World Views — God, Me, Environment

When the resources are gone....

Terry Tempest Williams is a favorite writer of mine, not only because she writes of the environment, the living and physical world we live in, but because the God-view that is woven through her writing is familiar to me, close to my own. Williams talks of the consciousness of being in the world in an article in the online The Progressive.  She then compares that consciousness to the “world view” held by many scornful of  environmentalism, specifically naming current GOP candidates Santorum, Gingrich and Romney. Williams quotes Santorum:

Consider Rick Santorum’s recent comments to Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation, when he said Barack Obama’s “world view” is different than that of most Americans. The day before, Santorum had said that the President believes in “some phony ideal, some phony theology . . . not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”

When Schieffer asked him to clarify his statements, Santorum said that he was referencing not the President’s faith but environmentalism.

“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” he said. “That’s what I was talking about: Energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. . . . I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do.”

“The Earth is not the objective,” Santorum said. “Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.”

The most frightening thing about Santorum’s comments are that so many people have the same world view.   Many seem to have no consciousness of the reciprocity, the symbiosis in our existence in this world.   We have become parasites of the highest order, sucking the life out of all that has been supporting us.

Williams includes this from Gregory Bateson (1904-1980), an anthropologist who saw human beings as part of a system:

If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks . . . against the environment of other social units, other races, and the brutes and vegetables. If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic byproducts of your own hate, or, simply, of over-population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

I cannot say it better so will simply repeat Bateson’s pronouncement while thanking Terry Tempest Williams for her essay on the need for consciousness.

Life undisturbed

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic byproducts of your own hate, or, simply, of over-population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

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Turning Passive to Active

Originally posted on The Art of Place.

An Unspoken Hunger, Terry Tempest Williams

I recently read An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams and now wonder, what should I do?  She calls to women to join the “Home Stand Act,” a proposal modeled on the Homestead Act in which we set down roots and protect the lands that we inhabit.  I like the idea of a movement, a coalition, a joining of minds and holding of hands such as this, and agree that each human being  who inhabits space on this beautiful Earth should participate in the conversation, the dialogue, regarding the well-being of our particular corner, our place.  Even though Williams’ explicit call is to protect that place we inhabit, I think her implicit hope is that our concern and action not be limited to that particular corner, as our understanding of our place in the larger earth system is essential.  The Earth was created to interact as a body, not a collection of limbs and organs independent of other parts.  Just as a human soul cannot inhabit a lifeless body in which the systems have been disrupted, the Earth’s parts and organs are equally necessary to its continued function and survival.  We need to understand the connectedness just as the blind man needed to know, as he examined his specific part of the elephant, that the other men, as blind as he, were also each defining the same elephant according to that directly beneath their fingertips.

Cannonville, a lovely little town

I grew up in the red rock country of southern Utah, part of the desert described by Williams.  My own education of the Earth was nurtured by everyone and everything around me– mother, grandmother, family, community, schools and life experience.  It would have been easy to stay in that valley, that isolated corner of the world, but I left.  I moved to northern Utah to seek  education, married, stayed.  I am still, however, within manageable reach (three-four hour drive) of the canyons and rocky desert country of which I am a part.  University professors with a love of the land expanded my understanding of the interconnectedness in this world and deepened my love of the earth and appreciation of the systems that make it habitable.  I have spent the years since then, with the attached life education, reaching a point where I have more confidence to speak up, speak out, to act, and so now I ask again, what should I do?

A “Home Stand Act” can provide a point from which we speak and act.  This can be from the security of one’s home and family through letter writing, phone calls, visiting with neighbors and friends.  It can be the joining with others in physical events and gatherings of any kind, it can be in virtual gatherings through web groups and blogs.  We speak for our local lands, our corners, our places.  We support each other in this common Home Stand through articulating our passion, our beliefs, and sharing what we know.  There will be those who tell us that we don’t really know, that we’re wrong.  We do know.  And we need to keep telling that which we know.  We are surrounded by those we love and who love us in return, we speak of things that touch our hearts, and we are supported by strong fact and faith-based information that we are ready to share. Williams is asking us to find the courage and resolution within ourselves to speak for the land.

It is inevitable that speaking for the land will become political. Williams quotes Claudine Herrmann’s Tongue Snatchers:

The beauty of the world, the health of its creatures, the emotion of love, and the thirst for justice are sacrificed every day to the will of power, and it astonishes me that all political systems, no matter how different they appear, end up with the same singular result: that of placing life last among all their preoccupations (Williams, 134).

The very thought of being involved in politics is intensely distasteful to me.  The land that I love, however, is at the mercy of those with power– economic and political.  I must, therefore, step into the political landscape because I have a voice, I am a steward, and I will join with those who are speaking for the land and all life.

So to answer the question what should I do? I say, I will take my “Home Stand.”  I will speak and say to those with political power who are shaping the world–  the whole world, every corner– “Life” first.  This is a living earth.  If politicians and policymakers focus on profits, revenues or deficits, and on the political “win” rather than on Life, the Earth as a wondrous living body loses.  All life, every single one of us, loses.