“Walk as though you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s almost impossible these days to log onto a news service, open a newspaper, or tune in to the evening news on television without hearing some mention of the ongoing debate about global warming. Almost every day, someone on Facebook or some other social media site is posting something about it, either as a legitimate news item or as a commentary or blog entry. Considering my love of nature and my concern for the environment, I wonder that, as an issue, it has not become more important to me than it has.

For one thing, it is too politically imbued for my tastes. And for another, I don’t know nearly enough about it to form an educated opinion, and I sincerely doubt that many do. Yet, we all have our pet theories, and we all either believe that it’s a real concern or we don’t. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Considering the substances we’ve long been dumping into the atmosphere and into our oceans, lakes, and rivers, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if they were having some sort of cumulative effect on our weather patterns, the ozone layer, on sea levels, and on the melting rate of the Polar ice cap. Do I know for sure that they aren’t? No, but all I have to go by is a bunch of conflicting opinions put forth by people who all think they’re right and everyone else is wrong, which is the way all issues seem to be handled nowadays.

The fact remains, however, that all the theories that abound about whether or not we have anything to worry about hinge on another issue that is of great concern to me. And that’s the unprecedented rate at which we continue to poison our environment, merely because, to my knowledge, no other species as highly developed as we has ever walked this planet before and no other has left behind it such a trail of toxic effluents or as deep a carbon footprint as we have in so short a time. Never mind the fact that the earth may be warming at a rate that suggests that most of those who read this won’t be around to see the effects of that. The harm we continue to do to ourselves via the products we use daily is, to me, a much more immediate concern given the fact that there is so much illness in the world that in all probability could be traced to some of those substances.

It’s gotten so bad that even those of us who bemoan it the most vociferously are as responsible as the next person, simply by virtue of the fact that, every few days or so, I climb into my car, start it up, and immediately begin further contaminating the very air I breathe. Yet here I sit, decrying the very thing that I take part willingly in. What discourages me the most is the fact that I really have no choice anymore not to contribute to the poisoning of the earth I live on. To stop doing that, I’d have to rid myself of just about every single thing that I own. Because in some way, shape or form, it is either the product of a process that pollutes or it contributes directly to the process.

My only options are to try to contribute less to the waste stream, use fewer or no harmful products, and hope that nature is resilient enough to offset some of my abuses. It might sound like sentimental claptrap, but when I look out over the ocean, across a pond or into a forest, I can’t help but feel a tremendous sadness at the lack of respect that is shown to what constitutes not only our origins but our means of survival as well. In a sense, we literally bite the hand that feeds us by tossing our trash nonchalantly out a car window or douse or lawns and roses with no regard to the fact that we’re not only poisoning the insects we’re trying to get rid of but ourselves and our beloved pets as well. When we spray our lawns to get rid of dandelions, what the soil doesn’t absorb runs off into the groundwater, and from there into the very water we drink and bathe in. And when we tear up the land to build a new road or shopping center, we are actually injuring ourselves by disrupting all the organisms that live in it and that keep it, and us, alive.

I don’t sit in judgment of anyone else, as I am as much part of this equation as the next person. But I’ve spent a lot of time lately wondering about what’s going on both above and below me with regards to the effects all of our collective actions might be having on processes that were in place long before we stood upright and discovered that we could simply toss out what we no longer wanted or found useful. I find myself wishing that the issue wasn’t so much a case of one set of opinions pitted against another and that once and for all, we stewards of this great earth were told the truth. Then again, there’s that little voice in the back of my mind that keeps whispering the same words ”“ common sense ”“ over and over until I can no longer ignore them.

In the end, it’s all about faith and trusting that the earth, with nature’s help, is resilient enough to withstand all of our, all of my, affronts, intentional, thoughtless, or otherwise. If the historians are correct, then the planet has withstood much during its long existence and managed to recover, and maybe we are not as great a threat as some think we are. Like a recalcitrant child, I’ve caused Mother Earth grief she does not deserve. And if I can’t actually reverse the global trend of abuse and neglect, the least I can do is acknowledge the embrace she has held me in for all my days.

— Rachel Lovejoy, a freelance writer living in Lyman, who enjoys exploring the woods of southern Maine, can be reached via email at [email protected]