On this Earth Day it is more important than ever to acknowledge that Nature is conscious and She needs our help.

We are now experiencing a “New Normal” that includes “atmospheric rivers” of rain, devastating floods, unprecedented record heat and wildfires, drought ecosystem destruction and forced human migrations — all caused by a changing climate.

Our world is emitting some 36.8 billion metric tons of CO2 annually. Our overheating atmosphere will, therefore, undoubtedly go over the predicted 1.5 C (2 F) climate tipping point before midcentury, producing even more severe environmental disasters and suffering.

If you’ve ever felt different when being by or in the ocean, walking through a forest, or standing among saguaro cactus in the desert, that’s Nature talking to you.

If you’ve ever felt the power of a wildfire, hurricane or tornado, that’s Nature asking for your help.

These are not only warnings from Nature, but a profound cry for help from Her. After all, an out of balance climate is not only hurting us, but hurting Nature as well.

Another way of looking at this is from the perspective that we humans are mammals and an integral part of Nature, and that the natural environment, which sustains us, has a consciousness that communicates with all living things, including us.

It is my belief that, whether we know it or not, we are all constantly talking to and with Nature, and that She now more than ever is asking  for our help.

I don’t believe that I am simply anthropomorphizing Nature by saying this. It’s an experience I had in India representing victims of the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster.

In other words, I experienced an initiation that put me on the path to working with Nature, not just being an environmentalist concerned about the destruction of the natural world we are experiencing.

If one is paying attention, this kind of  initiation can happen in any number of ways: being a river advocate, who is on the river and experiences the decline of a riparian ecosystem; living through an environmental disaster that destroys life and Nature’s vitality; daily driving down a freeway choked and polluted by toxic air; witnessing the death of coral reefs; cleaning birds smeared with oil from a spill; and on and on.

The point is that all of these experiences are Nature’s invitation to join with her, and that going through them is an initiation into the struggle for Her as well as our own existence. 

Clearly, world governments, including our own, have not been able to address, much less stop, climate change.

The two most recent global gatherings to address climate change — the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and the 27th conference (COP27) — failed miserably.

Our own government, despite President Joe Biden’s important climate breakthroughs in the “Inflation Reduction Act,” which included tax incentives for renewables, clean vehicles, funding for clean energy manufacturing, methane reductions and carbon capture, is now stymied in Congress by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Without this kind of awakening to Nature as a force with a consciousness and our joining with Her, I fear we cannot win the fight against the human forces that are so rapidly warming our environment to the point of collapse.

For most of us, this kind of recognition would lead to activities like voting the climate, changing personal habits to embrace electrification, and supporting organizations addressing global warming.

For the army of young environmental activists fighting the climate wars, this has a special meaning. They need to be clear that in the context of climate change, business as usual (demonstrations, bureaucratic fighting in legislative bodies, and hearings and court fights,) cannot, by itself, bring about the change that is needed.

There is simply not enough time for “business as usual.” However, if they are listening, they have a powerful ally that will literally help and guide them — Mother Nature.

What better time to join with Nature than on Earth Day 2023?

Environmental lawyer Robert Sulnick represented the community of Casmalia in litigation against the Casmalia Resources Hazardous Waste Landfill, co-founded the American Oceans Campaign with Ted Danson, and is a partner in the Santa Barbara environmental consulting firm Environmental Problem Solving Enterprises. The opinions expressed are his own.