"Unless we change the direction in which we are headed, we might wind up where we are going."
- Chinese Proverb
If I were to tell you that someone who you didn’t know, and will never meet, was dying, chances are you wouldn’t care very much. And that’s probably a good thing. After all, thousands of people die each hour on Planet Earth; and if you became upset every time a stranger died, you wouldn’t be able to function. But what if you actually had a relationship with this ailing being; and, in fact, depended on her for your sustenance and well-being? And what if this isn’t a hypothetical scenario; but, instead, it’s a reality that we may, all too soon, have to face?
For most of us, she is so seamlessly integrated into our lives that we overlook all the ways that she cares for us—sustaining us with air and water and food—day by day. She is, of course, our Mother, Earth.
Yes, the somber truth is that Earth, the marvelous planet that has birthed us, nurtured us, sheltered us, and delighted us—is dying on our watch.
The sickening of Earth was first called to international attention in a 1992 declaration issued by 102 Nobel laureates in science, along with sixteen hundred other distinguished scientists from seventy countries. Their statement concluded with these words:
"We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead… A great change in the stewardship of Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
Earth’s wounds have become more, rather than less, pronounced since 1992. Indeed, atmospheric chemists continue to report steady rises in greenhouse gases; agronomists remind us that Earth’s soils are eroding more rapidly than they are forming; human physiologists report increasing concentrations of foreign, cancer-inducing chemicals in our bodies; ecologists are registering the greatest spike in species extinction since the age of the dinosaurs; sociologists are decrying the breakdown of families and the dissolution of communities while philosophers and religious leaders continue to lament the erosion of moral principles. This leads us to the haunting question: WHY? Why are we knowingly mutilating our home?
Though the causes of Earth Breakdown are many, they share a common root: SEPARATION! Yes, our abuse of Planet Earth has intensified as we have become increasingly alienated—i.e., disconnected—from Earth, from each other, and from our very souls. This alienation is, in large part, the outcome of living in a culture that has conditioned us to regard Earth as an object to be exploited as we see fit, rather than as a benevolent caregiver to be honored, respected, loved and protected.
From a Depth Psychology perspective, the case can be made that the wounds that we are now inflicting upon Earth are a reflection of our alienation from ourselves and from each other. Think about it: If we treated ourselves and each other with compassion, love, empathy and respect, we would be creating a planetary culture rooted in these self-same virtues. If, however, we find ourselves—as is often the case today—mired in hubris, fear, greed, insecurity and indifference, it follows that we will continue to create a world pocked by ever-accelerating abuse and alienation.
For one picture of what the future could hold, pause to view this video, entitled, Dear Future Generations…
i-Why do you think it is that our culture conditions us to put profit above the wellbeing of Planet Earth?
ii-Why is it that—in spite of all we know about Earth’s Breakdown—we act as helpless spectators, rather than impassioned healers?
All too often it is our reluctance to face and feel Earth’s crippled condition that renders us incapable acting on her behalf. Indeed, as author and healer, Ingrid Bacci, points out, “The depth of our feeling life measures the depth of our life force, and if we judge, contain, or repress our feelings, we repress our life force.”
If you were to muster the courage to fully open your heart to Earth’s suffering, what would you say? What would you do?
Homo sapiens Coming of Age
In many respects, we, human beings, are still a species stuck in our adolescence. This is revealed by our tendency to wage war rather than to build peace, to hoard rather than to share, and to bypass the truth rather than to face it. Yes, we still have a lot of growing up to do! But consider that the uncertainty of our times could serve as the perfect catalyst to prod us toward genuine adulthood!
Rather than anchoring our lives in competition, control and consumption—all of which separate us from Earth—what if we chose to ground our words and thoughts and actions in love and compassion? Indeed, what if LOVE is the revolution in human consciousness required to propel us from our self-serving adolescence into a life-serving adulthood?
As a means of considering this possibility, take in this TedTalk from author and activist Valerie Kaur.
" The only thing we have to do to be sure we will leave a ruined world for our children and our grandchildren is to do exactly what we are doing now."
- Gus Speth
"I hear all the time about how doomed Earth is, but what can I do?"