Seeking peace. Striving for justice. Together.
By Teo Ufford-Chase
On May 1, I attended another event on climate change and the environment entitled Aphrodite and the Landfill. The event was co-sponsored by several organizations, most notably the Temple of Understanding and the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN. The speaker for the event was a woman named Trebbe Johnson, the founder of the organization Radical Joy for Hard Times. When I arrived at the event, I had certain expectations put in place by the first event I had attended on climate change about small island states. This event completely defied those expectations. I didn't know that two events could be so dissimilar in content and still be speaking to the same issue.
Ms. Johnson opened the event by giving us a picture of a wounded place. A wounded place could be anything from a toxic oil spill to the burned out house next door. When someplace we love is wounded by a disaster, be it manmade or natural, we have an instinctual gut response of grief. But how do we respond to that grief? That was the question that Ms. Johnson wanted us to consider.
She started by giving us a detailed explanation of the five basic assumptions that we make that inhibit our response to the pain of nature. They are as follows:
Ms. Johnson described these assumptions to make the point that we need a new kind of activism. She argued that we need activism more focused on the present. We need an activism that is portable that can be done anywhere. We need an activism that is beautiful, playful, and fun. We need an activism that is good for the earth.
Speaking passionately about this new kind of activism, Ms. Johnson told the group about a radical new movement that she had helped to start called the Earth Exchange. She explained that the Earth Exchange was founded to give everyone a method and guide to renewing their connections to the Earth. The Earth Exchange methodology consists of four easy steps:
After elucidating the concept of Earth Exchange, Ms. Johnson told several empowering stories of the small acts that people did through participation in an earth exchange event. She told a story about a woman who worked in a hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel. The woman worked in a treatment ward completely sterile and devoid of fauna. She saw the absence of green and growing life in the recovery process of the patients as a problem, so as her Earth Exchange, she constructed hanging mobiles of plants that she hung from the roof of the hospital to drape across the window panes of the patients.
I think that this story illuminates the concept that Ms. Johnson was trying to communicate beautifully. One woman, acting alone, without too much effort, was able to reconnect with the environment around her and make a difference in the lives of the patients at the hospital at the same time. This is how the new brand of activism that Ms. Johnson is envisioning begins. Not with some great act with large impact, but instead with many little acts all across the world.
Ms. Johnson concluded her lecture by inviting those gathered to participate in Earth Exchange Day this year on June 22 when people everywhere complete small Earth Exchange programs. Now I extend her invitation to you. I invite you dear reader to participate in an act of Earth Exchange, be it by yourself or with a friend or with a group. No matter how small, everyone can make a difference. I agree with Ms. Johnson, maybe if we can all just take time out of our busy lives to realize how precious the Earth that we live on is, perhaps we will be inspired to take larger action on the seemingly insurmountable issues like Climate Change and Environmental Protection.