WE ARE THE WORLD
by River Phoenix
Heavens mourn above us until
Weeping see her tears as
rain they fall
Winds whip through canyons
Manifesting splintered wrath
Mother knows that we've
Dealing with the aftermath.
Sailing ocean cross the sea
Floating vessel carries me
Once I'm there, what is it
If I'm betraying Mother?
Stormy weather abruptly
Changes my course suddenly
Its so unfair starting at
Still mistreating Mother
So you see my friends what we have done
Shadows linger overhead
Heavy like the fog in the
Under heavy earth lay dead.
In a boxcar hides an orphan
Seeking shelter, nothing more
Gliding now tracks lay
Leading him to distant
These lyrics are from a song calledBetraying Mother. This year, 1990, the
year I leave my teenage years behind, I realize that nothing else matters but
this: We must heal our planet if we're to survive. Because my parents are so
closely connected with nature and share the reality that Planet Earth is our
home, I have always been conscious that we need to care for the earth as the
living, breathing, supporting, feeding, nurturing home it is for us. As a young
person, there were always other threats that seemed much greater to me along
the way-nuclear war, the many hand-to-hand wars all over the planet, famine,
poverty, crime, drugs, political prisoners, and an overall lack of compassion
for every living thing. And closer to home, each of us has our own struggles
with growing up.
There's a lot packed into our teenage years. We go
from childhood into a time when hormones start taking over. It all seems to
come at us so fast-we are developing physically and taking on much more
responsibility at home. We're dealing with our school workload, peer pressure,
the continual "What are you gonna be when you grow up?" question,
trying to set a good example for siblings, choosing a college -and the millions
of other things on our minds that have really little or nothing to do with our
relationship to Mother Earth and our true natures as human beings who have
taken it upon ourselves to be "in charge" of the planet.
With so much going on, it was quite a relief to
think that our elected officials would take care of all of those major
planetary concerns while we were just to concentrate on growing up. It's
obvious now that not only was no one taking care of our home as we trusted, but
that people were, and still are, perpetuating this planetary destruction.
Now as I look ahead to my future, I'm amazed at how
the earth itself is letting us know in so many ways that there has been a gross
injustice done by humankind. The many recent devastating floods, landslides,
and weather changes show the earth's pain and how out of balance our ecosystem
has become. At this point, not only have we polluted the earth we live on, the
waters we drink and swim in, and the air we breathe, but we have even altered
the atmosphere itself.
We are now in a global emergency, and for this
reason I'm most thankful for Earth Day 1990, which hopefully will mobilize a
worldwide massive citizen army to avert planetary disaster.
There are solutions
to these problems, but most of them will take a conscious effort by every human
being to eliminate from his or her life the things that are leading us to
impending disaster. I list the following problems and I ask you to join me and
become a part of the solution.
The greenhouse effect
Gases get trapped in the atmosphere, which acts like the
glass of a greenhouse, letting sunlight in but not letting all the reflected
infrared heat out. Because our forests and oceans can't filter out all of the
carbon dioxide we spew into the atmosphere (from power plants, large-scale
burning, and cars), it gets trapped and starts to put pressure on the planet.
We must use less energy; less electricity, and reduce the burning of fossil
fuels (mostly coal and oil). We really need to improve gas mileage for cars. We
must make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources-like solar
power-that don't contribute to global warming. We must plant more trees because
they are nature's storehouses of carbon dioxide.
The ozone layer
The ozone layer is seven miles up in the atmosphere and is
a shield from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This delicate membrane is being
destroyed by man-made chemicals that drift up there-mainly the chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) that are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, Styrofoam (as in fast
food cartons), and industrial solvents. These CFCs eat away at the ozone and
also contribute to the greenhouse effect. We need to work for laws that will ban
CFCs. That's the key. We can't wait for everyone else to do it -you change the
world by changing yourself.
Rain forest destruction
Forty-nine million acres of rain forest are destroyed or
degraded each year. That's equivalent to one and a half football fields each
second. These forests are vital sources of oxygen: They moderate our climate,
prevent floods, and are our best defense against soil erosion. Forests recycle
and purify our water. One quarter of all prescribed medication in the U.S.
is derived from raw materials found in these forests. They are home to millions
of plants and animals. The beauty and inspiration of these forests are
important to millions of people. Rain forest destruction contributes to the
greenhouse effect because there's no way to replant these jewels of nature fast
enough to soak up the exorbitant amount of carbon dioxide they release into the
earth's atmosphere when they're burned.
