Earth Day Enlightenment

( – promoted by buhdydharma )


On this Earth Day, I thought a few graphics might be in order, in honor of our planet…or home…the place where we all live.  And to make it a little bit more interesting than just some pixels fighting for your attention, I shall all some words to go with (as we used to say in Milwaukee).

There will be quite a few new graphics and a few old ones, like the one over to the right.  It only seemed fitting that I start off with a planet, since we live on one.

As always, clicking on one of the graphics should open a larger version in a new tab.

We (Women’s Studies) are offering our students here at Bloomfield College (just outside of Newark in northeastern New Jersey) free t-shirts today and the materials to paint their own shirts.  If it weren’t for the fact that I had meetings to attend today, I’d go take pictures and share them.  But I do have an important meeting (the first I will attend with the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which I am moving to in the fall…or maybe I am moving there today, at least psychologically).

On Tuesday we offered Dirt:  the Movie.  I’ll be adding some words about our war against that which brought us to be and which we still need to sustain us:  the soil under our feet.

It seemed only right to start with a poem, written for another occasion:

Art Link

Blue Mother

Chapter 6

The Spirit of the Valley

never dies.
It is called

the Mystic Female.

The Door

of the Mystic Female

Is the root

of Heaven and Earth.

Continuously, continuously,

It seems to remain.
Draw upon it

And it serves you with ease.

–Tao te Ching (tr. Lin Yutan)

Blue Mother

Like you

I hang my head

You in sorrow

Me in shame

Blue Mother

I weep with you

for the damage done

to the spirit

of the valley

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–November 1, 2005


If we don’t change our ways, we may end up living like this:  in isolated environments on soil-free rock in the middle of the ocean.  And where will our food come from?  How many people could be fed long term from indoor hydroponic gardens?

The soil is what gave us life.  As it says in the movie, the soil is more alive than we are.  A handful of it contains many millions of micro-organisms…and a few larger ones, such as worms, which keep up the production of that dirt.

And what are we doing to the dirt?  We bury it under concrete.  We poison it for monoculture farming, often with genetically-modified crops.  And when the crops fail, as they eventually must with monoculture, farmers die.  In India

More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006

They do it because they have failed or are failing to support their families.  And it is getting worse.


The molecules in the soil came from Sol and other stars.  We have been reusing the same molecules for eons.  Those molecules are the same molecules that our bodies are made from.  We are dirt.  Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.  Dirt to dirt.  After we die, we can look forward to becoming dirt once again.

It’s the Cycle of Life.

When we cover the dirt with concrete, we separate ourselves from the soil which gives us life.  We also raise the temperature of the planet.  When we blow the tops off mountains, we destroy a major source of our soil.

Why do we do it?  So that a relative few people can profit off what they consider to be precious stones.  The truth is that there is nothing more precious than the soil.

The greed of those few will kill us all, eventually.  And the real shame of it is that they seem totally oblivious to the fact.  Or they just don’t care.  Probably the latter.

If the rest of the Earth’s organisms could vote, it is likely they would vote us off this planet.  We have become the deadliest virus ever known.


So what can we do?  We need to renew our compact with the ecosystem.  Stop destroying the forests in order to do more monoculture farming.  Stop paving every bit of open space we see.

There was an interesting story related in the movie, about a few people who removed 4 feet of concrete, asphalt and oil to get to the soil beneath it, so that they could reclaim it.  People asked them, “Where are the children going to play?”  Like nobody ever heard of children playing in the dirt?

The majority of the people on this planet build their homes out of dirt.  Or at least they did…before the land started to die and they all headed for the city to look for employment.  Now they live in shacks in slums.

One billion people worldwide live in slums and the figure will likely grow to 2 billion by 2030.



What is the fighting about in the Sudan?  It’s about who controls what little arable soil is left.  And while the fighting goes on, the soil is festering and dying.

The dust bowl days of the 30s are going to seem like paradise compared to what may be coming.  Global warming will seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the death of our soil.

Can’t we just fertilize the soil?  Those nitrate-rich fertilizers get into the ground water and end up in our rivers, to be washed to the sea.  There they are feasted upon by algae, which blooms toxically, killing everything but the jelly-fish.  South of New Orleans is a huge Dead Zone.  There are similar ones at the mouths of many of the Earth’s rivers.

We know how to avoid the catastrophe.  We know that Waste is not waste until it has been wasted.  We know how to reduce, reuse and recycle.  We know how bad for the environment it is to bottle water in plastic.  We have all the knowledge.

What we lack is the will to do something.  We lack the motivation to change the way we live.  We can do better.  We must do better.

Insectoid 1

Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis and written by Bill Logan, Dirt contains the thoughts and words of the following contributors:

Andy Lipkis, TreePeople

Vandana Shiva

For us, mud is not just the matrix of life in which we grow our plants, it’s our building structure – it’s our very sense of who we are.

Wangari Maathai

Clothe the earth – put on the skin, a dress. A green dress, like trees, like vegetation. And then, when the earth is covered with green, with vegetation, it looks very beautiful. And in this age of climate change, can you imagine how happy the planet would be?

