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A talk from the heart by Boyd Varty, who has learned in his life that we are connected andmade better by our connection with each other — ubuntu — but that is also true of our connection with our Earth, our habitat, and the other animals with whom we share this beautiful planet.

A long, long time ago, I too walked a river near Londolozi in South Africa, and too saw the shadows and faced my deepest fears. I too learned of what it meant to be reliant on others to open the world, touch my heart, carry my spirit to safety, and to experience the humility of our deepest connections of heart, of spirit, of life and how these interconnections are made stronger by extending to the living creatures around us… but these are stories for another time. For now, listen with open heart to Boyd Varty and allow yourself to be immersed in his heart and story. It’s not just about meeting and knowing a great person, it is also about learning to know that together in spirit we are stronger.

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Picture

Historical photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, USA

We, none of us, ever know when we are living in the moment that will be pointed to in time to come as the defining moment.

 

We might have a vague feeling that our daily lives are, to borrow from 20th C history, similar to the days of living in the ‘tinderbox of Europe’ or the last days of the Belle Epoch. But we don’t know until the War to End All Wars has come and gone and we are on the other side of it, that we were on a precipice, having ‘lived’ through the ravages history creates in our lives, whether in families or in nations or in the world wholly.  Surely then, as now, there were warning voices for decades before such large-scale changes that made “history” took place. And surely then, as now, the people hearing them heeded or ignored, worried and debated, and no doubt felt too small to do much of anything to change the forces of such global change.

I feel strongly that this, too, is one of those times. In observing all the evidence discovered, reported on and written about during my own long career as a conservation journalist, these last 30 years reveal all the signs of warnings, worries, and moments of opportunities gone unheeded by us in meeting the imbalance  our industrial society has pressed upon our natural Home and Habitat.

At my personal website  elizabethdarby.com, I was going to write about volcanoes and whether they are good or bad for climate change  . . . but I found the geologic and atmospheric research so profoundly sad and the amount we now know about the Earth’s natural forces so profoundly amazing, that I instead resolved to look for good, for change, for a moment of brilliance in environmental solutions rather than just more sad, bad news.

After decades of writing about the environment, the wilderness, the Land and loss of wildlife, reporting on such omni-disasters takes its toll on the soul;  constantly ringing alarm bells make one as welcome as the original Pandora. A bit — actually a lot — of news that speaks to human creativity and resolve in meeting and solving our challenges is badly needed.

 

I have in mind an adjunct project to this Earth: Sacred/Possession book and curriculum I’m working on which is to create a new environmental journal to be titled Re/Solve. It will focus on solutions — to conservation disasters, micro- and macro-shambles occurring, whether in village, city, valley, wilderness or range— offering not just the small and mostly insufficient actions offered elsewhere, but rather real, simple and successful solutions. And the challenge is how to reach the 2/3 of the world that is without internet access to provide these simple now solutions that can be undertaken at the family and village level

And in setting out on this course, I found this recent Ted talk by Allan Savory. linked below . . .

 

Ironically, I met Allan Savory over 25 years ago — when as a young staff reporter for Newsweek, I was trying to change national journalism from within to create  a ‘news-beat’ on environmental and conservation issues, and on environment as national (and international) security. It hadn’t really been done at the national scale in the late 1970s and early 1980s and certainly not by a female journalist back then as it was still a man’s domain, this environmental reporting stuff.

In attempting this, I relentlessly sent ‘environmental’ stories to my beleaguered and patient editors at Newsweek, Allan being among the many. While I wrote 5,000 word articles on the complex emerging environmental issues, my editors dutifully reworked them into 750-word boxed features, save for drought and desertification of our nation’s agricultural lands. For that we achieved an award-winning cover article and I an early reporting award.

Allan had recently emigrated from Zimbabwe and was working on the damaged and desertified rangelands of my native Rocky Mountain West. His ideas for ending desertification of rangelands were shocking at the time – more livestock, not less — but I watched as his calm insistence in hotel conference rooms and meeting halls, small town by small town, won over ranchers throughout the Intermountain West.

