Originally posted on The Art of Place.
I recently read An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams and now wonder, what should I do? She calls to women to join the “Home Stand Act,” a proposal modeled on the Homestead Act in which we set down roots and protect the lands that we inhabit. I like the idea of a movement, a coalition, a joining of minds and holding of hands such as this, and agree that each human being who inhabits space on this beautiful Earth should participate in the conversation, the dialogue, regarding the well-being of our particular corner, our place. Even though Williams’ explicit call is to protect that place we inhabit, I think her implicit hope is that our concern and action not be limited to that particular corner, as our understanding of our place in the larger earth system is essential. The Earth was created to interact as a body, not a collection of limbs and organs independent of other parts. Just as a human soul cannot inhabit a lifeless body in which the systems have been disrupted, the Earth’s parts and organs are equally necessary to its continued function and survival. We need to understand the connectedness just as the blind man needed to know, as he examined his specific part of the elephant, that the other men, as blind as he, were also each defining the same elephant according to that directly beneath their fingertips.
I grew up in the red rock country of southern Utah, part of the desert described by Williams. My own education of the Earth was nurtured by everyone and everything around me– mother, grandmother, family, community, schools and life experience. It would have been easy to stay in that valley, that isolated corner of the world, but I left. I moved to northern Utah to seek education, married, stayed. I am still, however, within manageable reach (three-four hour drive) of the canyons and rocky desert country of which I am a part. University professors with a love of the land expanded my understanding of the interconnectedness in this world and deepened my love of the earth and appreciation of the systems that make it habitable. I have spent the years since then, with the attached life education, reaching a point where I have more confidence to speak up, speak out, to act, and so now I ask again, what should I do?
A “Home Stand Act” can provide a point from which we speak and act. This can be from the security of one’s home and family through letter writing, phone calls, visiting with neighbors and friends. It can be the joining with others in physical events and gatherings of any kind, it can be in virtual gatherings through web groups and blogs. We speak for our local lands, our corners, our places. We support each other in this common Home Stand through articulating our passion, our beliefs, and sharing what we know. There will be those who tell us that we don’t really know, that we’re wrong. We do know. And we need to keep telling that which we know. We are surrounded by those we love and who love us in return, we speak of things that touch our hearts, and we are supported by strong fact and faith-based information that we are ready to share. Williams is asking us to find the courage and resolution within ourselves to speak for the land.
It is inevitable that speaking for the land will become political. Williams quotes Claudine Herrmann’s Tongue Snatchers:
The beauty of the world, the health of its creatures, the emotion of love, and the thirst for justice are sacrificed every day to the will of power, and it astonishes me that all political systems, no matter how different they appear, end up with the same singular result: that of placing life last among all their preoccupations (Williams, 134).
The very thought of being involved in politics is intensely distasteful to me. The land that I love, however, is at the mercy of those with power– economic and political. I must, therefore, step into the political landscape because I have a voice, I am a steward, and I will join with those who are speaking for the land and all life.
So to answer the question what should I do? I say, I will take my “Home Stand.” I will speak and say to those with political power who are shaping the world– the whole world, every corner– “Life” first. This is a living earth. If politicians and policymakers focus on profits, revenues or deficits, and on the political “win” rather than on Life, the Earth as a wondrous living body loses. All life, every single one of us, loses.