If Gaia is a living body, why are we painting her blue? Whether it is public parks or residential lawns, when there is that special odor in the air, I know to look down and there it is, an endless dye job on the grass indicating treatment. My city is concrete and blue dye for miles. Furthermore, I have sales people knocking at my door monthly asking if I want to spray pesticide around the house to decimate wasps, ants and spiders.
Many religious texts encourage us to mindfully consider the earth. The Jain Acaranga sutra, for instance, says, “a wise [person] should not act sinfully toward plants” (I.1.5.7). One way we sin against the earth so casually is by these mindless manipulations of our lawns, if we have them. (Technically, I do not have a lawn, but my roommate does, and I try to protect it). I do not think most people think about researching what they allow into the earth.
According to the EPA’s 2008-2012 Pesticides Industry Sales and Usage Market Estimates in 2012, farms, companies, and homes dumped over 1 billion (1,000,000,000) pounds of pesticides (which include herbicides and insecticides) on the earth. Homes are about 5% of this, but that still means 56 million pounds is seeping into the soil by our hands.
In the home and garden sector, the top-ranked active ingredient in pesticides used on lawns is 2,4-D. The second is Glyphosate. According to a meta-analysis of 12 peer-reviewed sources, beyondpesticides.org records that 2,4-D has been found to be linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, birth defects, and is an irritant, basically all seven of the health effects listed on its fact sheet. Glyphosate accounts for 5 out of the 7. These pesticides do not just stay on the lawns but end up as unavoidable indoor pollution. According to Marcia Nishioka, et. al. in the 2001 study “Distribution of 2,4-D in Air and on Surfaces Inside Residences after Lawn Applications: Comparing Exposure Estimates from Various Media for Young Children,” residues were measured one week before and after lawn application. 2,4-D was detected in indoor air and on all surfaces in ALL 13 houses. The study found this was ingested by children who touch surfaces with hands and then place their hands in their mouths.
In an attempt at investigating easy access and transparency of ingredients for lawn cares services, I emailed a business that services Oklahoma City to ask them what types of chemicals they use in their weed spraying. They emailed me back to say they “use a variety of chemicals throughout the year.” I inquired further asking if there was a list of the variety of chemicals used that clients could access somewhere. They replied, “not really.” I imagine, if there is no list, people using their services do not typically demand one prior to using them. This lawn “care” company’s website boasts, “You’ll Know Us by Our Blue Lawns!” as if it were a celebration. Is it?
We are connected to the earth as all elements are connected to each other. The Sutrakritanga says, “a tree springs up on earth, grows on earth, is not separate from earth, but is bound up in earth; so all things” (II.1:26, emphasis mine). In the same text, it is said, “Earth, water, fire, wind [. . .] know and understand that they (all desire) happiness” (I.7:1). How often do we think about the trees, how they stand rooted in their own meditation, and what pleasure we might bring to them by our touch, by a gentle humming of our voices near them in reverence? The earth longs for us to notice it and to notice ourselves, how our bodies cannot survive separately from it; this in itself should be pleasurable to know. In Jain literature, the elements are sacred. The Tattvartha Sutra, for instance, says, “There are five types of luminous gods: suns, moons, planets, constellations, and scattered stars” (4:13). What goddesses are the trees and how are we doing harm to our own souls by seeping glyphosate into the ground they drink from? The Sutrakritanga says, “by (hurting) these beings (people) do harm to their own souls and will again and again be born as one of them” (I.7:1). To such an empathetic author, a lover of nature and visionary of the soul and substance we share, it is not surprising they might envision the careless person to be reborn as a tree that other humans might similarly neglect.
Regardless of one’s belief in reincarnation, though, scientifically, our bodies do decompose into the earth after death. And in perhaps a more literal return, there are companies such as Capsula Mundi that offer burial as a tree pod. The human body is arranged in a fetal position and placed in a pod of biodegradable material and buried beneath a tree that takes nourishment from it. Capsula Mundi “envisions a different approach to the way we think about death. It’s an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form [. . .]. [. . .] Instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, [cemeteries] will grow into vibrant woodlands.” I would like to return to the earth in a tree pod. But I would not like to be sprayed with blue dyed lawn treatment in that existence. Will you protect me?
LaChelle Schilling, Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Minimalism, Mindfulness, and the Middle Way, incorporating guidance from sacred wisdom literatures. She is also working on certification as a yoga instructor.
