Climate Action as Spiritual Transformation
The other day my colleague Dave Blake sent this quote around to the managers at Reep Green Solutions.
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that,” – Gus Speth, American climate scientist.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a “cultural and spiritual transformation.” At Reep Green Solutions we work steadily towards a cultural transformation, steering us all towards more sustainable ways to heat our homes, reduce our waste, plant our yards, and move through the city.
The part that’s been on my mind even more is the spiritual transformation. There’s something that’s not connecting when we cut flood prevention funding during a time of massive flooding, or lighten up our endangered species protection at a time when the UN predicts the extinction of a million species imminently.
We’re not making some important connections here, between our own actions, and the massive collective impact we’re having on the natural world that sustains us. It’s not logical to keep on hammering the planet when we can see and feel the damage we’re doing. And it’s not the way we’ve always been. We’ve lost a soul-full connection to nature, one that was alive and thriving in the Celtic world, in Indigenous ways of being, and likely in many other cultures as well.
When I look a little at both Celtic and Indigenous views of the natural world, I see a much stronger embeddedness of life in earth and sea and sky. In ancient Celtic ways, there is a profound connection between the spiritual and the natural worlds, and a strong sense of the goodness all around us in nature. It was tradition for men to tip their hat to the sun in the morning, and for women to bend their knee to the moon at night. “I bind unto myself today, the virtues of the star-lit heaven, the glorious sun’s life-giving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even…” (Listening for the Heartbeat of God, A Celtic Spirituality, J. Philip Newell, pg 25).
When I read about Indigenous perspectives, I learn of a deep sense of kinship and gratitude to the natural world we are part of. “We give thanks to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life… To our Mother we send thanksgiving, love and respect. Now our minds are one.” (Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, pg 108).
There must be many more examples from all the other cultures of people that have lived or still do live close to the land. I would love to hear them. It matters to me that I can not only learn from other traditions, but that far back in my own heritage too, we had this connection to the natural world. Together, can we remind ourselves every day of the grace and beauty and life-giving gifts that we walk through, breathe in, see and hear all around us? Suddenly hugging a tree makes so much more sense to me. I’m going to go do that right now. And say a very big thank you for all that it gives me.
Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director of Reep Green Solutions