iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Wes Isley

Wes Isley

Posted: May 7, 2010 03:07 AM

By now we're all aware of just how disastrous the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill is in terms of the potential environmental and economic damage. But as a person of faith who follows a nature-based spirituality, I believe crises like these affect us at the soul level as well -- but no one's talking about that. And while the spill is a tragedy we will surely talk about for years to come, I also believe it provides a pivotal opportunity for the wider Neo-Pagan spiritual community to show how our faith can help point the way to a more responsible use of Earth's resources.

For me, the oil spill is a symptom not merely of political choices -- touters of "drill, baby, drill" versus environmentalists -- but one of spiritual disconnection. The Earth is my only home. The building blocks that make up that oil are the same elements coursing through my veins. The oil now gushing forth from the ocean floor was made from decomposed animals and plants millions of years old; I'd be thrilled for my carcass to one day offer such a valuable and scarce resource.

But the major religions tell us that the Earth is not our home and that we are to subdue it for our use. The Neo-Pagan community, in contrast, celebrates nature as a great teacher and encourages us to nourish our connections to the Earth, of which we are only a small part. Other religions teach that nature, like humanity, is broken and damaged. Neo-Pagans, conversely, see nature -- and humanity -- as perfect just as it is, warts and all. So if you view the Earth as family and home, then you're less likely to trash your front yard and kill off all your resources.

From this perspective, a Neo-Pagan might say that Mother Earth is using this oil spill to test us. What will be our response? Will we simply continue to pursue cheap oil for as long as it lasts regardless of the costs? Or will we make alternative energy a true priority? All faiths often use natural disasters -- "acts of God," they're called -- to teach important lessons. I say this oil spill can be used in the same way.

All faiths also teach lessons about sacrifice. Christians encourage personal sacrifice today in order to gain eternal life in Heaven. Buddhists say sacrificing possessions and modern distractions will lead to peace of mind. Native or indigenous faiths urge the individual to sacrifice his or her needs for the good of the tribe. Sure, no one likes sacrifice, but I believe the lesson we can learn from this oil spill is that by sacrificing our oil-lust now and enduring some inconvenience, we can ensure a more sustainable future for this planet.

Humans are clever creatures, and I refuse to believe that we have invested and exhausted our most brilliant minds in finding affordable and sustainable alternatives to oil. How bad does an oil spill need to be before we change? How much does gas have to cost before we start making sacrifices?

By sacrificing today, I believe we can create a brighter future. This isn't political -- it's spiritual. It's why I recycle, carry cloth shopping bags, experiment with composting, reuse whatever I can, and cut back on eating meat. I feel a connection to this Earth deep within my soul, and I know there are multitudes of others out there who feel the same. It's time to seize this opportunity; let's stop talking about the tragedy of this oil spill and turn it into a moment of triumph.