“The place we occupy as human beings in the universe”

These are just my random thoughts as we get closer to tomorrow, Earth Day, a day to celebrate “the place we occupy as human beings in the universe”.  The Dalai Lama said that about Earth.  This is why we must take care of it.  It’s almost spiritual, that way, because without this Earth, this human family of ours has no place to go.

That seems simple that way, doesn’t it?  That we should grow vegetables organically, and compost, and stop having such excess if it means the good of the masses, the good of each other, the good of the place we occupy as human beings in the universe.

It seems natural that maybe we should be natural.  Stop driving so many cars, stop digging so deep in the sea for oil, stop buying so many new, fancy gadgets, that get shipped in big carbon emitting jumbo jets, delivered to our doors, packed in new, fancy gadget wrapping.

I read about a girl in New York, Lauren Singer, who didn’t make more trash than that which fits inside a mason jar for two whole years!  The place we occupy as human beings in the universe thanks you, Lauren.

I was inspired by this girl.  I wanted to start making my own deodorant, stop buying into chemicals and excessive plastic packaging.  So I suggested at my work that for Earth Day we host a “DIY Products” lunch.  I made deodorant.  I admittedly got some weird looks, but two people tried it.

I’m inspired by just looking outside, too – seeing skies and feeling air and more than that, receiving pictures of my little niece and nephew and seeing what they are doing outside.  Skating on a rink in my backyard, climbing on a glacial rock somehow found 200 metres away from my house.  And I always think wow, thank you, Earth!  Because look at these two rugrats.  They love you.  They just love this place we occupy as human beings in the universe.

And so, I think that’s what Earth Day is really all about – we need to save the Earth because we literally need it.  Without it, that’s it for us.  This is our place in the universe.  This is our place to protect and make beautiful.  This is our place to play on glacial rocks that we pretend are whales or spaceships.

But then, today, I also read about a boat full of migrants that sank outside of Malta.  And really, they weren’t migrants at all, they were refugees – scared to death in their own homes so they gave all their money to human traffickers and hoped for the best for when they arrived somewhere.  And now their new home is some sort of afterlife that in times like this you must hope and pray exists, because otherwise…well, otherwise it’s too sad.

But, if they had made it, people would have said “not in my backyard, not when my pocketbook will be affected”.  And they don’t see the poor, unfortunate souls before them as people but as refugees.  But they are people.  And this is their Earth, too.

It’s too sad for humans to not even be able to find a home on the place we occupy as human beings in the universe.  It’s too sad to think it might be too dangerous for people to live somewhere.  The difference in that person who drowned trying to escape death and you is simply this: chance.

The chance wasn’t even that good we’d be born here instead of somewhere more war-torn.  The odds just fell to our favour.  So, now that we have it, then what?  I have to ask myself “then what, Emily, then what?”  Because I can’t believe that I simply get to be born lucky, without worrying about the place we occupy as human beings in the universe without thinking of the less lucky.

I know that Earth Day is about the Earth –  its health, its viability – but that only matters for humans when we consider earth as home.  And so I can’t help but think, we should really try to think simultaneously about taking care of the earth and also taking care of its inhabitants.  But really, it’s not even “taking care” of each other, but it’s loving each other.  All these people that live here on this little blue dot are our human family.  How can some be more important than others?  That’s like loving one sibling or child better than another.  How can economics or a national budget be more important?  That’s like loving a character on a tv show better than your brother, because just like the tv show has made up its characters, the budget and money and eonomics are just a theory of organization that we made up and not at all like your brother who is real and solid and has a soul and is capable of love.

So I suppose I was thinking that on Earth Day it’s no good just to love the place where human beings live unless we decide we will also love other human beings.  And I was thinking we should love any refugees who arrive even if they hurt our economy at first, because later they might grow a garden or save a life themselves or probably at the very least have a job and be self-sufficient, alive and happy, and that would make it worth it.  I was thinking we should make the Earth long-lasting with all of our human family in mind, because that interdependence and compassion will probably make the place we occupy as human beings in the universe brighter and happier and healthier than ever.  It’s like that saying “many hands make light work”.  The work can be living in a beautiful world, on a beautiful blue planet in the sky that one day my niece and nephew can share with their nieces and their nephews.

