THE SENSUOUS ENVIRONMENTALIST
WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGE: ELIJAH STEVENS
My environmentalism is grounded in sensuous experience. The way a branch of elderberry echoes the shape of a lung. How it feels to walk through a wave of grey fog. The taste of fresh figs. The sound of water coursing over moss-latticed rocks. The smell of the air after a thunderstorm. I love to be in this world—to hike and eat and spend time with those I love—and it's that deep appreciation for the simple gift of each day that sustains me. You only need to hold a clump of soil in your palm, writhing with worms and weathered rocks, to realize that everything in this world is interconnected.
I do feel the grief and overwhelm. If business continues as usual, fall in New England in just fifty years will no longer be the flood of golden green and burnt orange I know it to be. And I can't imagine what it would mean to lose the season I cherish most. I am frightened by the limits to what I as an individual can control. I am anxious about ocean acidification and species extinction.
But if I live in fear—if I am so terrified about losing what I love that I can't enjoy what is—I'm not empowered to build the better world I want to live in. Fear doesn't motivate me to fight for the revolution we so urgently need to mitigate climate catastrophe. Fear doesn't feed my soul. What does is my desperate desire to sustain the sensuous. I want everyone to know the joy of walking through a field of wildflowers or tasting a carrot fresh from the loamy earth.
The future is uncertain. That can be scary as hell but it can also be liberating. It gives us permission to fiercely embody hope and fight fearlessly for our earth and for ourselves. It's true that the planet we are growing toward won't look like our planet now—we will lose whole worlds even as we nurture new ways of being. But there are certain things—the ability to give and receive love, to find joy in each morning, to feel gratitude for the exquisite rawness of life—that are climate change proof.
And this to me is what it means to be a sensuous environmentalist: to truly tend to those things that are climate change proof. To celebrate the sweetness of everything that you can touch, taste, see, hear, and smell. To create a present that is rich in possibility. To conserve wildlife and cultivate resilient ecosystems. To fight from a place of profound love. To experience our bodies in this world in relationship to other bodies, celestial and otherwise.
Because if you want to create a better world, your only task is to stay forever in love with this world.
For more on sensuous environmentalism, give "The Sensuous Environmentalist" a listen. Lily Myers, Loam's spirituality columnist, and I recorded this podcast for our holistic feminism site, The Shapes We Make. It was such a joy to dig into this conversation and we hope you like it as much as we loved creating it!