Now I see here that Allan has an idea — a brilliance based on his life’s very important work — that will no doubt prove to be an even more important answer to climate change, writ global.

He offers an approach, a solution, a something regions, localities, individuals and nations can do. And his calm insistence that he is profoundly right demonstrates the kind of resolve I hope to have grace the content of my dream project of Re/Solve.

Take time to absorb this great solution, as nearly a million others watching TED already have… For Allan, his talk represents a lot of years of work. Thank you for your gracious persistence, Allan!

 

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© 2011 Elizabeth Darby; a View from a place called Home, UK
All rights reserved; please contact me before reposting as a courtesy.

Possession

Possess

Possessed

To be

Taken Over

Whether by God or by Human or by demons . . .

Funny how such a word <possession> has so many possibilities.

Earth: Sacred/Possession

When I wrote the title for this blog and the forthcoming book project, it just seemed like the Right Question.

And I’m finding there is nuance to it.

Does Possession in my project’s title mean  possession by God, or of God?

By humans or of humans?

Is the Earth, the land of earth, the inhabitants, habitat, place of our lives a thing owned — in which case are we also ‘things’ when we are taken over as in the common use of the word ‘possessed’ in the spiritual sense?

Are we possessed by the Land as it defines us, as in where we are born, how we identify our soul or personality’s substance (as in “I’m from _______” and thus it defines our very Self as individuals, families, histories and cultures, not to mention our dreams, destinies and wealth or power?

When I envisioned the title, the book and the hoped-for curriculum emerging from this project, the immediate use of Earth as Possession was — at least for a moment — clear to me:

Earth as possession is something someone owns, despite cultures throughout time and place which argue it is impossible to ‘own or possess’ the Land itself. Yet whenever we make an object of it, and buy and sell turf or fight wars over it, we reduce Earth, the Land, to a possession. Is this what we choose to do? Is this sustainable, this perception of our habitat as a possession?

But in going deeper, it is not so clear this concept of Habitat, Land, Home, Earth and how our language defines our relationship with it.

Back to Eric Partridge’s Origins for help:

L potis

a master of (especially property);

has a derivative possidere, literally to sit as master of, to make oneself master of,

to occupy as an act of possession —

Ah, but there’s more to this. The spiritual sense of ‘possession’ as  a demonic force apparently didn’t come into common use in English until the 1530’s. More on that in a subsequent post, but historians will recognize the time as one of religious upheaval in England, when monasteries were ripped down and “witch” trials against followers of the goddess Diana in Spain and its colonies in the wilderness of the New World were underway. A dark time when open engagement with God’s creation was suspect… But more on that later.

According to Partridge, ‘possession’ in the 1400s had a sense of “to have and to hold” as in a bridegroom unto beloved. Power-holder, yes, but the spiritual sense of ‘possession’ was yet in terms of husbanding and the clear connection to the sacred with the symbolism inherent in bridegroom as used in biblical terms.

Is there yet more to this curious concept of possession? Yes, as always a contradiction:

n posse

to have power, to be able to [do something],

 especially exercising one’s ability or mastery or power

A root of possession is ‘being able to master or power’ and it is this relationship we all enter into every moment of every day when both thinking and especially not thinking about how our land, our Earth, sustains us. This is not a bridegroom coming to ‘husband’ a land, but something much darker.

And yet there is more: the idea of Earth being possessed by God and, as Psalm 24:1, thought to have been written about 1000 BC, goes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein . . . ”

In this engagement, we and the Earth, all of everything, is a possession of God’s; there is no distinction between humans and God’s Creation as the new Pope Francis evokes in his early homilies, asking all of the world’s people, regardless of religion power or mastery, to care for all of God’s Creation. Earth as Sacred/Possession.

But there is still more:

Hidden among the historical roots of this L posse and L potis, is also, perhaps most importantly, the root of the word we know as possibility.

