This is the second installment of what will be a 13-part exploration of the Atheopagan Principles. The derivation and listing of the Principles is found in Part II of my essay “How I Became an Atheopagan”, which you can read here. To read the whole series, click on the “Atheopagan Principles” tag in the tag cloud on the right.
The second Atheopagan Principle is to honor the Earth. It is the Pagan part of Atheopaganism.
There are plenty of reasons to do so. Planet Earth engendered humanity as a part of its biosphere, and sustains us with the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. It inspires us with beauty sometimes so staggering that it takes our breath away, brings us to tears. Without it we are nothing, and each of us is destined to be folded back into Earth’s evolving story, raw materials for creation of yet more life, yet more iterations of evolution. Even for those few who go to space—perhaps especially for them—the Earth is the alpha and omega of our existence, the only home we know, the wellspring of all we love.
It’s not hard to go on like this, and I probably could for many hours. I would describe places like the Grand Canyon and the heights of the Himalayas, Rockies and Himalayas; the wild coasts and high, magical deserts; the forests, the rivers, the seas, the coral reefs and bays studded with icebergs; the volcanoes and the ongoing marvels of the sky. I would write of the experiences that people have brought back from wilderness, and of the simple joy of stepping outside for a particularly fine sunset.
But you get the point. And love alone is not enough.
The biosphere is currently undergoing a massive extinction event driven—for the first time in its history—not by a random meteoroid impact or the slow seep of volcanic carbon into the atmosphere, but by an organism evolved from the fabric of Earth itself: us. It is called the Anthropocene, and it is a very, very serious matter.
It isn’t serious because we may “kill the Earth”. We do not have the ability to do that. Though we may (and will) extinguish numerous marvelous and beautiful animals and plants forever, life has rebounded before, and there is nothing that can even put a dent in the population of cyanobacteria, from which higher forms of life would surely evolve.
No, the Anthropocene Extinction is serious because we could very well render Planet Earth uninhabitable for ourselves.
It is for this that we must honor the Earth. We must act in accordance with our understanding that climate change is real, that massive die-offs (especially in the oceans) have devastating consequences for our fellow humans as well as for the creatures we annihilate themselves. We must consider carefully the consequences of having children—especially children who will grow to consume resources at a First World clip. We must resist the endless exhortations of our culture to BUY, BUY, BUY, and rather make do with less, find our fulfillment in culture and community instead of in the accumulation of things.
We must do these things not simply because loving the Earth is so easy, but also because our survival may depend on it. Certainly the survival of as many people as are on the planet now depends on it.
The love is easy. The concern is easy. But acting in accordance with that love can be hard. The Atheopagan second Principle tells us to take up that challenge: to live lives with light footprints and in civic responsibility to the Earth, our Earth, our only home.