‘Planet as Self’ argues for a radical rethink of our relationship with Mother Earth or Gaia and points out how beliefs – scientific or religious – can so easily be mistaken for truths. Nothing less than a paradigm shift in our basic beliefs is called for.
The aim of this book is to encourage a fundamental and beneficial re-evaluation of the way the sciences are defined and practised in our modern world. It does so by carefully and systematically examining ten core beliefs that most scientists accept without question, all of which are in fact untested and untestable and which severely limit the ability of our modern sciences to respond convincingly to the challenges we face in the twenty-first century.
It is so easy to become fearful, isolated and despondent about the enormity of the environmental and social challenges that we, as a human race, are currently facing. This book tells us how we can sustain ourselves through these challenges and live positive, compassionate and hope filled lives
Most cultures have creation stories. And for many centuries, those creation stories have served to bond people together in a shared sense of history and of destiny. Our modern, Western culture, with all its book learning and its technology and its scientific knowhow has long since outgrown tales of Adam and Eve and fig leaves and yet there has been nothing coherent to put in their place. For a long time now, we have been a people in need of a creation story.
Whereas Louv's earlier book Last Child in the Woods pointed out the problem of Nature- Deficiency Disorder in children, Louv’s new book The Nature Principle points out that adults themselves can suffer from the same disorder—and many already are. Though we tend to forget it, we too are animals; we co-evolved with the natural world and we need it as much as ever. Being isolated from green and growing things predisposes us to a range of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, behaviour disorders, depression and a lack of connection with community and place. We ignore these warnings at our peril.
Judith Bromley's book is unlike anything I have ever read. I would say that I have experienced it rather than read it. As she led me through the seasons of a single year, I found myself wanting it not to be autumn but to continue to be summer. I found myself engaged in the process of gauging the height of the sun, and the point in the valley where the sun never shines. I felt really glad that the populace don't have access to 'our' wood, and that it remains undisturbed and sacred.
Part personal story, this book begins among the bright green terraced rice paddies of Bali as the author sets out on a study tour through Asia to document the relationship between magic and medicine. Rather than travelling as an academic, he goes simply as a magician, using his own well-developed magic skills to make a collegial connection with the various sorcerers and shamans he meets along the way. Soon, however, he begins to discover the deeper truths of the shamanic role in community, which is to be the knowing, sensing bridge between the community and the greater reality, both psychic and organic, in which all our human communities are embedded.
An essential first step in repairing the damage we have done to the planet and to ourselves may be to go back to basics and, literally, to come to our senses. Not only must we fully re-inhabit our animal bodies but we must also become aware of our vital interconnectedness with all other creatures. And for tutoring us and inspiring us in these twin tasks I have never met a better teacher than David Abram.
In this book Marija Gimbutas provides us with a scholarly but also readable account of the Goddess tradition of Europe from the late Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras, through the megalithic and henge building periods and into recorded history.
Margulis' research has shown that symbiosis, the term used to describe the phenomenon of organisms living together to their mutual advantage, has played a major role in biological evolution. This represents a significant shift from classical neo- Darwinism which sees competition as the virtually the only selection mechanism.
As part of the development of a liberation theology, Anne Primavesi presents a critique of the view that biological evolution is driven almost exclusively by competitive processes and the way this has been carried over into the human SocialScape and used to justify the exploitation of humans and the natural world.
Ramon maintains that Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600, is the true founder of modern cosmology, and that he goes far beyond modern physics in linking cosmology and spirituality. Bruno put forward a view of the Universe which is close to that – indeed goes further than that – which is held by early twenty-first century physics.
This book addresses the elements in human nature that either propel one in the direction of living in harmony with the earth or, as is the usual case, carry on as though a connection didn’t exist.
In this book, Chris links his extensive, first-hand knowledge of modern physics with a deeply-felt creation spirituality, aided by a powerful grasp of the history of science and philosophy. He wants to tell us what it means to really live in moment-by-moment connection with all-that-is, or, to use a favourite term of his, with the Other. To do this, he sets out the new world-view that makes living in connection possible.
For Brian Goodwin, intelligence, meaning and subjectivity are inherent in nature, not restricted to the human realm. As a scientist, Goodwin is well equipped to show us how this can be so, though he calls on folk stories as well as scientific studies to help him convey the message. His argument equally implies that all our stories, arts and other cultural creations also arise from the endlessly inventive, emergent, unpredictable reality which is Nature.
George Monbiot researches the subject of climate change in depth, he cuts through preconceptions and gets to the root of the problem. A breath of oxygen rich fresh air. He shows how we can reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 – this is the level he suggests we need to reach to avoid runaway global warming and the collapse of large eco-systems.
The late Val Plumwood’s previous book Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (Routledge, 1993) is one of the foundational texts of eco-feminism. In Environmental Culture she has written a worthy successor.
Logan converts that which seems ordinary into something mystical, taking us with the stardust created in the ‘big bang’, through the ages, to join the other components of earth, dirt, soil, muck, loam, humus, compost, or whatever you choose to call the skin of the Earth.
‘Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World’ by Bill Plotkin
Depth psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin, well known for his earlier book, Soulcraft, begins this one with a quote from Thomas Berry, a poignant poem from Drew Dellinger, five succinct sentences outlining the mess our species has made of the planet in the last two hundred years and the following statement: “True adulthood, or psychological maturity, has become an uncommon achievement in Western and Westernized societies and genuine elderhood nearly nonexistent.”
When she was researching for her landmark book Diet for a Small Planet back in 1970, Frances Moore Lappé realized that it is we human beings ourselves who create the problems, such as scarcity, that we find so troubling. “While most of us think that ‘seeing is believing’… no, for human beings ‘believing is seeing.’ Our core ideas about how the world works determine, literally, what we can see and what we can't.”
‘Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a way to get there from here)’ by Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman
The thesis of Bruce and Steve’s brilliant new book, in a very small nutshell, is that there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that science has moved on but we haven’t. And we need to—fast! The good news is that we can do it because all the tools we need are right here, under our noses (inside our noses too, as a matter of fact).
‘All things are interconnected.’ I am always surprised that this highly abstract, therefore potentially dry statement can set off a tidal wave of joyful emotion in the depths of the psyche. For Freya Mathews it expresses a basic intuition, the essential starting point for a careful philosophical analysis which leads to Panpsychism, in a modern form of this ancient idea. She is clear that “One is likely to become a panpsychist only as a result of direct experience of a responsive world” and her ample and engaging examples of such experience include her own and other people’s. On an ordinary, daily car journey: "With all the objects around me finely and blackly etched against the orange light, the differences between trees and telegraph poles, birds and distant airplanes, no longer registered. I was filled with a sense of one of those semi–ineffables: that every instance of matter is not merely manifest and visible, but actually there, present to itself…there is an innerness to its reality as well as an outerness."
The American philosopher W.V.O. Quine once remarked that “Consciousness is to me a mystery, not one to be dismissed. We know what it is like to be conscious, but not how to put it into satisfactory scientific terms” (Quidities pp. 132-3). So consciousness, along with the whole subjective nature of our inner mental and spiritual life, gets left out of the scientific world picture. Thus, the orthodox account of evolution tells us that living beings emerged and developed as ever-more complex physical entities, but nowhere in this story is there a place for the subjective phenomena of consciousness. These seem to be of a different order of being entirely, and the only way of accounting for them is to imagine a kind of miracle whereby at some point in the evolutionary process complex physical systems produced a wholly different kind of reality, namely consciousness.
This is not the first book I have read on the subject of simple living, but it is as yet, the only one which tackles the psychological implications of making life changes in as much depth as the practicalities. We all have some resistance to change, especially when the outcome runs counter to the attitudes and values prevalent in our materialistic society. To summon the energy and willingness to do this requires both awareness and effort (qualities which the author has aplenty). So, if you are willing this book could be a useful companion.
Readers of GreenSpirit will be profoundly aware of the ecological stress now facing our planet as a result of human action, and of the call which many of us feel, to respond by embracing the earth more closely, connecting with it more intimately, so that we can know in our bones what is happening and respond more with our whole being. Many of us also feel that the underlying cause of what is happening is the progressive loss of any meaningful worldview within our society.
‘Green Spirituality: One answer to global environmental problems and world poverty’ by Chris Philpott
From GreenSpirit member Chris Philpott comes a book, many years in the making, that is a compendium of attitudes and sources of wisdom about the spiritual basis of what it is to be green. In an inspiring Foreword, the author, scientist and activist Vandana Shiva suggests that this book could help us to rediscover what she calls a ‘spiritual sheet anchor.’
Emma is head of the international Druid Network and the author of ten books. She teaches courses worldwide, and lectures at universities and conferences on Druidry, environmentalism, healing, and women's spirituality.
Jesse Wolf Hardin's book bears an accurately descriptive title. Gaia, the living, conscious, inspirited Earth, and eros, the love of the Earth. Gaia Eros – Earth love. Its thirty-eight small chapters felt to me more like a collection of love poems than a series of essays. Unconnected by a logical, progressive unfolding of ideas, each is complete in itself like musical variations on a theme – the theme of Earthly love.
‘Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organisations & Society’ by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski & Betty Sue Flowers
I’ve always wondered what manner of ‘profound change’ it would take to alter how individuals think and act. Individuals make up society; if enough of them did change, that would mean society itself would undergo some kind of transformation. Thus it was with great curiosity and anticipation that I waded in and began absorbing the discerning logic and experiential wisdom the four experts had woven in and out of all kinds of background qualifications and assembled into one gigantic platter of prescriptions for how to make sense of who we are, how society functions, the consequences of our interactions and the kinds of scenarios that result because of the choices we make, both personal and public, at all levels of human conduct.
...Nevertheless, I liked his book for three reasons. Firstly, it teaches a slow, careful and highly conscious way of interacting with – and appreciating – place.
The old mechanistic paradigm under which most of us grew up has trained our thought habits so thoroughly that those of us struggling to express an ecocentric worldview often find ourselves literally at a loss for words. For example, we hear ourselves using phrases like ‘walking outside in Nature,’ even though we know that Nature includes us also, whether outdoors or in. We talk about ‘caring for the planet’ as though it were a thing and separate from ourselves. And if finding a vocabulary for ecocentrism is hard, how much harder is it to live it?
The story of this book is miraculous in itself. The fable and the message it so clearly contains date from over a thousand years ago. The origins of the story were Indian, but it was actually written down for the first time in the tenth century C.E. in Arabic by a Sufi order. It has since circulated through most of the Eastern religions; this edition is the first one in English. I found out about it through Isabel Carlisle, who converted it into play form and has used it in schools over the last few years.
In the summer of 2010, Caroline Brazier co-led a week-long eco-therapy group in her Buddhist community’s retreat centre in the French countryside. At the conclusion of the week, she began to write down her thoughts and reflections. In her words, “This book is the result. An account of a group and of a summer, interwoven with the ideas and therapeutic theory which framed our work, it is an invitation to share, to join the exploration and to experience the process of engagement in a healing relationship with nature.”
Stephan says in a Schumacher-esque way: "...the real change has to be an inner one...even the most brilliant technological solutions could lead to disaster if they are not used by wise human beings". It is here that I believe this book makes such an important contribution. There are lots of books in our wider society full to the brim with the thinking function. But what is needed is more feeling, sensing and intuition bringing with it wisdom and a holistic response.