This is not the post I’d intended to write.
“Happy Earth Day!”, is how I imagined the opening, since today (Monday) is actually, officially, Earth Day. “Although if you celebrate Earth Day, you probably already did that over the weekend.” That’s what would come next.
My plan was to spend all day Sunday at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, an enormous annual 2-day eco-loving extravaganza. Did you know that it was a 1969 oils spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, that led to the creation of the very first Earth Day in 1970? So our festival is famous and we do it up right . . . well, at least we’re supposed to.
And my plan was to spend the day there with Waits, and take lots of pretty pictures, and then Sunday night I would write a reflective post on this precious planet of ours.
I did go to the festival, and I did spend all day there. But now, Sunday night, I don’t feel so much like writing that post anymore. I actually just kind of feel like crying.
Today I saw a young cow, living, black and soft and quiet, on display behind a farm gate while workers at that booth handed out coupons for a dollar off their hamburgers.
Today I watched, horrified, as people crowded in to “hold the baby chicks”. The same group of chicks, for 7 hours straight. Passed roughly from hand to hand, over and over, and over and over. One squeaking afraid, in pain, because a toddler was pinching the neck. His mom just wasn’t really watching, I guess? My friend shook her head, “Those chicks are going to die – they’ll be dead in a few days. There’s no way they can survive this trauma.” 7 hours straight. 2 days in a row.
There are times when I find myself in unexpected, difficult situations, and I can rise to meet whatever challenge may be presenting itself. I have snarled fierce and fearless into the face of a man who had roughed up a girlfriend. I have thrown my body onto hot pavement, into traffic, in protest. I’ve called folks out – friends and strangers alike – on their racism, their homophobia, their prejudice. And I’ve stood up for animals.
There are other times, when I find myself in unexpected, difficult situations, that I just. shut. down.
Today I watched a turkey, a big proud male resplendent with his plumage, who had been set free to wander near a booth. Children would run up to “pet” him – approaching cautiously, full of nervous energy, then quick like lightening striking out with their hand, and then screaming, and then running away. Adults did it too. Chasing him.
I was stunned, and all I could think to do was to explain to Waits, VERY VERY LOUDLY, why we would not be spending our time near the turkey. “Do you see baby? His mouth is wide open and he’s panting – it’s because he’s terrified. He doesn’t want to be touched. He’s so scared and he’s trying to tell us, he doesn’t want us to touch him. We’re going to leave now because he’s afraid and he doesn’t want us here.”
Today, at Earth Day, I had to call in an order at a Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks away, because there was LITERALLY NOT A SINGLE THING I COULD EAT FOR LUNCH. It was meat meat cheese meat meat cheese eggs and meat. And funnel cake.
And I wandered the food court and I just couldn’t help but think, “What a disconnect.”
It made me sad, but mostly it made me MAD. I spent the whole day traversing that park, and I didn’t see a single vegetarian-focused booth (it’s possible I missed one?). No vegan outreach, no food, no representation at all. At an Earth Day! In a day and age when we know for a fact that the choice to eat meat has infinitely more of an environmental impact than choices regarding transportation, energy efficiency in the home, water conservation, etc.
What a disconnect.
I had a great time at Earth Day this year. I hung out with my amazing kid all day long, I spent my hours with friends old and new, I soaked up the big bright beautiful sun, listened to live music, saw some cool exhibits and vendors.
But my heart was heavy when I left, and I’m still processing what I witnessed today. Lucky for me, I’m the kind of person who takes sadness and anger and uses it as kindling to forge a big ‘ol fire under my ass. I have plans now, big plans, for some big changes to next year’s Earth Day.
And the mantra “Be the change you wish to see in the world” has been chanting itself in my head all night.
Why wasn’t veganism represented at Earth Day? Because I wasn’t there representing it.
Why were those animals being publicly tortured? Because we haven’t been hollering our oppositional voices loudly enough.
So that’s my lesson, Earth Day 2013.
Consider my fire re-ignited.