We need a paradigm shift in order to save the planet. It is a shift to some very simplistic thinking that, if we believed it and followed it, would make all other decisions and efforts regarding the environment easy. This is a shift to caring for each other, for each individual’s well being. Saving the planet begins with the respect of each other.
Walt Whitman had this idea and said it this way in Leaves of Grass:
“In all people I see myself; none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself, I say of them.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we are above the rest of nature. I am saying that we are such a part of nature that not being as concerned with each other as much as we are concerned with the land, ocean, and air will stymie all of our efforts in these other areas. I am saying that we have to approach caring for each other as we would approach caring for the jaguar.
I’m also not saying that a religious approach to this would work. In fact, I would argue that religion gets in the way of respecting each other. We can’t seem to get over whose god is the right one so I’d suggest we set our gods aside if we want to save the earth.
Comedian George Carlin had the same idea and said it this way:
“We’re so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another.. . . And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. … Compared with the people, the planet is doin’ great. It’s been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn’t goin’ anywhere, folks. We are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, we’re goin’ away. And we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.”
George was right. We haven’t figured out how to care for ourselves.
If we really truly care for each other, caring for the rest will naturally follow. Cultures in which each individual is not respected – in which women or the poor are oppressed, for example (and you must include our country in this; we are one of the least caring of nations) – will never reach the measures needed to protect the planet. We must look at the bigger cost of our conveniences and expenditures to see who suffers at the price of a bottle of water or a gallon of gasoline. Who really pays for the American nuclear waste site or the oil spill along an African coast or the garbage in the ocean?
As a side note: To learn about how the environmental policies of Obama and Romney fair, read the article “Climate Change and the 2012 Presidential Debate” on one of The Boulder Stand blogs, which happens to be written by my daughter Lucy Higgins. The Boulder Stand, an on-line publication, “publishes and promotes the work of journalists, researchers and thinkers connected to the Boulder community–a nexus of science, technology and environmental research.”
Thoreau wrote: “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.” I would argue that in the respect of each individual in every culture is the preservation of the wildness.
See that woman over there? The one working along side you? Or the one
nursing her baby? Or the one with the burka? Or the one hauling water? She
is not your mother, sister, daughter. She is
You. And because she is you,
You will make sure her water is accessible and clean.
You will not overtake her body, her house, her land because you understand her need for her to make decisions for her own being, her own shelter, her own
You will care that she has food that is pure, healthy, abundant. Because she is you,
You will make sure the land is rich in natural nutrients, not chemicals;
You will see that cows eat what is normal for cows to eat so that
You eat what is normal to eat.
You will not grow or sell grain for the purpose of profit but for the purpose of respect
to those who will eat it with you.
You will not hoard water from those who are downstream. How can you drink
water that isn’t there?
You will not pour hazardous waste in to the streams. How can you drink
You will not dump hazardous waste near any body. If you really care,
You will make sure there is no hazardous waste to dump.
You will allow a patch of garden for her because she is you and your body must
absorb what it was meant to absorb.
You will conserve, using resources respectfully instead of greedily so that you will
always have resources.
You will allow access to education, to the development of her mind, which is your
mind, and allow access to the development of her spirit, which is your spirit.
See the child in that woman’s arms? It is you. It is not your son or daughter, but is
You will allow the child to be a child by providing basic needs. After all,
You need to eat food that is grown nearby in soil that is rich;
You need shelter that protects you from rain, storms, sun, snow, people;
You need clean water. Because you are the child,
You need access to safe streets, music, trees…
Anaphora is a term with its roots in Greek, meaning “a carrying up or back.” As a literary device, it refers to the repetition of an opening word or phrase and works as a type of parallelism throughout the poem or other pieces of writing, such as the short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. The repetition of opening phrases can often resemble a litany. In fact, as “one of the world’s oldest poetic techniques, anaphora is used in much of the world’s religious and devotional poetry, including numerous Biblical Psalms” (from poets.org – see link below).
The repetition of the beginning word or phrase thrusts the reader into each line, renewing and emphasizing the point. Anaphoric lines can also create a list-like effect. Walt Whitman used the technique frequently in his long poems and it is those poems I used as a model for the one above. If you skim through Leaves of Grass, you will find anaphora such as in “I Hear America Singing”:
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing…
The shoemaker singing…
The wood-cutter’s son…
Other anaphoric phrases that Whitman used include “Chants of…,” “I will…,” “See…,” “I know…,” “In vain…,” among many, many others including those found in one of his most famous poems “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.”
While perhaps we think of Whitman first for the use of anaphora, William Shakespeare used it in many of his pieces and Allen Ginsberg used it in his most famous poem, “Howl.”
Anaphora emphasizes the particular emotional tone of a poem and this is what I hope happens in the poem “About Nature.” Beginning so many lines with “You will” and later in the poem with “You need,” the intent is to constantly connect the reader back to well-being of every woman, child, or man on the planet. Additionally, the repetition is intended to drive home that each of us has a responsibility for caring for each other.