James Lovelock’s recent comments in the mainstream press have caused deep dismay amongst the environmental community. In essence, he said that climate change was so far advanced already that there is little we can do to alter its course and so we may as well give up trying to reduce our carbon and enjoy ourselves, ie buy a Ferrari or fly off on holiday. This has caused a great deal of anguish – the Guru of Gaia Theory has given up!
Stepping away from convention
The latest climate change science coming from a worldwide group of respected scientists is indeed depressing. So much so that it is perfectly reasonable to be discouraged. It is rather like embarking on the spiritual journey. As we start to look within, the shadow side of our personality is illuminated by the light of our enquiries. I believe that this process of deepening awareness leading to discouragement is a necessary step. Before we can alter our lifestyle, we have to become aware enough to want to step away from the convention of mindless consumerism and ecological disregard.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, was asked by his students, ‘What is the most important thing we can do for the healing of our world?’ He replied, ‘The most important thing is to hear within ourselves the sound of the earth crying.’ This is because before we can act, we need to experience the suffering of the earth and its creatures and share the deep connection with life itself. Our culture has separated us from this experience and deadened our awareness of our place in the web of life by an onslaught of sound and activity, much of it trivial and unnecessary. With 24 hour TV, a battery of violent films, muzak in every shop, pub or restaurant, traffic and plane noise… We are drunk with the sounds and sensations of 21st century civilisation. This cuts us off from the deeper, timeless and mindful realities.
A journey, not a destination
Once we begin to ‘hear’ the Earth and feel her heart beating within the myriad of species and forms, our relationship with her is enlivened and renewed. It is inevitable that this deepening also activates our awareness of just how destructive and asleep the human race seems to be. And as we become more aware of this, we experience grief and despair. It can be paralysing. But if we consciously work to connect our intellectual perceptions with the compassion of the heart, we can begin to reinvigorate our lives. From discouragement can come renewed courage. We can unify the spiritual practice of harmlessness – ahimsa – with practical attempts to live more ecologically harmless lifestyles. I am not saying this is easy or that most of us will completely achieve the Holy Grail of zero carbon living. Like spiritual development, it is a journey, not a destination.
There is an understanding in esoteric philosophy that the destruction of form is the true process of evolution. Elisabeth Sartouris, the evolutionary biologist, also writes about this from a scientific perspective. She says that seen in retrospect, every crisis on our planet has created the stress that became an opportunity for further evolution. This in no way condones the horrors of warfare or the destruction of precious and irreplaceable habitats like the Amazon Rainforest but it does allow us a larger perspective. In the midst of destruction and change, there is every possibility that there is a larger cycle of evolution at work.
The destruction that will ensue from climate change and the limitations of declining fossil fuels is forcing humanity to open to new ideas and become radically creative. From an astrologer’s point of view, we are witnessing the dying forms at the end of the Piscean era – the polarisation of ideas and extremism in all forms – and the struggle to resist the incoming energies of Aquarius, energies of synthesis, co-operation, community, ecological balance… I believe that the Transition Movement is a powerful expression of this new intelligent energy, an expression of positive human evolution.
Earth Listening Day
I’d like to propose that we have a special ‘Earth Listening Day’ – a day when we turn off our radios, tv, iPods, computers and go out into nature to a favourite place and walk, share quiet, reflective times, eat simple food, eschew shopping and consuming, and instead pick up litter and recycle it, maybe make something out of natural materials – weave willow, plant
seeds, make a small sacred area in the garden – or just BE.
So besides the necessary practical actions that George Marshall proposes in his book, The Carbon Detox (and I urge you to embrace them fully!), we are also linking our personal reflective practice with a form of gentle activism, thereby unifying our inner and outer work. By doing this we take another step towards greater personal integrity and authenticity and participate in the larger cycle of human evolution.
Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine – solutions for sustainable living. 01730 823311.