A sampling of writings, speeches, and words about the Earth.
"The earth is so beautiful. We are beautiful also. We can allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don't need to wish our friends, 'Peace be with you.' Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment."-
Thich Nhat Hanh
God in the Moss
BY MARGARETOH · PUBLISHED OCTOBER 19, 2016 - EXPONENT II
hree or four years ago, I started on a journey of my testimony of moss. It began at the Exponent retreat, as I listened to a moss prophetess in her holy space. Kirsten Ward co-wrote a field guide for North American mosses and is a leading scholar on the subject. She took a group of us on a walk through the woods. Kirsten’s enthusiasm for moss is infectious and very quickly we were spread out, kneeling on the leaf-strewn ground and gingerly moving plants and rocks in order to see the moss better. We used a hand lens that made the texture and complexity of moss suddenly apparent to our eyes. We learned about different species, observed various stages of reproduction, and listened to a history of moss that dates back almost 500 million years. I returned home with my brain dwelling on moss, a plant I had never before pondered.
I have always believed in the importance of raising children outdoors. At the time of the first moss walk I was living with my husband and young daughter in inner-city Baltimore and we rarely made the trek outside the city for a real hike. But on our walks through the city we could observe moss every day. My daughter and I would crouch down next to buildings or rocks in the park, reveling in our ability to apply our spare knowledge of this extraordinary plant to the subject in front of us. All through that winter and spring, my daughter’s voice would frequently chirp up with, “Look, Mom! MOSS!” When we did manage to go on a real hike, she was frequently reinvigorated to continue walking with a sighting of moss along the path.
Last year my family—now with three children in tow—moved to a new state and bought a house in the woods. Finding nature is easier and more obvious now, although I do not believe that finding moss in the woods is that different from finding moss in the cracks of sidewalks. The trees are so dense in our neighborhood that growing grass is quite difficult and many people have moss lawns. The green is vibrant year-round and a mixture of species creates incredible richness of color and texture. Sometimes when I’m desperate to get the kids outside and busy for fifteen minutes, I’ll ask them to find me five different kinds of mosses and then have them organized by color or shape. For Christmas this year I plan to give my daughter a moss field guide and her own hand lens so that she can continue growing the interest in moss that was planted on the streets of Baltimore.
I believe that moss is not just an odd, esoteric interest for my family. When people spend time outside, they develop a sense of something bigger than themselves. I believe that the natural world is a holy space, perfectly designed for us to embark on spiritual and philosophical internal dialogues that nudge us toward increased humility and better perspective. Outside I learn to be still, to listen, and to return to my world knowing that I am not the center of it. The times I spend sitting quietly and observing an insect are, for me, some of the most soul-filling and worshipful experiences I have. Call it what you like—Mother Nature, divinity, the awesomeness of biology—but I find God in moss, leaves, and bugs in a way that is very similar to what I’ve found in any religion.
I hope that my kids choose to stay in the LDS church. It is my home, my native language, and I hope they feel the same way. If not, I hope that they have some kind of relationship with God. That’s why I make them go outside every day. That’s why we crouch down and observe the moss. Because if they ever decide that religion is not for them—and they very well might—I want them to at least have a sense of the divine, a sense that there is something bigger and lovelier than anything we can imagine with our narrow scope and understanding. Finding a sense of awe doesn’t have to be limited to incredible vistas or peaked cathedrals, although I feel it in those places as well. Moss leaves are just one cell thick. I can’t think of another plant that is so ubiquitous, so tiny, so lacking in receipt of comment or attention. Yet I believe in finding God in the moss.
My view: Religious faith and environmental stewardship
By George Handley
Editorial for the Deseret News
Published: Nov. 1, 2016 12:05 a.m
As the religious response across the world has made clear, the concern for the creations around us must translate into an awareness of and responsibility for the impact of our choices on the environment.
In this era of alarming rates of extinction and human-caused climate change, we have seen an extraordinary outpouring of concern for the environment across the globe from Catholics and Jews, Hindus and Muslims, evangelicals and Buddhists. It’s not hard to understand why. Stewardship of the environment is an important principle in every religious tradition.
This response certainly ought to put to rest the old and tired stereotype of the environmentalist as someone who worships nature but not God or who cares more for plants than for people. The religious concern for the environment, as Pope Francis has most recently exemplified in his remarkable encyclical on climate change, is based on a profound respect for life — for all forms of life and for all the gifts of creation — and in principled devotion to alleviate the suffering of the poor who are disproportionately affected by all symptoms of environmental degradation. After all, a polluted or dangerous environment makes it hard to raise a family or for the young to hope for the future.
I am struck by how consistent this global religious response has been with the teachings of my own faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a Mormon, I am taught that plants and animals are “living souls” and that all life has a right to have joy in its posterity. I am commanded to use natural resources with “judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion,” and I am warned: “Wo be unto man who wasteth flesh and hath no need.” My faith teaches that I do not own the earth or its resources and that my material wealth should be used to lift the young and the poor. My faith, in other words, means that my concern for the poor and for the well-being of families must include concern for all of creation.
As the religious response across the world has made clear, this concern must translate into an awareness of and responsibility for the impact of our choices on the environment. Every one of us contributes to our bad air, our degraded water sources and our changing climate. Everything we eat or drink, everything we wear, every time we transport ourselves, or every night we tuck our children into bed on a down pillow, we are teaching our children how to prioritize our wants and needs in using the earth’s precious natural resources.
Modern living has so profoundly divorced us from our impact on the land that it is altogether too easy to ignore the degradations we have caused. The earth’s bounty is taken for granted or, worse, we assume that these material goods that make human flourishing possible come from some magical and unlimited source.
We might give thanks for our food or praise a beautiful sunset, but until we learn a more reverent stewardship of the earth, we are treating the earth like a vending machine or a movie theater. The cost of our indifference is not just financial but, perhaps more important, is a cost to all of creation and to future generations and it only will increase over time. Only a more modest and conscientious lifestyle and an aggressive transition to clean and renewable energy sources can mitigate the considerable impact we Americans have on the environment.
We should hold our elected officials to much higher standards of stewardship, but we also must assume greater responsibility for living up to the highest moral principles we hold dear. If people of faith are serious about ending inequality and restoring dignity to the lives of the most poor, and if they are serious about safeguarding family well-being, then they should be serious about honoring the Creator by respecting his creations, avoiding overconsumption in all of its forms, and protecting the earth’s sacred sources of physical life.
Among the many important issues confronting our nation, let us remember that we cannot strengthen families, uplift the poor or build strong and resilient communities without mitigating and even repairing the damage we do to the earth.
George Handley serves on the boards of The Nature Conservancy, LDS Earth Stewardship and Utah Humanities and is the author of "Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River."