It's Earth Day, a recognition that I feel has become as regimented, stilted, and looked over as Flag Day or Professional Assistant II Day (formally Secretary's Day). I'm by nature an introverted, melancholic, misanthropic guy; I contribute to the degradation of this planet. I'm sucking energy from coal-fired power plants right now, a resource ripped from the earth like a kidney from an abducted person for the black market organ trade. My natural gas heat just kicked in. I'll drive five miles to work in my 27mpg car. I'm sure I just ate tons of gmo junk in my blueberry muffin.
In the last day Lincoln has received over an inch of rain -- this is a miracle after last year's 12" drought which is now down to about 8". It's cool outside. The plants are barely poking up, but at least it keeps the anxious lawnmowing husband inside another day or two. I celebrate the rain as the plants ease into another potential drought.
Out here on the Plains high commodity prices are obliterating the last remnants, and I mean remnants, of the tallgrass prairie, and continuing to erode the arid mixed grass prairies. Last week in a class the same old topic came up from students, "Don't we need corn for food?" No. The beef industry needs it to fatten up cows who will some day clog our arteries. Feed lot owners have us wrapped around their fingers, then by extension big agricultural where a few large companies own the entire flyover country, pumping us full of corn syrup, spraying gmo crops that can take pesticides -- unlike the thousands of insects species, unlike milkweed that supports a monarch butterfly population on the brink.
The only hope environmentalists point to is humanity's capacity for emotion and logical thinking, sympathy, reflection, a brain so adapted and powerful it can do anything. Well, it can do anything, but it doesn't. It's easy not to care, not to fight, not to change because, in part, giant corporations have in essence written the state and federal laws that make it so hard for a common person to fight. Change never comes easy, I suppose, and most certainly not good change, not freedom, not the ideals this country presumes to be based upon.
I feel like a serf in a corrupt lord's kingdom. An Indian fighting British rule. A monarch butterfly tiring out, darting and circling among homogenous and barren fields for any milkweed at all.
Gardening is an act of defiance. It is as violent as storming the gates of congress or chaining one's self to oil pipeline equipment. Planting heirloom and organic vegetables is a flipping of the bird to Scott's and Cargill and an embracing of our respect for the planet that sustains us. Planting nearby pollinator-attracting plants like aster, milkweed, ironweed, joe pye weed, mountain mint, and coneflower will increase the number of insects -- the base of so much life in the world.
Touching the soil is recalling a memory as rich and soothing and mesmerizing as being in the womb. Dirt under our nails invokes a primal memory, a latent gene we shove forcibly to the side when we plug in and tune out, when we give up and head indoors, or insist on battling and subduing our suburban kingdoms with petrochemicals and lawns. Gardening is warfare. Gardening is a battle. Native plants are a flag placed on a hill, a line drawn across the Jeffersonian grid that blankets our nation. Gardening is an act of democracy, it produces freedom of body and mind and soul. Gardening brings us home to the pulse of bumblebee wings celebrating with us the power and the glory of creation, and our ability to use our best selves to liberate the planet, which in turn liberates ourselves.