For several years I’ve had the good fortune to watch the principle of “healing the people by healing the land” unfold among a group of youths, many of them with more troubles than you could imagine.
Six years ago, I was out at the Fort Worth Prairie Park in the southwestern portion of the county when some adults led a brigade of young people armed with rakes, shovels and several varieties of native grasses and flowers in an attempt to heal the damage to the land from a newly buried gas pipeline.
Because this wound to the earth would expose the native prairie to being infected by invasive species of plants, these kids were sowing seeds of grasses and flowers that naturally belonged there.
The youngsters were part of the Plains Youth InterACTION program of the Great Plains Restoration Council, which has been trying to save for future generations portions of the 1,983-acre tallgrass prairie.
Jarid Manos, GPRC founder and executive director, has constantly preached to them about the “physical similarities between their bodies and Earth; bloodstreams and creeks,” which he describes succinctly as “Body and Earth; soul and soil.”
That message was very much on display at the Earth Day event in Dallas’ Fair Park last month, where I saw some of the GPRC youngsters from Fort Worth who had been part of that prairie-saving mission in 2009. They were almost unrecognizable, for they had grown up, all looking healthy and happy.
Seeing those youngsters thrilled my soul, but surely one of the highlights of the Dallas event, sponsored by Earth Day Texas, was a soul-stirring address by Karenna Gore, the oldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore.
In a speech that was more like a sermon that summoned up spirits from the past, Gore was able to connect her Tennessee roots to the pioneering Texas spirit, noting that Davy Crockett and 31 other Tennesseans fell at the Alamo. And quipping a line from country singer Tex Ritter, she said:
“They say Virginia is the mother of Texas. We never knew who the father was, but we kinda suspect it was Tennessee.”
Gore, who was recently appointed director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York, had a speech that was universal but keenly tailored for Texans, particularly those in this state who resent the efforts of “environmental wackos” out to save the earth.
She reminded us that we have roots beyond those planted by folks from Tennessee.
“Native Americans, African Americans and Latinos are also part of your root system. As is the land itself,” she said.
And Gore noted, “The wisest Texans never tried to simply dominate this land. They were shaped by it as they settled within it. Comanches and other first nations taught settlers coming from the East some hard lessons — and also helped them in untold, countless ways.”
Gore said she has never been fond of the term “climate change” because it suggests the problem is merely a meteorological one. Rather, she relates it partly to the spiritual problem that defines “environmental” (water, soil, air and other living things) as “something separate from people.”
She said she understands the cry for freedom, but “a new relationship with the earth will help us to recapture a form of freedom that is vanishing so subtly that we do not see the traces of its disappearance.”
She added, “We used to know the rivers and watersheds, the subtle signs of the seasons. Now it seems we are in a permanently sanitized, climate-controlled, commodified setting. Instead of citizens, we have become a nation of self-appointed VIPs. ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ has been shortened to just plain ‘Give me.’ That’s not freedom.”
Everyone should read her speech. The link is: http://www.centerforearthethics.org/voices/integrity-and-earth-honoring-our-roots-while-enhancing-progress.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775