Being born in Canada, a country of vast natural resources and exquisite landscapes, I have always loved the land. In fact, when I became an artist some 35 years ago, I made it my primary subject matter. My goal always was to capture moments in time that I hoped would heighten the viewer’s appreciation of Earth’s beauty.
Gaia the Earth Mother
Little did I realize that 20 years down the road, an even deeper understanding of reverence for the land would come to me in Hawaii. Even someone “out of touch” with the land would find it difficult to deny the existence of Gaia in the Hawaiian Islands. Gaia (or Gaea) is the primal Mother Earth goddess in Greek mythology. In native Hawaiian culture, she is known as Papa (the short version of the Maori name Papatuanuku). Her presence permeated Hawaii and I felt at peace there.
Native peoples show respect for the land
In both Hawaii and New Zealand (where I later spent time), the native peoples are very present and visible in the culture. And, they are very proud of their cultural heritage and their connection to the land. For native peoples the land is not something meant to pillage and strip bare for profit. We are meant to live in cooperation and harmony with it, and preserve its beauty as much as possible.
An excerpt from my article Reverence for the Land and Each Other:
“Early Hawaiians believed that the earth was a living being with its own consciousness. They never tried to dominate or own the land, but believed in taking care of the land and living in harmony with it. In Hawaiian language, this is called ‘pono’, or being in harmony with one’s self and the environment, for they are all elements of one energy… In Hawaiian culture, successful cohabitation with the land depended on several principles; these involved cooperation and a sense of community among the people who worked the land. Caring for the land (malama aina) was accomplished through working together (lokahi) and using many hands (laulima).”
We are at a crisis point
We see an escalating number of articles in the news about pollution and the demise of certain species of animals. A big one is the threat that plastic garbage poses, particularly to the health of our oceans and the wildlife that lives there. For humans it seems it is often a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. If things are not right in our faces, we find it easy to ignore them. But, soon it will reach a stage where it cannot be ignored. Our lack of respect for the land could very well result in our own demise.
What can any one person do?
As individuals, even if we are awake and aware of the problem, a feeling of lack of personal power can result in apathy. But, much of our clout is rooted in our ability to say one small-but-mighty 2-letter word. NO. NO. NO. Say no to products that are derived from rape of the land, and/or, mistreatment of other human beings. And as much as possible, say no to products that are non-recyclable or produced from non-renewable natural resources. As long as we keep supporting these greedy corporations financially, the rape and pillaging and destruction will continue.
Do your research, and just say “no”.
Garbage on oceans,
Pachamama weeps heartbreak.
Her children are lost.
There is a lot out there on the Internet about our ecological problems. And yes, we need to acknowledge and understand them before we can come up with solutions. But on a positive note, here’s a website to inspire you about what is possible with community. Read about the efforts on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, to preserve the land in reverence of the old ways. And then ask yourself, what can you do personally, and what can your community do, to preserve and honor the land?
Molokai Land Trust – The Future, in Honor of Our Native Past
Related poem: Gaia the Earth Goddess