In our fight to protect and to live in harmony with the Earth, it is often useful to question why we need to do this.
Some are driven by a mechanistic desire for a ‘sustainable world’ in line with the Brundtland definition of sustainable development: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This is a worthy goal but the word development has been twisted out of all recognition by the capitalists seeking to make more money and by governments who jump to their tune. Just look at the corporate responsibility statements from companies that are polluting heavily and you will often see how they have hijacked the phrase and reframed it to mean growth (a great example from Shell is here, apparently sustainability is integral to all Shell activities!)
Some have an absolute recognition of future generations. The notion that that we should make decisions based on the impact on our descendants in seven generations time is a great way of understanding impacts. The idea that we protect our children is a theme of many species, and an idea that is central to parenthood for humans. Protecting the Earth for our children is a worthy ideal.
Others have a more spiritual alignment seeing the world as sacred as path of an Earth based religion. While I have considered myself as an Animist for some time (and as a Pagan Druid which all fit nicely together as a set of beliefs and philosophies), I was surprised to see how little has been written on the subject, even in the thought soup that is the interweb.
I’m reading Bobcat’s excellent book The Wakeful World which seems to take a fairly academic look at Animism. John Beckett has done a short piece on it here where he asks if we talk to our cats, dogs and er… trees. Animism was dismissed as primitive by anthropologists in the late 19th century and doesn’t seem to have managed to get much traction in mainstream thought since then. I guess that 20th century ‘progressive’ man didn’t want anything primitive upsetting their lifestyles!
For me, the notion of primitive feels like I’m working with something primal, something core to my being, something unspoilt. It feels reals. Animism to me holds that everything in the world is sacred and contains life force. Even that is clumsy, it doesn’t really contain life force, it is life force. From the hawk soaring in the morning sun and the stag outlined in the mist to the plastic wrapping on a Mars bar, everything has life force. Some things tend to be more vibrant with life than others and the Mars wrapper feels like it vibrates at a slower speed than the hawk!
The Earth we walk on, that feeds us and is an intrinsic part of us has a huge amount of life force. Just hold a handful of soil from an organic veggie patch and consider the life that it contains. It contains a melting pot of fungi, insects, worms, rotting leaves and insects, and it provides the nourishment for those lettuces growing around it. We are made of Earth, just as we can consider ourselves made of star dust.
So for me protecting the Earth is not the mechanistic desire for sustainability or even thinking too far ahead with future generations even though both are extremely important, for me the key is that the Earth is sacred, it is part of me and I am part of it. I need to honour the life force in all thing and I need to protect it as sacred which is why I spend an hour at the top of a hill in a ritual calling for an end to fracking this morning.