of our collective home.
Most people I know have the great fortune to have been born and raised in places where individuals have rights, where there is a health and welfare system and where the state has been fairly effective at meeting the basic needs of its citizens.
During this period of relative prosperity our states, elected by us, have failed to recognise the negative impact of easy access to fuel and food and disposable goods. While the effects of unfettered access to natural resources, pollution and climate change are most acute in countries far away, those effects are here too, and will increase.
Already in the UK biodiversity and biomass have reduced enormously, there are fewer wild creatures in our rivers and lochs, in woods, fields, parks and gardens. The seas are less abundant. The air quality in places falls below acceptable standards. The weather in the last three spring seasons has been erratic and unusual. Food and fuel places are rising, there is increased competition and the psychology of scarcity is affecting the welcome we extend to other humans in need. The ‘canary in the coal mine’ died a long time ago. Humanity is running out of places to flee.
Surely the move to grant rights to the earth can only be a good thing? Let’s set the framework for future generations of our amazing young people to treat their ‘Mother’ well. Future financiers, scientists, leaders and consumers will have the chance not to behave like spoilt and ungrateful children, not to bite the hand that feeds them. Unquestionably there are great efforts going on now by research bodies and individuals to this end.
As an organisation Cyrenians is already making an impact in the area of food; through FareShare we redistribute many tonnes of food to people in need, reducing waste; our Farm project has long used organic practices, respected animal welfare and has increased biodiversity; through the veg bag scheme they are reducing supply chain length; the Community Garden in which I work and in our sister project at Midlothian Community Garden we also garden organically. We work in sympathy with the sustainable principles of permaculture, we feed our soils, plant hedges, feed birds and find that our land gives back in terms of a healthy and tasty harvest as well. Equally well the work we do together strengthens the bonds between people and the joy we experience from the small corners of land we have nurtured back into balance with the human and natural environment is immeasurable.
There is so much more to do, the task is huge, but with a continued spirit of partnership and guidance from specialists in diverse fields and a continuous examination of our values each of us can make steps, some as followers, and some as leaders. But let’s learn from the complexity of Mother Earth and recognise that at all levels, from the individual, to the organisational, to government and international bodies and corporations, that what we consume comes from somewhere, and goes somewhere.
I return to my musings, certain that if Mother Earth could talk she would be yelling ‘You’re treating this place like a hotel!’
22nd April 2018
International Mother Earth Day