Wes Jackson, The Land Institute

Here’s this 120-year window in which we find ourselves and it’s probably the most important window in the history of homo sapiens.

Insectoid 2

Sebastiao Salgado, Instituto Terra

In all this land around this planet, if we started to replant – in ten years there would be no more dead land.

Lelia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, Instituto Terra

Paul Stayments

These old growth forests come from the soil that’s so thin beneath my feet. The soil originated after the last ice age over 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers receded and scraped away most of the soil down to barren rock… Mmmm… That smells good, it really does.

Miguel Altieri

If we don’t take care of the soil which is just the first five centimeter layer of life that is on the earth, our future is totally condemned.

Pierre Rahbi

Africa is not poor. Ethiopia alone, if properly cultivated, could feed the entire African continent.

David Orr

Insectoid 3

This is a fabric of life being torn apart that can never be put back together again.

Major Carter, Sustainable South Bronx

You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one but you sure do have to fight if you want to reconnect your life into a more natural state that actually includes poor people.

James Jiler, The Greenhouse at Rikers Island

When we talk about dirt, we’re not just talking about dirt, we’re talking about the spiritual as well as the physical attributes of one’s life, so it’s no longer dirt, it’s a metaphor for a healthy life.

Fritjof Capra, Center for Ecoliteracy

The living organisms on earth have used the very same molecules of air, water and soil over and over again. Not just the same types of molecules but the very same molecules.


Peter Girguis

What we often call dirt, you know, the stuff you are trying to wash off our car or wash off our driveways, are really these soils and sediments that are vital to keeping our biosphere healthy, which is all about keeping the plants and animals and ourselves alive. Soils and sediments are really more like a living skin on the earth, and they are the stewards of our planet.

Alice Waters, The Edible Schoolyard

The experience in nature is so comforting to these kids who have never had their hands in the ground before. They just need to be here. They want to be in the garden.

Gary Vaynerchuck

With the amount of species that live in a teaspoon of dirt, I think it’s very obvious dirt might be more alive than we are.

Pollination 2

Janine Benyus

Our wealth is imaginary. It comes from soil.

John Todd

Dirt is very much alive. It probably has in it and around it all of the kingdoms of life.

Someone needs to start thinking about the long-term future of our dirt.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?  It certainly isn’t going to be the greedheads who are going to do it.

We can make a difference.  We can plant something.  We can compost (which makes wonderful dirt out of garbage).  We can advocate for reclaiming concrete-covered land.  We need what is under the concrete to sustain life.

We can teach others in our communities.  And we can teach the children.  We can teach the children well.  Their father’s hell, will slowly go by.  At least we can hope so.

On this Earth Day, let us commit to saving the dirt.

As sometimes happens, I ran out of words before I ran out of graphics.  I hope you have enjoyed the ones which have gone before and will enjoy those which follow.

Peace out.


Bless the Cycle of Life.



Blossom 2


I found the trailer for Dirt at Youtube:



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    • Robyn on April 22, 2010 at 15:20

    …I’ve had to switch to Safari, since FireFox is not allowing me to comment.

    I’ll be in and out all day.  But I will probably be able to respond to comments from class.  It’s a lab day in Programming II.

    Daily Kos version is here.

  1. I keep scrolling up and down visiting and revisiting them all……

    17,500 farmers……

    if that is not a symptom of the sickness in the soul of our culture I do not what is…….

    we have no reverance for the feminine and no love of the source of life……

    do you believe your journey has given you a unique view on some of this……

    becasue I believe it has…..

    not so much your conclusions which I share……

    but your personal journey to those conclusions which I think gives you a unique perception……

    your gift of images has continued a process which began else where for me this day……

    but all along way I have been exposed to incredible images and they have helped my mind reorient in the beauty of the present……

    thank you once again…..

  2. time this month playing in the dirt. A 3 year old neighbor named Alice as been my assistant. She is a great digger and takes great joy in the creatures we unearth, she is very worried that our planting will disturb them, and ruin their ‘houses’. She does not like the way the spiders look,  but tells me to cover them gently and leave them alone and advises digging elsewhere.. It’s been very interesting as I have been seeing what lives in the dirt with new eyes.  

    Loved this essay and it’s art is fantastic. Berries, spring and the insects, fill me with joy about natures constant renewal, bounty and processes which we are part of..  You too give me new eyes and your visuals are fabulous. Happy earth day to all and everybody should dig our mother she needs to be allowed to breath freely and we should feed her as she feeds us. Thanks Mother Earth.  

  3. captured by Jim Morrison when he sang:

    What have we done to the earth?

    What have we done to our fair sister?

    Ravaged her

    Plundered her

    Ripped her

    Stuck her with knives

    Tied her with fences

    Dragged her down


    Our frightful, male, angry god can build all the Cathedrals he desires, but the simple life cycle of the butterfly is far more instructive to me.

  4. I didn’t burn plastic nor did I pour the motor oil down the storm drain but I did watch for the first time Avatar.

    Jake is right, we have nothing they want, lite beer and blue jeans.

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