I don’t know about you, but thinking about the state of our planet and how to save it generates a lot of anxiety within me. How can I, a mere drop in the ocean of humanity, possibly do something to make a difference in our fight against climate change and global warming?
Of course, like any conscientious citizen, I have been:
- recycling anything recyclable,
- leaving my car at home to walk or cycle whenever possible,
- shopping local,
- buying sustainable,
- finding ways to make my home more energy efficient,
- et cetera.
But despite doing all this for more than 30 years—along with million other people—climate change is far from showing any signs of slowing down. Worse, it is accelerating. Now more than ever.
No doubt radical changes in our way of life are necessary.
But despite all the changes we could ever make ‘outside of ourselves,’ chances are the climate change problem will persist. Why? Because perhaps the physical, tangible things that we transform, make, or use are not the only causes of climate change. Perhaps they can also be found on a much deeper level, in the intangibles that form the core fabric of our relationships.
Have we fallen out of right relationship?
From a “zoomed out” view of humanity as a whole and its behavior toward the planet, it is easy to see how we have fallen out of right relationship with our Mother and her children. How the two-legged have wandered away from the circle of animal brothers[i] and the sacred circle of life.
Somewhere in our history, we shifted our perspective from “we” to “me.” From belonging to thriving communities, we became primarily concerned with fulfilling our own needs. From honoring all life and treating all our relations as sacred, we chose to pursue our own interests to the detriment of others. From being in constant conversation with the mystical and the invisible realms, we built up distance with the Otherworld and other members of the circle, including our beloved Mother Earth.
This emotional distance, this coldness toward and disconnection from the Earth (and all life) are what have allowed us to abuse Her without mercy. Reduced to an inert physical object to be owned, violated, and used for own purposes, we no longer (heart)feel empathy for Her, so we impose no ethical limitations on our actions toward Her.
But in our arrogance, we forgot that we are still governed by Her laws. And one of Her favorite design principles is self-similarity—a key ingredient of fractal geometry. Fractals are patterns that are repeated on different size scales. Some of the most common examples of fractals in nature include trees, ferns, snowflakes, river deltas, mountains, clouds, lightning, and crystals. The lungs, circulatory systems, and brains of animals are also fractal structures. In each of these examples, self-similar structures are repeated throughout the spectrum of infinity. They look alike whether zooming in or out.
The same principle of self-similarity can be found in less tangible things such as social and economic systems, the arts, and… our relational behaviors.
Let’s zoom in on humanity from our “zoomed out” view of the Earth. Aren’t we behaving with each other in a manner similar to how we mistreat the Earth? Haven’t we fallen out of right relationship with our own neighbors? Indeed, we live in an era where contrary to one might think “violence has proliferated, […] rape is committed with impunity, sex trafficking thrives,”[ii] competition is more ferocious than ever, fraud is the norm, and “materialism dismisses meaning and magic.”[iii]
Zoom in a little more and we can identify the same patterns in our relationship with ourselves: self-objectification, body dissatisfaction and shaming, self-hatred, and eating disorders, to name only a few.
If we zoom in again to look inside our bodies, one can’t help but notice the extraordinary resemblance between the behavior of cancerous cells in the body and humans on Earth. Like humans, cancerous cells compete with neighboring cells for space and resources; they evade predation by the body’s immune system; they can even cooperate to disperse and colonize new organs[iv]—a process known as metastasis.
Like humans, cancerous cells are concerned with fulfilling their own needs and pursuing their own interests. They, too, have fallen out of right relationship with their fellow cells. They have fallen out of balanced and harmonious relationship with the whole body.
But that’s not all. Anyone who connects with the invisible realms of a cancerous tumor can tell that it ‘feels’ and behaves quite differently from any other disease states or physical injuries. Unlike the latter which lack sentience, a tumor has a consciousness; it is sentient in its own way.
As a sentient entity and parasitoid, a tumor somehow ‘knows’ that such behavior will eventually kill its host… and itself as a result. But it keeps doing what it does best. No matter what. In utter disregard for the consequences.