That is, the personal power to make something happen.

And, as we know, there is great possibility if —

— If we define our tomorrows feeling  the Earth to be our Home, our Habitat, our Garden for our children and engaging with it under the mastery of our careful interconnectedness.

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“Sacred, L sacer.

…also in Etruscan (the probable origin).

. . . Sacer has derivative v sacrare, to treat as, to render, sacred,

whence Of-F sacrer, ME sacren, pp sacred, whence the adj sacred…

Also from L sacr– comes sacrarium, a shrine, a small chapel…”

Eric Partridge’s Origins, 1966

 

It is interesting to note that idea — that the root of the word sacer in Latin came to us from Etruscan.

What we know of the Etruscan religion  is a belief in “a universe controlled by gods who manifested their nature and their will in every facet of the natural world as well as in objects created by humans,” where man was integrated into the sacred whole of the Earth. (Robert Guisepi, Etruscans, A History of the Etruscan people including their cities, art, society, rulers and contributions to civilization, 2002 at http://history-world.org/etruscanreligion_and_mythology.htm)  “Roman writers give repeated evidence that the Etruscans regarded every bird and every berry as a potential source of knowledge of the gods and that they had developed an elaborate lore* and attendant rituals for using this knowledge.”

And this is the root of the word we have in English that is Sacred:

Nature as source of knowledge of the gods.

It would seem the question of Earth as Sacred was not in doubt for myriad peoples throughout the world, including what would become known as the Western Civilization tradition. *And I’m reminded of a time speaking with a fellow who happened to be Northern Cheyenne, who reminded me that ‘one man’s lore is another’s beliefs’.

So to explore how the Earth is considered sacred shouldn’t make us squeamish. Or even embarrassed.

Yet bring up a title such as this blog’s and the coming book (as well as the hoped-for course and curriculum for our children — see the newly added About the Book page here), and the first response I’m met with is:

“Really?”

It is accompanied by a side-turn of the eyes, a shrug, a look over the shoulders and an edgy body posture suggesting the listener is a bit nervous I’m about to say something, well, embarrassing about God or gods or meaning or use of natural resources. . . . all as if to say:

“Let’s not go there. Let’s quantify. Let’s separate ourselves, man from Nature. Let’s not do that god-talk stuff as we approach a discussion of ‘highest use’ of natural resources and  a sustainable meting out of our habitat …

“It’s too, well, crazy.”

Yet the moral beliefs, our humankind Story, the explanations for why things are, which humans have developed out of the deepest longing of our hearts to help us to make sense of our existence and  our relationship with the mystery of how this whole thing began — creation or Creation — across the world such Story has some reference to the Earth as being sacred, a place where we better understand God or gods, where man is integrated into the whole of it.  Somehow.

So that’s why sacred — or Sacred — is part of the consideration of the habitat in which we live and on which we depend for our oxygen, water, minerals, food, inspiration, pharmacies… shall I go on?

I’m far from the first to suggest that if we perceive a place as Sacred, we treat it differently.

Have you, your children, or your community, explored this notion recently?

If so, drop me a line and tell me how!

It’s all part of the Story that we need to communicate to our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture)

From a photo gallery published in the Guardian.UK (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture) by wildlife photographers Will Rose and Kasja at 70˚North, a multimedia project

The polar bears (above) have returned, pacing day after day, on this beach of an island in the Arctic Sea where they are marooned.  The are looking for the sea ice their mothers and the mothers of their mothers taught them was their way to survive. Day after day, they are finding the sea ice is not there.

 

 

Biophilia: Eric Fromm (1964) reimagined by the equally brilliant biologist Edward O. Wilson, introducing the ancient concept — some might even say primitive or indigenous or mythic  (and not meaning these are the same thing) — of a human innate love of our bios, our habitat, our living world, from the cute and cuddly to the breathtaking beauty of forests, ocean, sky, natural spaces. It is a Love of the Garden, as I like to call it, in all its wildness, resilience, force, and tear-inspiring awe. We have left the Garden so completely, and thrown ourselves into the black, outer-world of exile where there is much gnashing of teeth, that Wilson offered us a reminder that such care, even such love, of our natural world is a natural, ingrained response within us. At Lexic.com it is noted that the medical definition of biophilia is the instinct for self-preservation (love of one’s life).

