Standing on the Ground of Citizenship
We love the Earth. Some of our most satisfying moments are with nature. From gardening to cooking to meditative walking, the Earth is central to our values. As a Circle community of women, we ritualize our commitment to the Earth through Open Circles, our labyrinth, our Red Tent series and Brighid Festivals and beyond. With endless ways to connect, we are seeking how to think like the Earth. But as our understanding of the interconnectedness of life deepens, so does our grief.
Looking at our collective environmental future, many concerns well up. In fact, over the past year, on our Canadian patch of the planet, much has gone awry. Dangerous shifts have been cloaked in the inaccessible or ambiguous language of national and international policy and as such, have escaped sufficient community resistance. Canada, to the shock of the global community, backed out of the only international plan ever developed over the last two decades for weathering erratic climate, the Kyoto Protocol. In an unprecedented fashion, the 2012 federal budget dropped funding for environmental laws that were created over decades by committed scientists, dedicated politicians, and engaged citizens, while approximately half of the budget’s business focused on cutting a wide range of environmental safeties from coast to coast. Enacted through the government’s omnibus bill, it halted protection for water bodies (unless marked for commercial purposes), stopped the monitoring of hazardous waste use by industry, and closed some of our best environmental research centres that track species at risk, acid rain, and climate change.
Economic policy can appear boring, complicated, secular and almost inconsequential compared to the “kissy-joy” and fierce love we feel for our Earth Mama and her creatures. Policy certainly doesn’t scream “spiritual.” But as time marches forward, we are learning of the impact economic policy has on everyone’s well-being. Recent decisions will have great bearing on our descendents, as well as a high impact on our quality of life today. This is because every economic transaction takes from the Earth. At the nuts and bolts level, economics is the buying and selling of goods, and all goods are made by earth materials- even the fake stuff comes from natural sources, such as plastic sourced from oil. Thus, collective rules about economics (i.e. economic policy), have an intimate relationship with the Earth. We can trace this connection through etymology. Ecology and economy share the same Latin root:ecos meaning home. When we participate in economic transactions, we take resources from our home – the body of the Earth. Therefore, we must do so thoughtfully with a high level of cognizance. One of our most important challenges today is one of consciousness – to reveal the penetrating fallacy that economics and earth are mutually exclusive.
The global drive today for almost every economy, and thus the goal of political leaders who set the frameworks by which we live, is growth. This is expressed through a very specific measure: the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product. Corporations, nations, continents, most of the planet’s inhabitants, whether we like it or not, are competing in a mass buy and sell game measured through the GDP. The countries with the highest GDP are seen as the richest and most stable. Ever-more growth through the GDP for nations and business is irrational and life-threatening because the Earth is a finite system. It is this growth ethos that is causing the mass emptying of the Earth, in species, soil, and drinkable waters. The GDP itself is further flawed as a measure because even negative events that cause a need for purchasing/consuming, such as the billions of dollars spent on cancer, natural disasters, oil spill clean ups and war, increase GDP. This is a system gone terribly wrong. Are these really measures we want included in or dictating our nation’s perception of successful growth?
So what does loving the earth mean today? It means to engage with these paradoxical times of destruction and hope. Acknowledge the craziness and the grief, and then, move forward. Loving the Earth can mean to engage in community action to treat her better. We can be inspired by the ecological love demonstrated by our Aboriginal people that is bringing many Canadians together over these policy attacks. Loving the Earth can simply mean to notice what is happening and act. It is time to be idle no more. Women of faith and spirit across the globe have great capacity for this because we can walk through the storm and hold onto our hope and solidarity.
It is necessary that we place a new concept at the centre of our group decision making – something other than growth through buying, selling, and plundering the earth. What about focusing a nation’s success on how to benefit future generations, or on how to create greater happiness? This is what the people of Bhutan have been doing for many decades. They have dropped the GDP index for a well-researched measure of well-being called the Happiness Index.
For us women at the ground level, we must continue to learn to think like the Earth and to speak on her behalf using our own voices in the ways that are natural to us – in poetry, in music, in essay, at the dinner table, at the coffee-shop, at work. We can nudge people toward their commitment by sharing our love and passion for this beautiful and fragile planet we all share. It may seem odd to think of politics and policy as matters of spirit. But what is politics if it is not the decisions that most deeply impact the happiness and well-being of the greatest number of people? Politics are the plans that decide the quality of life for our selves, our children, grandchildren and beyond. Economic policy is like a giant visioning board for a nation; it decides things like whose mouths are to be fed and who gets shelter, who can afford education and who gets left behind, which business sectors get subsidized and which ones are on their own. It even shapes the vitality of human expression through the arts. And, as was sadly witnessed in Canada last year, economic policy decides which forests stand, and if water will be protected for future generations.
We have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that feel. Many women’s communities around the world are making it our business to collect the wisdom of the ages. Who better to take a seat at the policy table? We can’t know all the next steps, but that is part of the curious mystery of these times. It’s about calling forth new aspects in our selves through reflection and wo-manifestation: to become rooted, confident and empowered in the knowledge that we are all we need to be. We have become used to being consumers and exercising our right to vote. Now we are being called to engaged citizenship. We stand on the Earth, and we stand on the threshold of our children’s future and the future of humanity and all living things. This is a powerful moment in the long thread of time, and the political-economic-ecological crisis demands that we stand strong on the Earth. We must weave our ecology and our economy. To have sustainable economic policy is to have respect and reverence for our home and each other; it is a way to make our spiritual principles manifest in one of the most effective ways possible. It is to act with intention to stay. Let’s stand our ground together! Remember you are an earth citizen. Re-mind others.