Aug. 14, 2017

A message of connectedness

From the Earth Charter:

To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.

The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.


I am saddened by the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. From a social justice perspective, race relations and relations with the environment are interrelated. The same perspective that allows a person to rationalize the objectification and alienation of the environment allows a person to rationalize the objectification and alienation of other people and other ideas. In other words, the same frame of cultural values that allow for destruction and domination of the land and wildlife allow for the devaluing of people of color, women and people from different cultures, especially cultures that are considered to be primitive, uncivilized, less sophisticated or less rational by Western measures.

Dualistic conceptions of existence that separate mind and body, person and environment, can be traced to Aristotle and more recently, Descartes, and have profoundly affected Western thought. Defining ourselves as imaginary individualistic constants wires our brain towards dysfunctional cognitive processes such as compulsive labeling and the psychological need to impose expectations. Labeling the self as internal and the environment as external, we constrain our own neurological processes and experience a deluded disconnection from the environment and each other. This atomizes people and leads to hierarchal thinking (my beliefs are more valid than yours, my tribe is superior to yours, my ideology is grander than yours) and competition, which sets humans against the larger community of life. This deluded disconnection from other humans is related to modern man’s disconnection from nature.   

Americans truly bought into the notion of the rugged individual conquering the land and the native people who were already occupying the land. Those natives were others, were less and we easily rationalized their destruction and dislocation. Under the rationalization of state rights, confederate states fought their own countrymen for the right to own people. After all, black slaves were considered to be only 3/5th  human. It is easy to justify mistreatment of commodities under the dysfunctional perspective that we are separate from others and the land that sustains us.

All people are part of social and biological systems whose lives are framed by relationships and interactions within these systems. Our survival and quality of life is dependent on relations with healthy environments, our communities and personal bonds. We need diverse relationships to support resilience in environmental and social systems. The message of the protesters in Virginia is one of separateness in support of a war hero from a war that separated our nation and our people. The message of Mother Earth is one of connectedness, relationships and non-hierarchal power systems (true equity). The polarized state of our us and them politics and cultural stratification needs to be reconciled. It begins with relationship.