Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seven Continents!

On June 19, 2010, about sixty groups, on every one of the seven continents of the planet, met at ecologically wounded places for the first annual Global Earth Exchange, sponsored by the non-profit organization Radical Joy for Hard Times.

They gathered at polluted rivers, clear-cut forests, and the sites of abandoned factories. They went to coal mines and the sites of gas drilling. They honored endangered bats, dolphins, and wild horses. In Antarctica a scientist focused on the glacier that is retreating farther and farther each year rom the window of the research station. In New South Wales, Australia, Glenn Albrecht, the philosopher who coined the term solastalgia, meaning "the pain one feels on recognizing that the land one loves is under assault," did an Earth Exchange on the hill above Hunter Valley, where open pit coal mining has wreaked constant noise, light, and pollution on a community.

The size of the groups ranged from one to 36. In Boulder, Colorado a woman had private a Earth Exchange at a house she bought that had been a meth lab and where a murder had taken place. In southwest Washington, a group (pictured above) gathered at the site of a forest that had been cleared. And three people met at dawn to drum on the beautiful white-sand beach at Navarre, Florida, where the first oily globs from BP's broken rig have begun washing ashore. When a passerby asked if they were members of a band rehearsing for a show, one member of the Earth Exchange responded, "Oh no, we're not a band. We just came to be with a sick friend." There was a pause, and then the man who had asked the question said, "Thank you for doing this."

At each location, people talked about or reflected on their feelings about the destruction of lands and animals and spent time sitting or walking on the land, bearing witness to it in its present condition.

Each Earth Exchange concluded with an "Act of Beauty," something given back to the place or species that has given much to humans. In most cases this act included the construction of a stylized bird, the Radical Joy for Hard Times symbol, made of found materials.

Said one woman who participated in the San Antonio River Earth Exchange in Texas, "I will remember this day for the rest of my life."