15 thoughts on “The Blue No Gaia Wants: Protecting the Sacred through our Lawns by Elisabeth Schilling”
“How often do we think about the trees, how they stand rooted in their own meditation, and what pleasure we might bring to them by our touch, by a gentle humming of our voices near them in reverence? The earth longs for us to notice it and to notice ourselves, how our bodies cannot survive separately from it; this in itself should be pleasurable to know.”
I would like to copy and paste these words into my journal. That was pretty much the message I got when I was sitting in the woods and asking what is my task on this earth. As to our lawn, we mow paths to minimize the risk of picking up ticks as we walk from one garden patch to another. All kinds of plants and grasses abound, many sporting tiny flowers. Why would we want grass that is uniform? When I weed the garden I often leave plants that planted themselves, weeds or not. My criteria for weeding is whether or not a plant is crowding out others to the point that no other plant can grow. If it is, it usually has many other habitats along field edges and in the woods, which I explain to the plant as I apologize for weeding it.
Thanks for this timely post. I also appreciate the information about tree pod burial.
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Thank you for your kindness. I love that you keep a journal and hope you consider posting a picture of your beautiful garden. I wish I had some photos to post of wild lawns to contrast the rather sad, but all-too-familiar uniform and tamed lawn.
Wish I had pictures to post, but I don’t own a camera! Will see if I have a poem or passage instead.
Here’s a verse I found in last year’s journal. Not as photographic as it might be but here tis:
the generosity of this earth, tilled and wild
wild flowers in gardens, garden blooms going wild
fields, thickets, forests, gardens, wild generous earth
lovely. thank you!
I’m in the process of transforming my yard into a grass-free space. Here in Oregon, we have a Backyard Habitat program that promotes the use of native plants rather than grass. The link is backyardhabitats.org.
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Oh, Oregon. How I love thee. I LOVE this program. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Everyone needs to check out the website you posted. It just might inspire us all. Thank you!!
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Insects aren’t so awful that we need to keep killing them! I recommend this book by Joanne Lauck to people who want to know how smart and important many insects are: The Voice of the Infinite in the Small : (https://www.amazon.com/Voice-Infinite-Small-Re-Visioning-Connection/dp/0926524496/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496499247&sr=8-1&keywords=joanne+lauck).
LaChelle, you’re right: we’re all connected. Thanks for writing your post and explaining the dangers of pesticides. Brava!
We don’t spray, or dye, here. The first apartment building I lived in sprayed weeds with vinegar and water. Worked fine and it was safe for children and pets. Spraying with “blue” seems counter-productive since it probably kills those insect predictors that keep nature in balance.
The world needs prophets to name and resist the foolishness and disrespect for life. Thanks LaChelle, and Elizabeth, and Katherine, and all of us who love bugs and trees and healthy earth for children and dogs to play on.
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Wow, that sounds like a very conscious apartment complex! I didn’t think of the consequences it would have on the elements of the cycle of life that depend on color cues. For me, it certainly signals danger! Thank you for your lovely benefaction. Bug love and tree love. Yes.
Thanks for this post Lachelle — great quote you shared here where you say: “a tree springs up on earth, grows on earth, is not separate from earth, but is bound up in earth; so all things.”
In New York City the number of new trees planted along the streets, over the last 16 years or more is enormous, and the trees are growing bigger and bigger so it’s getting to be like I live in a woodland. And they keep planting more trees. It brings so much joy when I see that happening everywhere in the city, and with the trees planted on either of side of the streets so that they are also creating some gorgeous canopies.
I linked my name here to a NYC photo I found online this morning, so beautiful.
I’m so glad to hear the focus on re-earthing the earth! Thank you for sharing this positivity! I love it.
I can’t even imagine looking at a fake blue toxic “lawn.” Part of me wants to believe blue lawns are a bad joke. But of course, they are not. Reading this article makes me wonder if people in these houses have ANY connection to the sacred? Without Nature as container/context it is not surprising that we suffer from profound isolation. As for toxicity – well, it’s impossible to live on this planet without absorbing toxic substances – every organic garden is full of them – in the soil, in the air – no matter what we do we ingest toxins that we once put there – that doesn’t stop me from refusing to use anything with chemicals in it for my garden, for the trees, for house plants.
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Sad and true about how deliberate companies are about concealing and disguising. Concepts like this, and many others are what led me to completely redefine my own practices. I am new to the wordpress community and my meanderings led me here. Glad I know I am not alone in my quest to enlighten. Thanks for putting yourself out here!
Lots of love and light to you. <3
Thank you my dear. What a warm and loving response. I shine equal golden light to you. May we help humanity salve our wounds and cope with our suffering so we may halt the suffering we cause to each other and the earth, even ourselves. Be well.
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