From the Earth we come; to the Earth, we return. Those are words we commonly hear at funerals. Having one's time on Earth recounted by loved ones is usually what comes next. But our relationship with the Earth goes well beyond, and deeper, than those two events. With children being born today having life expectancies - assuming things remain liveable here - possibly exceeding 110 years, the gap between "coming from" and "returning to" the Earth is pretty significant. How is it that we don't have an accounting for - or don't reflect on our relationship with the Earth from the time we "come from" until the time we "return to"?
We have lost our intimate connection our ancestors once had with the Earth. We pave over the Earth, creating layers of concrete or asphalt between us and the soil. We build fences and/or walls separating us from wherever it makes an appearance or landscape it into a manicured caricature of is natural state. We surround ourselves with walls and roofs of wood, concrete, steel, and fiberglass. Even the work of producing our food - whether growing, raising, catching, slaughtering and dressing, processing, or baking is delegated to others creating even more distance between us and nature. The idea of disconnectedness was highlighted to me when my first daughter reached second grade and was assigned a project to follow food from "Farm-To-Table". I remember her asking me how bread was made. Her assumption was that it just sorta' showed up on grocery store shelves, not thinking about all the people who make up the value chain responsible for growing, processing, and moving all the elements that have to come together in order for that loaf of bread to show up all nicely wrapped and sliced on a grocery shelf. There is nothing quite so humbling as to have one of your parenting failures smack you in the face. No matter how gently that smack is delivered. At the risk of sounding trite, the lack of mindfulness and awareness - certainly in the Developed World and specifically in the urban areas of the US - is sad and, well, ultimately, dangerous to our continued survival as a species.
There is never a time in our lives when we aren't dependent on the Earth in some way. Yet, we take for granted that things won't change. The atmosphere that we breathe, kept in place by the Earth's gravity, will always remain breathable; the water always remain drinkable; and the soil always remain fertile and provide the food we rely on. When something (or someone) is taken for granted, it means you stop thinking about them and their needs. As anyone who has gone through a breakup or a divorce can tell you, taking a person in a relationship for granted can be a fatal thing for that relationship. All the maintenance work necessary to keep the connection viable or grow gets put off or ignored. Only, what does a breakup between the Earth and Humanity look like? We're living in her house; who do we move in with? Couch surfing isn't an option here. We can't just bounce over to our buddy's place on the next planet over and crash out until things cool down. Well, at least not yet, and probably not in our lifetimes.
I think it's time we had that hard conversation. You know the one: Honey, I am feeling disconnected from "us"... Yeah, that one. Yes, it's time we went into therapy with the Earth and started working on our relationship with her before the relationship can't be saved.
Written by Jeff Chean Co-Founder & Chief Coffee Guy, Groundwork Coffee Co.