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The Seventh Generation
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

Nothing says Fall like the sweet, shivering anticipation of Halloween when swarms of youngsters collide with one another in search of treats across American neighborhoods. For the young ones, there's the thrill of hiding behind a carefully prepared costume, walking the dark, shadowed streets with a flashlight and pillowcase, ready to reap a killing in yummy stuff and get a peek into other people's houses. It's a celebration of chaos and excess, approved greed and semi-danger that seizes the imagination of children everywhere and, at least for one evening, welcomes the safely-gelded terrors of mock murder and mayhem, monsters and supernatural possibilities that go thump in the night. It's Sun in Scorpio with a big chocolate-coated grin.

Halloween has changed a good bit since I was a kid. In those Long Gone Days, we were let off our leash entirely since most parents knew their neighborhoods and their neighbors and sternly advised us whom to avoid. Now, conscientious parents walk with their kids or go in groups, avoiding those houses that they're not sure of and scooting them past the dark hulks of homes sadly foreclosed. The fear of treats tainted by LSD or razor blades is mostly behind us, but prudent parents advise their young not to eat anything until they get home, where the candy can be dumped out and properly assessed. Items not entirely sealed and the occasional homemade goodie are carefully scrutinized and probably tossed. What was once a kind of primal, spontaneous celebration of season, as well as a delicious echo of the Old Religion, has become a holiday industry reaping millions if not billions that has its own rules of engagement and is frowned upon by churches that see all things that celebrate Earth as an assault on faith. The all-knowing Evangelicals apparently have the inside scoop: Jesus would never, ever trick-or-treat.

In the Old Days, we got to wear our costumes to school and parade around so everyone could admire them; now you can't, for reasons of security and, in some areas, acceptable attire. Moms would send in homemade treats for rollicking class parties; now they can't, unless they're store-bought and blister wrapped, duly authenticated as safe. I'm sure that as all this micro-management of our children's safety became customary, there were parents who mourned the limitations being imposed on this free-wheeling childhood tradition, and yet, should they think about it for any protracted period, they might be a little more concerned for the season itself and the very Earth essence it represents. The danger to their children has little to do with psychotic cupcake-poisoners and more to do with climate change. As a bonus, all the plastic wrappers and disposable paraphernalia of this holiday really DO go thump in the night. Increasingly toxic seas and landfills burgeoning with our debris are more of a tragic trick than a treat.

Environmental issues are the elephant -- nay, Mastodon -- in the room as we look at our list of global challenges. Every day some new and dreadful fact about global warming finds its way into our consciousness, creating a kind of nervous tension that underlies all else. It seems too big to address and too frightening to comprehend, so we do our best to ignore it, yet we do so at our peril. I believe it was Poppy Bush who told us, in a Read My Lips moment, that the American lifestyle was not negotiable. Well, we'd better learn how to negotiate now, since much of what we thought would never change is shifting right before our eyes. I can chart the evidence here in the Patch, and I do with increasing wonder. Bunnies born too late in the season, birds nesting too early, insects behaving out of character, flowers that don't bloom at all -- all these are ripples in the pond and the pebble thrown is our quickly morphing climate.

With all the bad news of economy, political haggling over healthcare and war, there is a tendency to put our heads down and refuse to look this huge systemic problem squarely in the eye. Perhaps that's why the belief in global warming, according to a new poll, is down by 20 points in the last three years. Given the scientific evidence of melting ice and rising water levels, irregular storm patterns and shifting climate zones, that's a stunningly ignorant stand against the inevitable. I've heard too many people complain about the bitter cold of recent winters and this year's mild summer and then, with a smirk, mock the notion of warming. Note to those folks -- weather and climate are not the same things and you're missing the point entirely. But the lobbyists and PR firms have done an effective job selling uncertainty and doubt, and Republican leadership scoffs openly at scientific investigation, a standing joke at FOX News.

I invariably talk to you about the choices we make and that's because our individual human footprint not only defines our own life and experience but that of our neighbor and our world. Like it or not, each of us is a pebble in the collective pond and we send out daily ripples, mindfully or not. The Native American principle of considering the ramifications of our actions as they will apply to the next seven generations is a holy bond with the future and must become part of our vision for global healing. When George Bush proposed voluntary regulation of corporate polluters with his Clear Skies initiative, I wondered if his grandchildren, and theirs, were destined to live in some pristine environmental bubble to which the rest of us had no access. Where was the covenant with the future? Where was the concern for the generations to come? Soon we will be arguing over Cap and Trade legislation that is much like moving the Chess pieces around the game board without capturing any, and perhaps establishing a worrisome global market of speculation for carbon. Profit still trumps survival. We've got to do better, and we don't have a lot of dithering time.

Each of us must police our own individual habits, of course, but that will not fix our problems; only prudent policies will create necessary environmental changes. And yes, they will test our patience and recreate our lifestyle -- if they don't, they will not prove effective at slowing up the climate changes that are projected to have our coastlines under water in future years. Last week the world hosted an event called the Global Day of Climate Change Action. Across the planet, people came together to call attention to the number 350, the acceptable parts per million of CO2 that is considered a safe level. We are currently at 390 and climbing. Some 4000 gatherings occurred, worldwide, and it shames me that this effort was so much more productive in other parts of the world than in my own nation. I think we need us some Muppets.