The Dalai Lama also said this: Destruction of natural resources results from ignorance, from a lack of respect to the living things of Earth, and from greed. 

Love the Earth, love each other.  One is no good without the other.  Happy Earth day, Earthlings.


The Shooting of Don Dunphy: Did “Skeet” Stereotype Play a Role?

My dad is a boat tour operator in Twillingate, Newfoundland.  After years of working in the tourism industry and meeting people from all over the world, I know from first hand experience how Newfoundland and its people are perceived: kind, helpful, friendly, quaint.  It’s thus very difficult to reconcile how a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary – who we generously assume to be kind, helpful, friendly – happened to gun down Don Dunphy on Easter Sunday.

Not a lot seems to be known about what happened, though the general story appears to be that Dunphy was a man in chronic pain who was a chronic tweeter.  Dunphy had a prescription to grow medical marijuana and was regularly visited by local RCMP.  On Easter morning, a plainsclothes officer visited Dunphy at home.  Dunphy invited him in.  The visit turned sour.  RCMP have allegedly found as a fact that Dunphy pointed a loaded rifle at the cop.  The cop shot Dunphy to death.

The cop who shot and killed Dunphy is part of Premier Davis’ security detail and does not have jurisdiction in the town of Mitchells Brook (though it has been stated the RCMP were notified by the officer visited Dunphy).  The RCMP have jurisdiction there.  On Good Friday, Dunphy had tweeted a series of tweets, which were allegedly a “threat”, but which blogger and regular Newfoundland tweeter, Sue Kelland-Dyer has urged were not at all threatening.   Lawyer Erin Breen says the tweets will be used as a red herring as this story unfolds.  The CBC has published an article with five important questions that, at the date of publication, had gone unanswered.  Good questions like – why, if the officer believed there was a genuine threat, did he attend at this scene by himself?  Doesn’t that seem dangerous?

I think it does.

In Newfoundland we have this terrible, derogatory word that we all use really freely: “skeet”.  If you’re not from here you probably think of a very sexually inappropriate word for use among polite company.  In Newfoundland slang, this word means the following, according to the Wikipedia entry:

“In Newfoundland English, a skeet is a stereotype and pejorative epithet in Newfoundland, Canada, describing lower class youth, “uneducated, aggressive and unruly”, of low education, often wearing sportswear, and associated with loitering, non-standard English language, drug and alcohol use, and petty crime.”

Although this definition states the word references young people, I tend to think the idea of a “skeet” goes farther than that in practice, with the most important elements including being uneducated, less intelligent, and aggressive.  The term “skeet” is effectively completely classist, premised upon the under-education and poverty of the poorest members of Newfoundland’s society.  It is a term that, though somehow entering into such mainstream jargon that even the City of St. John’s has previously used the term in an anti-litter campaign, effectively says that poor is bad, stupid, and, in the worst cases, criminal.

This word gets thrown around very casually.  Non-skeets are capable of acting like skeets when they get on a certain way.  Actual skeets are laughed at because of their being actual-skeets.  I recently thought out loud that this word was inappropriate and shouldn’t be so widely used.  Admittedly, I continued to use the term after.

Dunphy may or may not have been any of the above things.  However, his impassioned tweets about a lack of help for injured workers and serious citizens were littered with short forms of words like “you” and “see”, and contained an urgency that suggested lack of foresight and aggression.  Overall,  the tweets seem capable of playing into this stereotype – especially if one didn’t know Dunphy personally.

So when a plainsclothes officer investigating a perceived-though-unlikely threat against the premier decided the only course of action open to him was to shoot a man to death on Easter Sunday, did this piece of slang colour his opinion?  While we wait for the details to unfold, will we ultimately realize that the classist associations perpetuated by the word “skeet” were at work?  I am hopeful this isn’t the case.