I stumbled across a Tweet from Whole Foods Market yesterday. It said, in part, “Earthlings have great respect for the planet they call home.” My reply in a retweet: “Has not been my experience on a whole.” I didn’t think of it again until I saw a paper bag at my local Whole Foods later that afternoon. It read: “We Are Earthlings.”

As a vegan, I cannot see that phrase without thinking of the movie narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. It’s not a film I can watch, but I’ve read the transcript of the narrative, and it’s certainly an important piece of work.

Whole Foods chooses to define the “we” in their statement as humans. Humans, who are proponents of green-washing, who, like Al Gore, preach about climate change and environmental crisis and haven’t yet made the connection between meat production and both of those things.

The movie, on the other hand, adds an important word to the phrase. “We are all Earthlings.” Our choices affect the fish in the oceans, the birds in the trees, the animals raised for food and for fur. Our choices affect each and every breathing, sentient being on the planet.

My vegan journey has been traveled with a statement in my mind: “Do as little harm as possible.” You see, while I understand why some might say we must save the Earth, I tend to think she’s a tough and resilient gal. We’re doing a hell of a job of hurting her, but my guess is before we really destroy her, she’ll get rid of us. Strong Mother, that Earth.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we should continue to do what we’ve always done. Change is important. Compassion is necessary.  Humans love to talk about the “food chain,” even as they’ve bastardized it into an industrial, political, scientific, and yes, environmental downward spiral. This is why Earth Day must be every day. This is why we must keep talking; keep learning; keep doing.

This is the only option.

Photo credit: Denis Collette via Flickr