Full disc satellite image of Earth from Russian Electro-L satellite (Russian Earth Observation centre)
There is now a single issue before us: survival. Not merely physical survival, but survival in a world of fulfillment, survival in a living world, where the violets bloom in the springtime, where the stars shine down in all their mystery, survival in a world of meaning.
—The Rev. Thomas Berry
Finally we are waking up to our ecological imbalance, to the realities of global warming and its catastrophic consequences. It is also beginning to dawn upon us that these environmental changes are accelerating more quickly than we may realize. Behind our present ecological crisis, caused by industrial pollution—the chemicals, toxins, and particularly the carbon that our civilization emits—lies the demon of consumerism that walks with heavy boots over the Earth. Materialism is the driving force of our present self-destructive global culture, a myth that places short-term constant economic growth above any long-term environmental considerations.
This disregard for the environment is the product of a consciousness that is disconnected from the natural world and its interconnectedness. We appear frighteningly disconnected from real awareness of the effects of our materialistic culture upon the very ecosystem that supports us. And at the root of this disconnection is a forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, in a way unthinkable to any indigenous person. We are not only a part of a living Earth, but of a sacred Earth, an Earth that nourishes our souls as well as our bodies.
But collectively we have forgotten the sacred nature of the Earth. Just as there is an ecological need to reclaim our relationship to the Earth as a living whole—to come to know how we are part of a mutually interdependent ecosystem—so also there is call to reconnect with the sacred within creation. If the Earth is just a resource then there is no real responsibility. We can use and abuse it, as we are doing at the present time. If it is sacred then how can we justify our present attitude towards the environment, our acts of ecocide?
I deeply feel that we need to reclaim our spiritual relationship with this beautiful and suffering planet, feel it within our hearts and souls. We need to develop an awareness that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the energy we use, are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth. Then we are making a real relationship with our environment, respecting the land on which we live, the air we breathe.
We still carry the seed of this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness and life, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability. To quote the Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki:
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a Sufi teacher and author. Editor of the anthology
Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
, he has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday, and featured on the Global Spirit Series shown on PBS. For further resources visit: www.spiritualecology.org