One force behind the destruction of the rain forest
is our country's importation of millions of pounds of meat annually from Central
America. To provide pasture for cattle, these countries have been
burning and clearing their priceless tropical rain forests. We must make our
outrage known to the businesses (especially fast food places) that use this meat;
we must demand that they stop contributing to the destruction of our rain
forests. One reason our Central and South American neighbors have participated
in this destruction is because of the tremendous debts they have to countries
all over the world. By exporting meat they make some of the money they need to
pay back these debts. I say we should figure out a way to forgive them their
debts so we may all live.
It's a tragedy that one thousand plant and animal
species become extinct each year due to the destruction of tropical rain
forests-and that the native rain forest tribes are being forced out. As the
rain forests disappear, many of our migratory birds are also losing their
winter homes. They're dying, and this is harmful because they naturally control
the population of insects-and tragic because their beauty will be lost to the
We've run out of room for all of the garbage our'
'throwaway', society has created. We must implement recycling programs in our
homes, schools, and communities.
You can start by recycling aluminum, glass,
newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Talk to your teachers and call your local
elected officials to find out how you can get involved. Buy products that come
in recyclable containers. Be persistent. Be enthusiastic. Be determined.
Chemicals, toxins, and
We are literally poisoning ourselves because of the
pesticides sprayed on our produce; the chemicals dumped on our farmlands to
"nourish" the soil; the hormones, growth stimulants, tranquilizers,
and antibiotics fed to animals that humans eat; and, of course, the pollutants
spewed into the air.
don't just affect the creature who ingests them first. They accumulate in the tissues of animals and
then, as one organism is eaten by another, they build up in even higher
concentrations. This means that a worm living in the soil will store pesticides
in its tissues. Then a bird will eat the worm and ingest the pesticides eaten
by the worm-and the tens of thousands of other worms it ingests in its lifetime.
At each stage up the food chain, the concentration of toxic chemicals is
greatly increased. The same is true of cows or chickens or pigs. Animals raised
on factory farms build up especially high concentrations of chemical toxins
because they're fed great quantities of fish meal (made from fish swimming in
polluted waters); their other feeds are grown on land heavily sprayed with
pesticides; and they are dipped in, sprayed with, and intentionally fed many
toxic compounds to keep them "healthy" while living in filthy and
unnatural conditions inside these factory farms. The days of livestock animals
grazing together in lush green meadows are over.
These poisons are retained in the fat of animals.
Each step up the food chain, animals become ever more concentrated carriers of
the most deadly chemicals. You sit at the very top of the food chain, and
whenever you eat anything that comes from nature, you are ingesting these
The solutions to these problems will take time, but
they will be accomplished. I've learned that if you can't get it all together
to accomplish this thing called peace, you do at least your part in your own
life, because that's where you can truly make an immediate difference. I'd like
to stop all of the world wars, but that's really an impossible endeavor for one
person. But I can stop all the wars
in my life. I can start with myself and improve my personal relationships with
everyone I'm in contact with. I'd like to stop world hunger and famine, but one
man single-handedly couldn't possibly stop everyone's hunger. What I can do is spend my own time, energy, and
money enlightening others about the plight of the poor. And although I can't
stop all cruelty to living creatures on the planet, I can be kinder to every
living creature in my life.
Peace begins with you. Now. We must light the lamp
of our consciousness so that we never react without thinking and questioning
the means to get to the end that we are seeking. Because if the path along the
way is covered with thorns, selfishness, cruelty, and greed, you can be pretty
sure that the result will lead us to just about where we are today...near the
end, if we don't do something quick. Therefore, I question everything with my
consciousness lamp on to see if the road I take along the way will lead me to
peace. In my life, I decided
*Not to eat animals or animal products or to use
their skins for my clothing, shoes, or decorations. There's such immense
cruelty involved with the raising of animals for human consumption that if I
can stop their pain by boycotting their products, I will immediately make a
*To recycle. Also to question my habits of
consumption. I try to use less of everything and reuse things whenever I can.
*To speak out and know that my voice can be heard
by writing government officials, becoming politically active, lobbying in Washington,
and becoming part of peaceful, educational demonstrations.
*To use less and less of those things that add to the demise of our
In our family, we never were big for celebrating
holidays, but this year my mother is asking for something on Mother's Day for
the first time. She wants us to help her call attention to the world that this
Mother's Day, 1990, should be dedicated to the most nurturing mother of
all-Mother Earth. If gifts are to be given on this day, let all mothers request
that they be gifts to the earth. We could plant trees, make donations to
environmental groups, or give other gifts to promote understanding of the
condition of the planet. This would truly make for a day worth celebrating.
With the help of all of you, I look forward to the
years ahead of us when our generation can work together to create a happy,
healthy, clean, and loving environment.