Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Coming off the Avatar post I’ve been doing quite a bit of catching up on deep ecology. Through our inter-library loan program, I picked up a wonderful book, “Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings.” It’s a collection of small essays by thought leaders in the deep ecology movement.

While I could write a post on any and all the points discussed in the book, there is one presented by John Seed that has struck a chord with me that I would like to share.

It is about perspective.

Up to now, the modus operandi for most of the green movement has been about protecting the environment in a way that sets humans apart from it. Like we sit outside the eco-sphere some how and in our classic anthropocentric way, need to save it for future use by us. At the end of the day, nature, the environment, and everything within the biosphere exists for the sole purpose of meeting our needs.

Now, what if you were to turn all that inside out? What if the human perspective shifted from one of being apart and above the environment to being an integral part of it? The human species as just another organism in the intricate tapestry of life here on Earth – no more special than any other that breathes the air, drinks the water, lives, dies, and passes its energy on to the next living thing.

So instead of working so hard to protect the environment as some stand-alone entity, we, as being one with the environment, would be working to save ourselves from our own self-destruction.

That’s a game changer, isn’t it?

The analogy of using a 24-hour day to track the 4.5 billion year lifespan of the planet is one that resonates well with people. It is used in “Thinking Like a Mountain”, but in context of the other writings within it is more powerful than ever. Not to spoil it, but modern-day humans only come on the scene at 11:59:59 PM.

Yet, in that one proverbial second, we have systematically eradicated much of the natural resources that came to be in the last several billon years: Mined, drilled, cut, dug, burned, flooded, and pumped the carbon lifeblood on or below the surface; cultivated, bred, factory farmed, genetically altered, and/or drove to extinction that life which grew, swam, slithered, walked, or flew above the crust. We have designed ways to all but eliminate our species from existence with the touch of a button.

When you take a step back and try to look holistically at the trajectory we’re on, it’s questionable what the end of this ride will bring.

But could a shift in perspective on the grandest of scales change that trajectory? How possible is such a notion? Look around at everything happening in front of you: The people, the places, the “problems”. How could such a shift in perspective – in consciousness – even take root, let alone thrive and bear fruit when there are so many day-to-day distractions?

The obvious answer: One person at a time. I just don’t know if there is enough time left to reach all 6.8 billion of us that call this little corner of the solar system home.

So what would you do – how far would you go – to save yourself?

[Image: jasontheaker via flikr]

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