Younger people are more on board with the problems of climate change and the challenges of earth stewardship. I believe that's thanks to the furry, little darlings at Sesame Street that brought diversity into the neighborhood and created a sense of love and respect for the planet that echoes to this day. Talk about pebbles in the pond. Big Bird and his friends were, and continue to be in many cultures, the equivalent of a boulder producing ongoing ripples of awareness. Enthusiasms such as care for the planet are created in the heart, not the mind, and since the planet is the only home we have, one would think it would not be such a challenge to get our collective attention. We need some heart-touching Muppity moments to get our reluctant brothers and sisters engaged in their own, and our, survival. Additionally, they need to hug a tree. I'm serious.

A few weeks back, I watched the whole of the PBS series on our National Parks, a nightly offering of two-hour segments that took years to produce. For me, it was heart-catching, breathtaking joy -- memory gave me not just the sights and smells, but the wonder and awe of my park experiences, in review. My intellect was well aware of the politics that were involved in the creation of these marvelous islands of wilderness heritage, wrenched away from corporate interests and established as the property of all Americans. My heart, however, was engaged on a whole other level. "It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination," said Henry David Thoreau. That's lovely language and it boils down to this: the natural world's hold on our heart is as immovable as the stars in the sky, as irresistible as the sunrise and as necessary as the air that we breathe. Without our notice and appreciation of what nurtures us, we become disconnected from ourselves, unnatural creatures, deadened and unresponsive.

Nature is the alternative to our stress, and yet we seldom take advantage of what is right under our nose. Studies show that viewing scenes of nature soothes us and causes us to realign with our values, awakening our desire for relationship and community, and producing a generous sense of cooperation. In essence, we become nicer people just by looking at pictures of the great outdoors. Imagine the benefit, then, of time spent in nature, herself. That was the intent of those altruistic souls who fought so magnificently to establish our system of National Parks. They 'got it.' We owe them, and we can pay them back by making sure those systems are preserved for posterity. Climate change is threatening our National Parks, as well.

As 'progress' marches on, we may create wonderful homes and entire cultures of getting and having, but nothing we can replicate comes close to the majesty of nature. Nothing we can produce ourselves will ever be more than a day late and a dollar short compared to what God/dess has given us free of charge. We are connected to the wild part of ourselves through nature and without that ancient resonance we are not truly alive in our skins. Halloween tips its hat to that wilding. Our children are free to scramble across lawns and jump hedges, to breathe deeply of the cold night air, No amount of substitute, such as church parties or backyard gatherings that are safe and controlled, will give them the primal joy of such a night. This isn't about the treats, believe it or not. It's a rite of passage where the imp in us is allowed out to play in its natural environment. It's a moment of wilding that every child is closer to, as they are to the bugs and birds and leaves that rattle on an October night, than any adult can quite recall.

What will our Earth look like in a generation if we continue to behave as if nothing's wrong? What will nature be forced to accommodate in order to keep herself going? What species will no longer be with us, what flowers and butterflies and potentially-medicinal plants will be lost to us? What will we give our grandchildren unto the Seventh Generation? Will their Halloween be planned and reproduced inside, rather than to allow them out into an increasingly hostile and toxic environment? And will their treats continue to be so mindlessly damaging to their health and teeth, trash-producing and consumer-driven? I pray not. I pray we come to our senses long before such a scenario is necessary.

It is the natural world that is under attack, and we are the marauders, smashing and crashing our way across Gaia's skin, ripping her apart and fouling her 'for profit' and our own convenience. It will take a deep awareness and a monumental outcry to make global leadership understand that we're invested in this outcome, that our hearts are in it, as well as our willingness to make whatever changes are necessary. Like it or not, this is a political exercise and each of us must do our part -- wishes won't help us survive. There will be an international gathering of world leaders in Copenhagen in December, looking for new agreements on global warming. Many are concerned that Obama has too much on his plate to give it full attention or commitment. As with the return of the Public Option, we need to make our voices heard on this issue by the millions, and I suppose I don't need to tell you that the time is Now or we may be facing Never?

If you want hints about personal environmental practice and activism opportunity, visit Starhawk with links to Mike Moore. Huffington Post has an entire section on Green Living, and Planet Green at Discovery.com is a valuable resource as are the online versions of Grist and Yes! magazines. You can view the island of garbage and other toxic trash sites at this link.

The cross-quarter sabbat called Samhain begins under a Full Moon in Taurus on the same evening our kids will be running the streets like the joyous little bipeds they are. The ancient energies are alive in each of us on this night. Take in the full measure of the moment with full-hearted appreciation, and pledge to do everything you can to make sure it can happen again and again, unto the Seventh Generation. For all the marbles, then -- and the Big Blue one that we call home -- be the change you want to see, and the one who saves us all.

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