This weekend I feel so much pride; I’m proud to be the mother of two of the best girls on the planet. And I think about the stewardship of that planet a lot. This Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think about Mother Earth. The name Mother Earth transcends cultures and time, and it makes sense. If there is one thing that unites us all, it’s that we all have a mother. And beyond our (amazing, beautiful, brave and devoted) biological mothers, the mother we all share is this planet Earth. Mother Earth is like the mothers who birthed us: she is our life source, and much of what we depend on for physical survival comes from her. That dependence is still very much about biology.
Why then, has her protection become a political discussion? Issues concerning the protection of our earth, its biodiversity, and ultimately our very existence are being minimized, and important and hard-fought environmental protections established under previous administrations are being undone. Simple facts and information about things that affect our lives directly aren’t readily available, making us less equipped to protect our own well-being. Here are some things about our environment and physical health that you might not know:
Toxicity in mothers (via the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the water we bathe in) is often multiplied to fetuses in the womb, or to newborns via breast milk. This means fetuses are our most vulnerable population, and yet fetal studies are not always considered when state regulators set acceptable standards for toxicity.
Synthetic air fresheners like Febreze contain known cancer-causing toxins that are not disclosed on the label. These are just one of many household products where known toxins are allowed in production and not adequately regulated by state agencies. These are products that can easily be replaced with non-synthetic or non-toxic chemicals.
The use of mutated seeds (commonly known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) often means a higher use of synthetic pesticides, some of which are already known to cause cancer. Over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are dumped on the earth in the United States every year.
There is so much injustice in the world, that it’s hard not to feel frustrated and helpless that we can’t solve all of these problems at once. We all have families, full-time jobs, and frankly the need for fun and relaxation, so we can’t be expected to devote as much time as is needed to every cause. This is why we elect representatives to have full-time jobs (and the necessary staff) devoted to researching policy problems and developing meaningful solutions. Their jobs are to set up the necessary regulations (or deregulations) so that everyday people can live with faith that our health and safety is protected; freedom to explore our own interests and spirituality; and means to enjoy life.
But lately these representatives are failing us. Many of them don’t seek to represent our interests, they only seek to serve themselves and their greed. In some cases they literally attempt to write themselves out of defective legislation – thus not only creating bad policies for us, but protecting themselves against the effects of those bad policies. To me this is one of the prime examples of the undemocracy that we currently live under.
For these reasons, our work and our family lives are no longer enough. I’m not calling on every reader to become a community activist. When you are feeling overwhelmed with what role you can play in the community, remember that you don’t have to do everything. Choose one issue, and one way in which you can contribute. Even becoming more knowledgeable about one subject area can do a world of difference. Choose an injustice or policy issue that you care about the most. Read about it. Learn everything you can. If nothing else, you’ll be more prepared the next time you go to the polls.
More importantly, we must all start speaking up. Public policy can no longer be that topic that’s hidden under the dinner table, but it doesn’t have to be the dinner table where you talk about it. It also doesn’t have to be – and really, to be more effective, shouldn’t be – combative. Just asking sincere questions or offering factual information at least encourages people to think more about their claims about social policies. You would be surprised how little it takes for someone to change their mind (it’s why there are undecided voters!). But, we are all human, and we do like to change our minds in private don’t we? Don’t expect to win an argument, but be satisfied that you spoke up.
Some of you have already devoted your careers (even lives) working for justice, peace, health and prosperity for everyone. If this is you then remember to give yourself a break too: take time to breath, meditate, and enjoy family and relaxation when you can. You’ll be that much more of a fighter if you do.
Enjoy Mother’s Day, whether you’re celebrating as a mother, a son or daughter, a grandmother, or a friend. Mothers are what tie us all together, so it’s really a celebration of all of us. Let’s make this Mother’s Day about loving each other, respecting our earth, and being true to our hearts. Let’s become that community that we can all be proud of.