Posts tagged ‘Environment’

Mother Earth: At the table or ON the table? || Mary Coday Edwards

Mother Earth: AT the table or ON the table?
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.
May 30 , 2017
(The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of People House).


Dredges up unpleasant memories for most of us, defined as the act of not allowing someone or something to take part in an activity or to enter a place; it’s a shutting out, a barring, a denying from participation.

When I lived in Peshawar back in the 1990s, its summer heat of 110 degrees plus rationed electricity would send me, my family, and friends up to the cool breezes of Pakistan’s Swat Valley. After an hour’s drive, we’d turn off the valley’s Grand Trunk four-lane highway and begin the (on a good day) three-hour, slow crawl north up a dizzying, narrow, and winding mountain road. With its headwaters in the towering Hindu Kush Mountains, the great Swat River followed alongside us, sometimes spreading gently in a wide plain, but more often carving its way through narrow canyon walls hundreds of feet below us.

Close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, the valley’s inhabitants share the ultra-conservative values of the Pushtun people (1), in particular those governing women who are excluded from economic and political life, their influence limited to the home – maybe.

We’d drive/crawl through village after village, the road through each one long bazaar, with donkeys, ox carts, jeeps, bicycles, and people demanding space among the push-carts selling vegetables, fruit, plastic wares, slabs of meat, and winter scarves.

Swat River, near Madyan. Photo by Xain, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Missing from this crowded jumble of life? Women. Sometimes I’d spot the occasional yet-to-reach-puberty female child. And if a woman needed new shoes? Her husband/father/brother was sent off to the bazaar, with her foot drawn on a piece of paper to be matched to a shoe size. Pakistan’s female rural literacy rate 25 years ago was about 2 percent – defined as being able to read and write their name.

I’d sit demurely in the car, with my white, tablecloth-sized chador wound around my body and just my pale face showing, eyes covered in dark sunglasses. Exposing myself and hence breaking long-held social taboos could invite violence. I’d learned to avoid mob mentality.

Our destination, Swat’s Mingora, with its long history as a cultural and economic center, along with its ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim kings, was more relaxed in the early 1990s around the female presence, especially the foreign female presence. Arriving there in the early afternoon, I became visible again and could unwind in the hotel’s calming, lush, cool gardens – metaphorically and physically – still modestly dressed in the traditional shawar kamise but without my chador.

But the dark cloud of female exclusion would replace my chador, wrapping me in its gloom. By the next morning, however, I could sense its heavy darkness easing away from my shoulders. It was only after that release that my body would begin recovering from its weird heat-related symptoms of Peshawar.

“Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” Ecuadorian Constitution

The political provides a glut of exclusion examples: Native Americans camping in the snow to protect sacred lands based on treaties while politicians bow to corporate greed; voting laws changed to protect powerful vested interests; photos of only male politicians gathered to sign health bills – bills that impact women; education bills passed that shut out those in poverty from a decent education.

But not only are just people of color, women, and the poor barred from the table of participation and denied their basic human rights: What about the rights of nature? (2)

Last week I experienced that same feeling of grief due to exclusion, but this time it wasn’t Pakistan’s Swat Valley, but Southern California.

I had spent hours driving on paradise paved. Absent from the scene was nature in all its wildness. Grief again clothed me at this loss and exclusion of nature, the violence the human species commits daily with impunity against the natural community we are embedded in.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach was my destination, and walking on its sandy paths with all my senses gratefully soaking up nature’s gifts, I felt that shroud of mourning slipping from my shoulders. Later, Torrey Pines Docent Fran Doolittle told how protecting this fragile 1,500-acre reserve of endangered flora and fauna from encroachment by developers was a constant struggle. And while a single steel rope fence clearly demarcates the path, “we can’t keep people on the path,” she said. “These plants receive little water,” she continued, and tourists tramp through them, increasing the stress on their already tenuous existence.

That, and visitors leaving their trash, which she explained had drastically decreased since Torry Pines  stopped selling disposable plastic water bottles in 2013 (3), replacing them with the sale of reusable bottles (4).

Our current administration excludes the environment from the policy table (5).

Instead of cleaning up their messes, coal mining companies are free to dump their poisons into the lifeblood of the earth – our waterways. Pesticide runoff once again threatens our protected wetlands and tributaries – nurseries to thousands of ecosystem species.

And according to the U.S. 2017 Energy and Employment Report, “nearly 1 million Americans are working near- or full-time in the energy efficiency, solar, wind, and alternative vehicles sectors. This is almost five times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry, which includes coal, gas, and oil workers.”

But yet this administration feels compelled to open up our fragile offshore ecosystems and our protected national lands to the fossil fuel industries – without compensation for decreased human, as well as water, air and earth ecosystem health benefits. And taking into account community benefits, if all these services were correctly priced and included in the costs of resources – a cornerstone of capitalism – we wouldn’t be having this discussion, as the oil and gas sector couldn’t afford it.

Thunderous Silence

To those stripped of humility and a true understanding of humanity’s position as a member of the web of life, Mother Earth is considered “property” to be exploited.  Nature won’t bully her way to the front of the crowd, but she does speak in thunderous silence.  Ignore this powerful voice within us and that web disintegrates.

We are her. Her life courses through us in that interconnectedness; she sits at the table through us.  And no one can deny us our voice.


Notes & Sources:

1.)One valley further east lays the city of Murree – also of cooler temps but located in the more liberal district of Punjab. In those days it was a longer trek from Peshawar.

2.)In 2008 Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature in their constitution. It takes the concept of Environmental Rights to the next logical conclusion by bestowing rights unto nature itself. The people have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant.


4.)Plastic bottles are the largest single contributor to national parks solid waste load, averaging nearly one-third of all solid waste in parks surveyed(



About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

Determined to Feel Good – Lydia Taft

I’m noticing right now that I am just a bit unsettled.  I won’t try and focus too much on why. It’s simply a feeling that is running its course.  I am inspired to take a deep breath and settle into myself.  And as I settle myself, I try to feel the environment around me.  What does this place feel like right now?  I only feel agitation right now.  Does it belong to me or the environment?  I decide that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I would prefer to feel peaceful. 

The other day I was reading about checking into the feeling of the environment. 

It’s a practice that can help us connect to the emotional climate of a place and as we do this we are helped to become more aware and in tune with our senses.  We are after all receivers and interpreters of energy.  It’s very easy: we tune into either feeling good or feeling bad.  Earlier I tuned into restlessness and dis-ease.  That’s not a healthy place to sit in and I felt very uncomfortable.

But, I have the ability to manipulate my attention and I realize I am getting a bit better at choosing.  It’s a matter of focus and it takes a willingness to become aware of the climate I am sitting in and a willingness to not become affected by whatever happens to be in front of me.  I played with this idea the other day as I practiced watching my emotions flit around.  As they dipped and swooped, I became aware of their connection to my attention of particular subjects.


Look over there and be happy.  Look over there and feel upset.  I was swayed by the environment.  I was influenced by the conditions around me. 

I was being spun around and dragged up and down an emotional roller coaster.  This is what most of us do all day.  No wonder we are often exhausted. 

I am ready to experience something different.  I am ready to be more deliberate about how I feel. 

I’ve practiced meditation, so I know that feeling good is a single breath away.  I’ve trained myself to be still.  I also know that feeling good is a choice that belongs to me, no matter what is going on around me or where I happen to be.  Feeling good comes from the inside.  I can tune into it in any moment and in any place.  I am the receiver of my emotional climate and I get to set the dial to the station that feels best to me. 

Another few deep breathes later and I am back to center.  I am soothed and peaceful.

Right now I am determined to feel good. 

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth