Once upon a time, there was a garden. And a woman and a man walked in the cool of noon and were unafraid.
We began to mutilate; we began to deprive. The garden spilled into wilderness and parched into wasteland. We tilled the ground with bulldozers and we planted it with concrete. Bigger built the buildings and more sacred were the factories. They cleansed us of the sin of poverty; they planted possessions in our hands until they overgrew our lives like blessed weeds, redeeming us from vulnerability.
We conquered weather with air conditioning; we conquered time with transportation. The more we lorded over earth, the more we felt the legitimacy of our lordship. We were so separate in our power that we felt the need to sing, "we are above all earthly living things!"
But the garden was gone.
Gone was the careful cultivation. Gone the creaturely communion. The earth had long been burdened, but only when we began to suffer did we realize that separation from nature is a dangerous abstraction. We breathe the very air that we pollute, we eat from a poisoned land. Far from exercising dominion over an outside earth, we have been mutilating our own bodies and depriving our own souls.
I once researched with a professor the profoundly unseen Western ideology of radical individualism. We don't even question the ideas that this ideology generates: that there exists the possibility of personal failings (rather than the reality that every small action we perform will affect the whole world eventually), that we can be happy by ourselves (rather than the research-based reality that all happy people are deeply entangled in healthy relationships), and that we owe nothing to anyone (while I maintain that this is the surest route to a loss of meaning).
Are we capable of understanding how profoundly we are failing?
To understand would be to change, so it's easy to block this understanding. I remind myself of this when I want to buy something unnecessary, when I want to delay our slow elimination of plastics in our kitchen. Inconvenience deters morality, assuaging personal responsibility and keeping us comfortably immune to the initial protests of conscience. To understand would be to change.
So let the earth suffer. But someday (now), we will begin suffering too.