A few days ago I was outside, enjoying myself raking leaves while listening to NPR's environmental show, "Living on Earth.'
I learn a lot from "Living on Earth.' I hear hopeful reports about interesting projects to help heal the planet. But of course the news is not always good.
As I raked, in the fragrant, dried leaf-scented air, I thought I heard suppressed tears in the voice of the scientist being interviewed. Her barely contained pain caught my attention as she reported that deep sea coral, a few miles from BP's downed oil rig, is dying. I shared her grief as she explained that since the health of deep sea coral is necessary to the health of organisms at the top levels of the Gulf as well, the impact of the coral dying in the depths is widespread. Further, deep sea coral is so slow-growing that recovery will likely take many decades. Scientists plan tests to determine for certain whether the die-off was caused by the BP oil disaster, as they believe it was. If they are right, then the damage caused by the BP disaster is greater than has yet been acknowledged.
As I listened to these horrifying facts, only the latest in a very long litany of assaults we humans are committing against our planet, I felt a scream well up inside me. It spread through my being, and I pictured myself screaming and screaming, again and again and again, from an anguished, grief-stricken core.
But I did not actually scream. I was silent. I knew screaming would only make me hoarse. And embarrassed if anyone heard me. So I did what I usually do. I swallowed my grief. I penned it inside, and I went about my business of raking as if nothing had happened.
As I continued to rake, I reflected on my grief. Does it make sense, I wondered, to just continue on with my life as if everything is basically okay, as if all is proceeding normally?
Grief, we are told, is a healthy response to loss. Grief should by fully experienced, not suppressed. But isn't the destruction of the living planet of which we are a part, and on which we depend, as worthy of our grief as the loss of any beloved human?
If I learned that a beloved person had died, I wouldn't continue with my raking; I would grieve without holding back. Why don't I also express my grief when my fellow species are carelessly murdered or maimed? Maybe grief over the extinctions of species and the destruction of large swaths of habitat is not 'socially acceptable.' Or maybe we lack meaningful rituals to help us express our grief over the dying of the natural world.