After living in the desert for a year, I have come to gain a new appreciation for the environment. In the midwest, environmental responsibility is almost strictly limited to recycling (though admittedly, a very small percentage of people either take the bus, ride their bike, or walk to work). The desert version of environmental responsibility is vastly different, partially because of the region and partially because of the people.
I’m sure it comes as no shock to all of you that in the desert (even the high desert) we have quite the shortage of water. I’ve never lived somewhere that I actually looked forward to the rain; however, New Mexico is a whole different playing field. In the midwest, it seemed as though it rained two or three times a month, and when it did rain, it would pour for a week. The rain was so intense that we would sit inside for hours, just hoping that it would stop so we could go outside. Many times it would be raining so hard that we couldn’t see even a foot in front of the car, making it impossible to drive. It used to be somewhat of a joke that as soon as it started raining, we would see more people pulled over on the side of the highway than actually driving on it. Here, that isn’t the case.
We are currently in what is supposed to be our monsoon season (my favorite time of the year here). It rains pretty much every day for about 20 minutes and then goes right back to being sunny. This year, however, that hasn’t happened yet. Sure, it has rained a few times in the past two months, but nowhere near as much as it’s supposed to. This lack of rain leads to extended periods of incredibly high fire warnings (for those of you playing the home game, most of our part of the state has, at some point, been on fire in the last two months…and most of that area is still closed).
So here in New Mexico, it is amazing to see how the people treat the earth on which they live. The entire theme around which everything is based has to do with the natural state of the desert. All of the architecture reflects this, the art reflects this, and even the music reflects this (keep your ears open in November for the premier of one Desert Faith Mass which promises to be amazing…or, I promise it’ll be amazing…I should know, because I’ve heard most of it). In a discussion with a friend the other day, we both noted that in many places in the country, people landscape with plants nonindigenous to their region. The more things you can fit in your yard, the better–especially if the plants are “out-of-towners.” In New Mexico, for example, there isn’t a lot of grass. If you have a yard full of grass, people actually look at you like you are insane (which honestly, if you have grass, you ARE insane). We both said the same thing: “Do you know how much water you’re wasting by trying to keep that grass alive?”
So when is it that we decide that taking care of the environment is more important than bending it to our whim? When do we stop treating the earth like our personal molding clay and start treating it with respect? It is our job to take care of the environment, not destroy it. It is our job to live amongst it, not radically alter it in order to make it something that “works better” with our lifestyles.
We’ve been singing this song at church for the last month or so, and I feel like it’s pretty appropriate to put right here. Maybe it’ll make you think–maybe it won’t. At any rate, at least it might make you vaguely more aware of the larger picture, even at a subconscious level.
Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care;
Gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.
Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet;
Health in God’s Garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete.