Cultivating Diversity, Honoring the Earth

Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 at 11:09 pm by Darrell K

Chelsea Green’s mission statement begins by stating that, “Our purpose is: To stop the destruction of the natural world by challenging the beliefs and practices that are enabling this destruction and by providing inspirational and practical alternatives that promote sustainable living.”

Three books published in the last year by Chelsea Green have special significance for me, as they speak to the heart of our mission statement and the themes of Deep Ecology, Deep Spirituality and what can happen to a nation (and the world) when we dishonor diversity and the sacredness of the Earth.

These books are Naomi Wolf’s New York Times bestselling title The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, the Foundation for Deep Ecology’s Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation, and John Lamb Lash’s paradigm shattering Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology and the Future of Belief.

The End of America is the ultimate wake-up call to a nation that is currently being governed and driven by fear and greed. Naomi has identified the negative results of an America that has given itself over to fear of the other, and bases its foreign policy on the desire to control the world’s natural resources and the internal politics of other countries. Ideologies that give birth to the Project for the New American Century and concepts such as Full Spectrum Dominance result in the de-valuation of human life and liberties, to say nothing of the total disregard of the Earth as a living being. America has huge opportunities to lead the world in the practices of sustainable living (can anyone say Department of Renewable Energy?); whether we decide to rise to the occasion will go a long way in determining if our future is that of a creative democratic republic, or a closed-down empire of consumers. It is our job as American patriots to act on Naomi’s insights into what is happening to our country, while we still have a functioning democracy worth saving.

The recent publication of the Foundation for Deep Ecology’s Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation illustrates a mindset that sees nature as a commodity, with man at the top of the food chain and the Earth as an object to be subdued and exploited. A chapter at the heart of this book, by David Orton is titled “Off-Road Vehicles and Deep Ecology: Cultural Clash and Alienation from the Natural World,” and editor George Wuerthner’s “Critique of Thrillcraft as Part of the Larger Consumer Culture” ends with this insight, “Addressing these issues will not be easy, as it is likely that the popularity of thrillcraft is just a symptom of a larger societal ill, spawned by the inherent structural violence that is part of consumerism and capitalism.”

John Lamb Lash’s Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology and the Future of Belief is one of those rare books that challenges readers to examine assumed beliefs concerning the nature of the world, the influence of religious tradition, and how our religious and cultural “stories” might be the root causes of our current discontent. In both the West and the East we are inheritors of monotheistic traditions ruled by off-planet deities demanding adherence to the “one true faith.” These male-dominated traditions preach intolerance and view the Earth as a fallen world, ultimately to be exited and transcended by the chosen faithful. The effects of such worldviews lead to the clash of cultures and religions that we are currently living with today, and we see the symptoms of this “dis-ease” illustrated in books such as The End of America and Thrillcraft.

Not in His Image brings forth a rich and compelling creation myth and “story of the universe” that requires our participation in the unfolding and realization of the Earth’s divinity. Lash has written a tour-de-force that resonates with many people seeking to reclaim their relationship with the spirit of the Earth, a book that asks us to examine our fundamental relationships with each other and the universe.

Chelsea Green’s mission statement ends with the words, “We seek to build a community of new voices that will empower and inspire individuals to reduce their ecological impact and to participate in the restoration of healthy local communities, bioregional ecosystems, and a diversity of cultures.” The world is finally catching up (none to soon) to the vision of Chelsea Green’s founders—our world has reached a tipping point, a critical mass of boiling confusion that requires each of us to examine how we arrived at this point and how we best go forward.

I’m thankful that we have resources such as the above books (and other amazing titles from sustainable publishers such as Chelsea Green) to help us ask questions, make wise decisions, cultivate community and diversity, and honor the Earth. In short, to practice “the cultural resistance that living demands of us now.”

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