by Jeff Frank
Often, in class, I bring up the name Dr. Edgar Mitchell and ask students of the Lyceum if anyone has ever heard of the man. Invariably, no one remembers the name, which is not strange in this world of the fifteen second sound bite.
Dr. Mitchell has the great honor of being the last man to walk on the moon. However, what happened up there, when he was there, changed his life forever.
Dr. Mitchell had what would be called a Zen life experience as he stared at the earth from his position near his moon rover. (Yes, we have several vehicles on the moon.).
What he felt was a quickening of his consciousness, a unity with the earth, stars and cosmos as never before He felt that everything is in harmony and everyone and everything is related and interrelated. He felt a oneness with nature that he was completely unprepared for and could not, as a scientist, rationally explain.
When Dr. Mitchell arrived back on earth, he immediately resigned from the space program because he did not see the world as he once did as a scientist and had just gone through an experience that he could not explain.
This created quite a stir for a time, and Dr. Mitchell, instead of cashing in on his fame or staying in the space program, decided he had to leave his vocation and study his new experience. He found out later that every astronaut that went to the moon has this incredible experience. however, none would ever speak about it because they felt their credibility as scientists and their military careers would be jeopardized.
Dr. Mitchell, today, gives speeches about space ship earth and has focused a lot of attention on the population and pollution challenges we all face today. He says that we live on a self-contained rocketship that hurdles through space at 66,000 miles per hour and the plumbing is backing up.
If we were in a spacecraft and the same thing was happening, the crew would abort the mission and return to earth if it couldnt be fixed.
Well, we have no home base to return to; we have to fix our problems and do it quickly. Dr. Mitchell was inspired on the moon to devote his life for his fellow space traveler and planet. He realized that, even though it looks chaotic and in a mess, it isn't, and everything can be fixed. The cosmos looks as if it has no rhyme or reason to it. However, Dr. Mitchell sees the opposite. He also feels we are capable of recognizing this fact and changing the outcome to be beneficial to man and our environment. We have to make the difference because we made the problems , and they will not go away by themselves.
Thats why I use Dr. Mitchell in class because he represents all of us. At first, he did not realize the challenges facing us and then he has been doing things to make a difference. Each month at the Lyceum we graduate green guerrillas ..men and women that have decided to make a difference to themselves and their neighborhoods. They come as landscapers, arborists, nurserymen and backyard gardeners and learn about their own planet from a biological view that changes and challenges them to do better. Even the professional with a four year or two year degree in horticulture is surprised at what they dont know. When they graduate after seven classes, the knowledge they have relearned (Plato stated that learning is nothing more than remembering) gives them the impetus to change their lives and their companys goals and their customers..
Its not easy for these courageous men and women to come to class after a long difficult day to sit and listen to a volunteer teacher tell them about soils, microbes, water and their environment, then have that knowledge and change their world. However, thats exactly what is happening and has been for the past four years.
We all learned the chemical approach to horticulture and thought it was safe, simple and effective and ultimately rewarding. We find out today, after years of using chemicals, that we poisoned our soils, waters and ourselves and it was never safe, simple, effective or rewarding.
As Dr. Edgar Mitchell and the Green Guerrillas have found out, we can make a difference if we only want to. Just wanting to will definitely make a difference.
When my brother Michael was at the Battle of la Drang, in South Vietnam, we lost a lot of good men on both sides. Michael helped in body reclamation and noticed for the first time inhis short life that the dead looked alike white, black, Asian, Latino they all looked the same after a few hours in the heat and sun. He realized that everyone bled the same and looked the same in death (the total body count of just the Americans in this battle was over 300). So Michael got rid of his prejudicial thinking half the world away in a jungle.
How does all this reflect horticulture? Every insect, leaf, tree, microbe, person flora and fauna..drop of liquid and air are part of our spaceship! We have a difficult time thinking about the effects tomorrow. We all have a moment on this planet as my brother realized so long ago in another part of the world that we destroyed with our military, industrial, university complex.
We must make our moment reflect the greatness and wonder of life. We must all make a difference, at least to ourselves. As we change ourselves, we will influence others to do the right thing and we will make a difference. One step at a time!
The common thread of Dr. Mitchell and his cosmic consciousness awakening on the moon, experiencing the heights of human endeavors, and my brothers realization of the same thing (except on a battlefield amid the utter chaos of war) and the Green Guerrillas is a profound thought that everything is part of the web of life. We, us, them and as the comic strip character, Pogo, once said: we have met the enemy, and he is us.