Does this sound familiar? Don’t we know that our behavior is killing our host, but keep doing it anyway? Aren’t we Mother Earth’s very own cancerous cells?
As above, so below. As within, so without. The macroscopic (human behavior on Earth) is revealed all the way down to the microscopic (tumor behavior in the body), and the ‘macro’ is a mirror for the ‘micro.’
How do we fall back in right relationship?
While technology can be incredibly useful in solving the environmental problems we have created, over relying on it could be disastrous. Indeed, many in the scientific and business sectors would prefer to change the planet itself through bioengineering rather than to resolve their own patterns and behaviors based on evidence of climate change[v]. I am sure that you will agree with me that further modifications to the Earth are certainly not the way to fall back into right relationship with Her.
1. Finding our way back to LOVE
Restoring our relationship with our Mother and Her children can only come from a place of humility. Taking full responsibility for our own problems, healing the pain that holds us back, forgiving the people who have wronged us, forgiving ourselves, making amends, and making different choices in the way we relate with ourselves and others are all ways to gain humility and find our way back to (self)love.
When we heal and open our hearts, we feel the flow and sacredness of all life, and we experience deep love and compassion for ourselves and others. It changes how we relate with and respond to others. It brings us back into balance and harmony, into a state of Interbeing.
Through the principle of self-similarity, acting from that state in any situation becomes significant and relevant to help reverse climate change and global warming. Because the fundamental changes these acts create in the fabric of our social interactions must be mirrored on all scales through fractal geometry. Can you imagine what could happen if “our politicians and corporate executives were […] acting from compassion rather than calculation, from humanity rather than abstract instrumental motives”[vi]?
2. RENEGOTIATING our place within the Circle of Life
Through (re)learning how to be in right relationship with ourselves and our fellow humans, it becomes much easier to develop right relationship with our “non-human relatives.”
The Earth is a sentient being. So are the plants and animals. Even water and stones are sentient in their own specific ways. Therefore, the land around us is conscious of what is happening—whether a garden is planted, a mountain is carved to create a tunnel, trees are cut down to build a road, or prayers are spoken[vii].
As the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, so eloquently put it, “[w]e don’t always act upon it, but we know how to love each other, and be grateful for each other, and be in reciprocity with each other. We can extend those human gifts to our non-human relatives. I think we are in this place [of rapid climate change] because we haven’t loved the land enough. What needs to change is a greater expanse of how we channel that love.”[viii]
There is much we can learn from the traditional ways on how to channel that love. Opening a dialogue with the land around us, making offerings of thanks to it, asking for its permission before every interaction, listening to its answer, and learning what it has to teach us are all great ways to (re)enter right relationship with our Mother. In fact, asking permission is probably the single most important way to show our respect for the personhood of the relatives we interact with[ix], whether they are human beings or not.
If everyone and everything were loved, honored, and respected in such a sacred way; if we lived once again in balance and harmony with all life; would pollution, deforestation, fracking, overfishing, and genetic modification of organisms be the same as they are today? Until we find our way back into right relationship with ourselves and others, chances are the climate change crisis will indeed persist.
[i] Grigori, J. W. (2015). Grandfather Fire and the Circle of Animal Brothers. On A Shaman’s Tales: Stories and Songs from an American Shaman. https://jadewahoogrigori.bandcamp.com/album/a-shamans-tales-stories-and-songs-from-an-american-shaman
[ii] Blackie, S. (2016). If women rose rooted: A life-changing journey to authenticity and belonging. September Publishing.
[iii] Turner, T.-p. (2017). Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home. Her Own Room Press.
[v] Livni, E. (2017, September 9). The simple metaphor that’s increasingly getting in the way of scientific progress. Quartz. https://qz.com/1072039/the-simple-metaphor-thats-increasingly-getting-in-the-way-of-scientific-progress/amp
[vi] Eisenstein, C. (2013). The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible (Vol. 2). North Atlantic Books.
[ix] Kimmerer, R. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed editions.