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When Barack Obama spoke from Newton, Iowa, on Earth Day he didn't just lay out policy on green energy, but showed his efforts are part mythological.

Obama said that America faces "a choice between prosperity and decline", his attempt to turn the focus away from what he sees as the conventional argument that if society protects the environment then the economy fails.

Humans love a story about the struggle for change and often the natural world plays a big role in the tale.

Obama's situation is epic considering he assumed the presidency during a global economic crisis and now is telling Americans they need to stop doing many of the things that help them make money.

But his efforts to build an economy on renewable energy are not the
only mythological story of challenge tied to nature.

Flopsy Knight

Professor Camilla Power, one of G20 Meltdown's organisers recently
costumed herself as a rabbit during a protest in front of the Bank of
England and the Royal Exchange on April 1, 2009.

G20 Meltdown is the organisation which says it organised the protest
or "carnival party" which brought thousands of people into the streets of London's financial district on April Fool's Day this year.

Power said her costume was meant to represent "fair pay for a decent job once every moon."

She explained that rabbits and the moon are often linked in ancient stories, which teach of the earth's natural rhythm.

Power recounted that as she stood on the steps of the Royal Exchange that day she wanted people to think more about
the environment as they demanded reform.

"This is a marker of a new kind of rhythm that is an alternative way of organizing the earth's economy, of organizing life," Power said.

Running After Antelope

Author and radio producer Scott Carrier listened to the rhythm of his
heartbeat in his book Running After Antelope.

The novel chronicles his mission to run down an antelope on foot in the American West.

Like Obama's efforts to reconstruct the economy while respecting nature, using one's own power to catch an antelope is a story about trying to realize what seems impossible.

The struggle brings Carrier closer to the natural world.

He develops a bond with antelopes as he begins to understand their survival tactics when being hunted and marvels at their aerobic capacity which dwarfs his.

Everest Without Oxygen

Mountaineer Reinhold Messner has pushed his aerobic system ascending all 14 peaks in the world higher than 8000 meters.

Messner made the first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1978.

Reflecting on his career for Nómada Producciones, he said that mountains present "a possibility to go from earth to heaven".

For Messner, Scott Carrier and Camilla Power, stories about nature are stories where the earth redifines the human condition.

So as Obama announced a plan for change on Earth Day, he too was setting the stage for a story where the earth will change mankind.

Photo by Andrew Otto
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Obama's mythological Earth Day speech

By: Andrew Otto