Is environmentalism part of Paganism? Part of Wicca?
Many Pagans believe strongly that environmental conservation is a necessary part of their devotion to the Goddess. However, if you go to Pagan festivals where there are many traditions represented you’ll find that others do not.
I was going to write this all not-judgy, and neutral, analysing the difference based on whether people believe in the Gods as literal beings or abstract concepts, or whether you are a religious Pagan who integrates your spirituality into your everyday life, a ceremonial magician interested primarily in energy workings and magick or a celebratory or ‘mead and cape’ Pagan. This is true, but in my opinion, not very interesting.
The thing is, I’m very solidly in the religious, the Gods are real camp and so it’s hard for me to understand how someone can sincerely believe the Earth is sacred but not feel the need to make their actions both inside and outside sacred space match those beliefs.
If find that I am much more motivated to do a thing if it’s part of a devotional practice. In service to Mother Earth / Gaia, I compost everything I can, participate in my city’s recycling program, have a solar panel on the roof of my house that heats water for bathing, and abstain from using household or yard chemicals that are harmful to the water and soil like bleach and pesticides. I believe my religion requires this. I have chosen not to birth any children, which saves our overpopulated Earth from lifetimes and generations of human consumption.
But I’m also a bit of a hypocrite. I eat meat, which is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions (particularly beef, because cow burps contain a lot of methane). I also drive a gasoline powered car, albeit a gas-sipping smart car.
All of us make choices according to our values and our willingness to sacrifice for our Gods.
I think its far better to start and be imperfect, than to do nothing at all. In that light here are some environmental devotions for Pagans to start with:
Plant trees – Plant trees in your yard or other land you have access to if you can. It could be a live Yule tree you ritually plant each spring. Growing plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, preventing it from contributing to global warming. The trick is, though, that when those plants rot or burn, they release the carbon dioxide again. In order to keep the carbon dioxide out of circulation as long as possible, plants that will live a long time and therefore have a body that will not rot for a long time are best, making trees a good choice. For every bonfire or campfire you have, make sure you take responsibility for that CO2 you released by planting a fast growing tree to remove it again.
Compost – How the plant and animal matter you discard rots makes a difference to what kinds of gasses are released and therefore to how harmful that rotting is. Composting releases CO2 (carbon dioxide), which contributes to global warming, but that same plant or animal rotting in a landfill, where it is usually buried underground without oxygen, rots in a different way that releases methane. Methane does a lot more harm from a global warming persective. Think composting is a lot of work? Check out my composting for lazy people post.
Planting and Composting are Very Pagan
There are lots of things you can do to honour Mother Earth, but I find planting and composting to be a good fit for Pagan devotional practice. Tree planting works well for new beginnings magic, atonement, recognizing births or prosperity magic. Composting connects us to the life-death-life cycle, and the recognition that what we let go, can come around to nourish us. It can also make concrete the process of letting go of what no longer serves us and ties us back into the full circle of nature.