a story about one time when Jerry Brown was Governor of
California in the 70’s and the eco-poet Gary Snyder
was working in his administration. One day Brown, exasperated,
said, "Gary, why is it that, whatever the issue,
you are always going against the flow."
Gary replied: "Jerry what you call ‘the
flow’ is just a 16,000 year eddy, I'm going with
the actual flow!"
Ecology is a philosophy of nature which sees the environmental
crisis as a symptom of a psychological or spiritual ailment
which afflicts modern humanity.
are enveloped by the illusion of separation from nature,
by anthropocentrism or human centeredness.
ecology critiques the idea that we are the crown of creation,
the measure of all being. That the world is a pyramid
with humanity rightly on top, merely a resource, and that
nature has instrumental value only.
great Californian poet Robinson Jeffers was one of the
ancestors of the deep ecology movement.
“Shine, Perishing Republic”, as a young man
in the 1920’s he wrote this prophetic poem to his
two infant sons:
this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily
thickening to Empire,
And protest, just a bubble in the molten mass, pops and
out, and the mass hardens,
sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit,
fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances,
and decadence; and home to the mother.
making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is
be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendour: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine perishing republic.
for my children, I would have them keep their distance
the thickening center: corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the
feet there are left the mountains.
boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever
servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught
they say - God, when he walked on earth.
formulation of deep ecology is found in “Ishmael”
and other books by Daniel Quinn.
a recent essay titled “The New Renaissance”
which Quinn calls "a concise expression of the basic
message of all my books," he argues that anthropocentrism
is “the most dangerous idea in existence”
because it necessitates mass extinction including our
even more than being the most dangerous idea in existence”
he writes, “it's the most dangerous thing in existence--more
dangerous than all our nuclear armaments, more dangerous
than biological warfare, more dangerous than all the pollutants
we pump into the air, the water, and the land. All the
same, it sounds pretty harmless. You can hear it and say,
"Uh huh, yeah, so?" It's pretty simple too.
Here it is: Humans belong to an order of being
that is separate from the rest of the living community.
There's us and then there's nature. There's humans and
then there's the human environment.”
term deep ecology was coined in the ‘60’s
by Arne Naess, Emeritus professor of Philosophy at Oslo
University. He and other deep ecology theorists have traced
the historical roots of anthropocentrism, while Lynn White
focuses particularly on the role Judeo-Christian .
live in a world where only humans were created in the
image of God, only humans have a soul and, prophetically:
fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast
of the earth , and upon every fowl of the air, and upon
all that moveth on the earth, and upon all the fishes
of the sea; into your hands they are delivered."
such deep roots in culture and psyche, little wonder that
a change of concepts is not by itself sufficient to reorient
ourselves, to align ourselves back with the flow.
Arne Naess pointed out, ecological ideas are not enough,
we need an ecological identity, an ecological.
only engage one part of our brain, the frontal lobe, cognition.
We need ecological feelings and actions as well as ideas
to nurture ecological identity.
have always known that in wild places too, we may expand
into larger identities.
the life of the brown forest,
the great life of the ancient peaks, the patience of stone,
felt the changes in the veins
the throat of the mountain,
and, I was the stream,
the mountain wood; and I the stag drinking:
and I was the stars,
with light, wandering alone, each one the lord of his
and I was the darkness
the stars, I included them. They were part of me.
I was mankind also, a moving lichen
the cheek of the round stone ... they have not made words
for it… "
Not Man Apart by Robinson Jeffers)
Naess: “If reality is experienced by the ecological
Self, our behaviour naturally and beautifully
follows norms of strict environmental ethics. We certainly
need to hear about our ethical shortcomings from time
to time, but we change more easily through encouragement
and a deepened perception of reality and our own self,
that is, through a deepened realism. How that is to be
brought about is too large a question for me to deal with
here. But it will clearly be more a question of community
therapy than community science: we must find and develop
therapies which heal our relations with the widest community,
that of all living beings.”
I first read these words in 1986, I couldn’t help
but think of the work that Joanna Macy and I had initiated
the year before. “The Council of All Beings”
is a set of experiential deep ecology processes, ceremonies
and rituals that help us to expand our identification
in the way that Naess describes.
therapy to develop ecological self” is a good way
of thinking about this work.
of years later I was privileged to witness a ceremony
held in a Hopi village high on a mesa in the South-West
of the United States. It was so like the Council of All
Beings. The masks representing plants and animals were
more splendid, of course, the drums more confident. And
people assured me that they had continually celebrated
thus for thousands of years.
then I have searched in vain for a single example of an
indigenous culture still connected to their traditions
which didn’t have such ceremonies: Regular rituals
to testify that the human family is one strand in the
larger web of life, to acknowledge all our relations.
suggests that the tendency to disconnect from the natural
world might not be just a modern phenomenon as I had assumed.
The fact that indigenous people invariably practice such
ceremonies, speaks of the human tendency to forget who
we really are and wander off into socially constructed
identities. Why else would we need to regularly and powerfully
remind ourselves that we are part of the web of life?
peoples have always had cultural processes to counteract
this tendency. So many solutions have been found that
allow the human community to continue to cleave to the
whole Earth community. This had been lost from our culture,
suppressed by inquisitions and ignorance and now re-emerges
in a thousand ways..
more than “community therapy”, I think that
“cultural reclamation” encapsulates this work
ecology experiential processes that have been developed
and extensively tested over the last 20 years are described
in detail elsewhere.
work with 3 major processes:
and Empowerment or work with feelings.
* Deep Time, Evolutionary Remembering, The Cosmic Walk.
* The Council of All Beings.
circle together with our people as of old and mourn the
loss of species and landscapes, remember our billion-year
journey and empathize with the myriad creatures. Whenever
we do so, we have found that a palpable and expanded ecological
identity inevitably emerges in participants along with
a profound experience of community.
these experiences are ephemeral.
has shown that unless we find a way to regularly practice
our deep ecology, the new and fragile consciousness fades
back into the logic of the eddy and we remain trapped
inside a skin encapsulated ego floating helplessly towards
ideas of interconnectedness and participation may remain,
but in the absence of the experience they are sterile.
things are explored in community. We need to find or create
a “sangha” of kindred spirits (as all spiritual
traditions have recognized). We need to find opportunities
to meet - on solstices, equinoxes, under the full moon,
in deep ecology workshops or on-line to build these vital
support systems into our lives.
such ways, whilst swirling in the midst of the vast eddy,
we may remain aligned to the flow.