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Although we won’t be gathering en masse to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th birthday, it doesn’t mean we can’t spend the day honoring Mother Earth. In fact, just for the occasion, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) is hosting #TogetherWeEarthrise, a virtual festival on Wednesday, April 22, that will feature conservation-minded speakers and musicians. The artists slated to perform — from their homes, of course — include Kenny Loggins, Zach Gill, Michael McDonald, Tina Schlieske, and Glen Phillips.
I recently caught up via email with Phillips, who had some thoughtful responses to my questions about music and nature.
Does nature spark your songwriting? There have always been threads of natural inspiration in my writing. It’s not the only one, but it’s up there. I notice that when I’m trying to write something that feels more enduring and less specifically situational, nature holds all the best imagery and metaphor. I also notice that the more I’m paying attention, the less I feel there is anything but nature — we’re part of a vast, multifaceted organism. As much as we believe in functional fictions like economies, nationalities, and hierarchies, the truth is we’re just a bunch of mortal squishy things going out and exploring, just as all life does.
How can we look to nature for inspiration and guidance during this pandemic? Getting outside of the frantic pace of doing and producing gives us a great opportunity to slow down and remember what it feels like to just be. I’ve had some periods during these weeks where I’ve over invested in distracting myself — binge watching Netflix or sucking down all the news I can find. It leaves me anxious and afraid. When I’ve gone outside, felt the sun, listened to the birds, and turned down the noise, I can start to feel a little peace again. The more I try and tamp down the nervousness, the bigger it becomes. The more I allow the feelings and sink back into the pace of nature, the more I find I can move through it and find peace again.
What is your favorite natural setting — e.g., mountains, meadows, forests, oceans — and why? I grew up here walking the trails, so those are my happy places. I love getting up to any of the falls in town and laying out on the rocks. I’ll take just about anything, though. I love the desert, the forest, the jungle, the plains, the mountains, the ocean. I can be a little wimpy about cold places, but that’s just because here it’s always pretty warm and comfortable.
What lessons should we take from sheltering at home back into the world regarding nature? We have at a moment where we get to decide if we change our behaviors so that the Earth will still be able to sustain human life. I’m hoping that this is a wake-up call that we can’t put off the decision any longer. This doesn’t just mean that we sort our recycling or use our own shopping bags. This means that we need to re-evaluate many of our assumptions about how an economy and society should function. I hope that we use the opportunity to evolve instead of doubling down on a “normal” that has a short future with an unfortunate end. We need some better philosophies, ways of seeing ourselves as part of the Earth instead of separate from it.
The #TogetherWeEarthrise virtual Earth Day festival takes place, Wednesday, April 22, at noon. See sbearthday.org.