Are you tending to your own garden? |

Are you tending to your own garden?

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

All the people on this planet have something in common. They are sharing a unique garden.

But the garden is getting increasingly trampled and polluted, due in large part to obsessive harvesting.

Some people are finding that the garden is making them sick. Some are finding it is producing less food.

Others notice that it is not safe anymore for their children to play in the garden, or that the poorest people are living in the worst sections of the garden.

And some just miss all the flowers.

But for whatever reason, more and more people are deciding that it’s right to restore their corner of the garden in whatever way they can. And they are encouraging others to restore their corners.

And because of that, maybe it is easier now to be hopeful that the garden won’t be completely destroyed.

Fairy tale?

No. It’s one way to consider the thinking of Michael Lerner, the president and founder of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute on the coast north of San Francisco.

Lerner is the keynote speaker at the Aspen Center for New Medicine’s second annual symposium on Monday, and he’s the author of a provocative essay called “The Age of Extinction and the Emerging Environmental Health Movement.”

“The state of our garden is really up to us,” Lerner said in a recent interview. “There is a great new awareness of restoration ecology.”

Lerner wants to make four points when he speaks in Aspen on Monday.

First, he wants to describe how a growing number of people now have a deep recognition of how profoundly their health and their family’s health is connected to the health of the Earth.

Second, he wants people to realize that we are living in an age of extinction and disease, with species being eliminated by humanity’s actions at a startling rate and infections and disease growing rapidly.

Third, he wants to tell you that you can do something about it. He points to the history of the last 500 years, when an increasing number of societies have moved from monarchies to democracies, when slavery was ended, when women achieved more rights, and when the environmental movement came to rise.

“There have been a dozen major forward movements in consciousness,” Lerner said. “And the emerging environmental health movement represents one of the fundamental shifts in consciousness. It’s now a deep moral and ethical question of whether you choose to be a citizen of the planet.”

And fourth, Lerner wants to point out that the environmental health movement is being led by women.

Women who are tired of their friends, sisters and mothers dying of breast cancer. Women who don’t want to fear for their children going out under ozone-thinning skies. Women who realize that drastic weather events spurred by global climate change can endanger their families.

And women who just feel strongly about tending to a proper garden.

“Women get to these issues far more rapidly than men,” said Lerner. “The women’s movement understands the linkage between women’s health, children’s health and planetary health.”

Also speaking at the conference Monday are seven other health experts, including Jeff Novick, the director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida, and Dr. Jack Rowe, CEO of Aetna Inc.

The symposium will be held at Harris Hall on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the cost is $100. Phone 920-2957 for information.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is]

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