The oil spill and the soul of nature

“I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe,” Goddess liturgy written by Doreen Valiente. You don’t … Continued

“I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe,” Goddess liturgy written by Doreen Valiente.

You don’t have to be a Pagan to know that animals have awareness and are capable of both suffering and compassion–every dog owner knows that! Pagans see all the world as animate, imbued with life and spirit. Every aspect of life is important and has a role to play in the whole.

The Pagan view sees everything as interconnected. As we look at the pictures of birds and sea creatures drenched in toxic oil and dying, we are horrified both by the individual suffering they represent and by the toll on the larger systems of life. The suffering of a seabird causes me pain, whether or not I allow it to come to consciousness. The toll of the spill on the life and biodiversity of the Gulf diminishes us all.

No amount of money can ever repair the damage that BP has done by its criminal negligence and carelessness. BP never had a realistic plan to deal with an accident or a spill. They cut corners on safety and plumbing, and attempted to conceal the scope of the disaster and the amount of oil that is actually leaking. Their callousness has caused irreparable damage to the ecosystems of the Gulf and may have destroyed whole communities whose culture is linked to the once-thriving biodiversity of the bayous and deltas of the south. They must be held accountable for the damage as far as amends can be made, and in a way severe enough to prove a deterrent to other companies tempted to put profits above the safety of their own workers and the environment.

If a vandal spilled oil over a neighbor’s yard, he’d be sent to jail. Why should BP executives go free, when they are responsible for the greatest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, one that has killed vast numbers of living things, destroyed the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people, and endangered the survival of many keystone species? In the Pagan view, ecocide is a heinous crime on a level with genocide–for indeed, to kill an ecosystem is to destroy the people and cultures that depend on it for survival.

The BP disaster should be a clear lesson to us all–that the age of oil is over. We cannot afford the impact on the earth’s climate of continuing to burn fossil fuels, nor the risks inherent in searching for oil in ever-deeper water or more pristine places. Were the costs of disasters and cleanups, the immense costs in life and suffering factored into the costs of production, it would be clear that oil has become unaffordable by any standard. Yes, we will all be required to give us some comforts and convenience to make the shift–but not nearly as many as people fear. Safe and renewable alternatives exist–sun, wind, water, a bit of muscle power, a focus on the local and the truly sustainable would give us an energy policy and the beginning of a new culture and economy that could bring us back into balance with the natural world. Without that balance, there is no security. No terrorist attack on the US has done anything close to the damage that BP has done. No amount of armaments will save us if our oceans no longer produce food or oxygen, our waters are poisoned and our soils blow away.

The world needs to shift to values which have long been held by Pagans but are certainly not unique to us. Indeed, every religion holds within it an imperative to care for and nurture creation. We must make a shift to a culture that values life over profits and the health of the environment over the financial balance sheet. To do so is not only a moral and religious imperative but a matter of survival. We are meant to be earth healers, not destroyers, and a moral person is one who cares for the web of life which sustains and supports us all.

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  • gimpi

    Very well put, Starhawk. No matter what our beliefs, we are all dependent on the interconnected threads of life that work to make life on earth not only possible but a wonder. And all beliefs need to understand that the realities of the physical world transend belief. The current patterns of use and abuse of the natural world is unsustainable. We need to be honest about the changes we need to make, while we still have the option of choosing to make changes. If we don’t get off the dime, we may find ourselves with no choice at all.

  • APaganplace

    So say we all. Solstice blessings, and Gods be with us all. May the Earth-shaker find we’ve finally learned, and close this wound, if we cannot.