 

BioMimicry: Coming soon in 3.8, helping us to discover — again, as our ancestors knew so well — that as Nature progresses she teaches us to evolve or survive, reconnect and hopefully resolve our destructive tendencies to come (return?) to a way of living that is more sustainable in the face of the laws of Nature. Put in Nature’s way of work: Evolve or Die; To Be (Clever), or Not To Be.

 

 
BioEthics: Boiled down greatly to a decision regarding how an individual chooses (or is forced) to live or die in the medical sphere.  Perhaps it should have meant what has become known as Environmental Ethics, a wilderness in which we are led by the brilliance of Holmes Rolston III, among others, in considering how (not whether) Nature has standing and thus value — just because it exists — in our human system of values.  Also consider BioCentrism, as explored by Paul Taylor in the age of environmental enlightenment of the 1970s and 1980s, as an attempt to balance our species’ plague of anthropocentrism.
Biocide: Traditionally a means developed by scientists to kill off living organisms, presumably the ones humans choose to be dangerous or a distraction.  Of course, with little movement on this slippery slope, we find ourselves wonder whether we are also killing off our bios, our habitat in which case it transmogrifies to suicide.
BioEmpathy: The Institute for the Future defines it as “The ability to see things from Nature’s point of view” and is becoming a taught concept within the Episcopalian Church of the US.

 

 

I would add another meaning, however. BioEmpathy is not only the ability to see things from Nature’s point of view, but also the ability to feel what the object of our focus in Nature is feeling in any given moment.  BioEmpathy means to allow ourselves to feel the suffering, the sorrow and the mourning, em pathos, in understanding and suffering, just as the “other” feels.

 

 

In the instance of these polar bears, BioEmpathy is to be willing, able and strong enough in Spirit to allow your self to feel the pain of hunger these bears feel after weeks of being unable to leave the island in the Arctic Sea. It is to allow yourself to feel their fear and bewilderment at the startling recognition that their “normal” way to leave this island in the middle of the Arctic is not there, and that they are starving.

In the face of this choice of starve or swim in search for sea ice, some polar bears strike out into the ocean, their adaptation as strong swimmers and instinct to survive leading them on.  In the case of at least 8 bears discovered floating dead in the Arctic Sea by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, led by their will to live, these beautiful, powerful creatures drowned during their swim to survive. They died trying. We have no way of knowing how many more of these magnificent mammals are lost each day of each month while trying to survive long enough to adapt to the new conditions of their Polar habitat.

Lost.

 

Doesn’t that word alone invoke feelings of desperation and desolation within you, and within your spirit?

 

Can you feel the bears’ hunger?  Can you feel their confusion at what to do next?

 

Can you empathize with what they feel at what they see:  in this case no way out and no “normal” Way of survival?

 

Are you brave enough to feel this — and does it cause a few tears to well in your eyes for these polar bears’ situation?

 

If so, that is BioPhilia — love of life and love of self-preservation. For you are then feeling alive and connected to another mammal who lives with you on our Earth, our habitat and home, our Garden and Life-Support.

 

 

It is only when we can be strong enough to feel as these bears do and to feel their lurch of desperation in our own hearts and a cry of panic in our own spirits, that we then also feel the impetus and inspiration to change and nurture their future — the future of so much of our Garden habitat that we love — and thus change and nurture our shared and common life in our Earth home.

We are able to do something about global warming. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

We are able to do something to lessen or even halt the spread of pollution in their habitat and the invisible leaching of PCB’s through their water. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

Let’s do this — Now.

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Why is it we call ‘Natural Disasters’

Acts of God?

Does is mean that, for a moment, we see Nature as being part of God?

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