November 2008

Earth from Apollo 17

Earth from Apollo 17

“Think globally, act locally.” Anon (attributed to various)


I was talking on a message board, talking about the Earth and what we can do about it. And then someone told me that everything I was saying was “nice” but wasn’t realistic, a bit too idealistic. I wondered why, because for me I was talking about very real subjects with very real implications. The energy in the words was very real for me.

It’s difficult to talk about global things when people are so entrenched in their local lives. For some, a global vision of things seems a bit too detached from an individual’s life. I mean, if you can’t directly deal with it “why bother?” say some.

Then there are others who get too overwhelmed by it all. I had that feeling recently when I read Battle for the Planet. There are so many issues in the world that one person can’t possibly resolve all of those. So yes, it is overwhelming. But then I set out in myself to resolve something at least, even if just inside myself.

The book gave me a vision of everything that has to be done on Earth, so I had the “Think globally” resolved. But without some balance, I’d be overwhelmed. That’s where the “Act locally” comes in, something I think really balances it out. Without it we’d be crushed under the weight of such responsibility. Think globally, Act locally says, “yes the world is the responsibility of each individual, but only take as much as you can handle.”

I’m a global realist, it’s pragmatism as if the world mattered. Although I can’t take responsibility for the whole planet, I can take responsibility of it in my local life, and it works!

“We stand at a crossroads. In the past the pursuit of ‘progress’ in the industrailized West was founded on four dominant beliefs: that people dominate the earth, that they are masters of their destiny, that the world is vast and unlimited, and that history is a process of advancement, with every problem solvable. But we must now call into question those four basic beliefs. Instead the essential basis for sustainable development must be concern for the world’s environment. We need individual participation at all levels in the care of the planet and, based on this deeper and wider perception of the basis of life and human activity, we need profound changes in economic and social attitudes. If the planet is to be saved, this is the a battle we are all called on to fight.” André Singer, Battle for the Planet

I was in a second had shop in Geneva, perusing through the English section of books and I found “Battle for the Planet.” Just the title caught my attention, and after a quick look I decided to buy it. Although it was written a couple of decades ago for a tv program, and written for what was going on at the time, much of the information and especially its message is still relevant today as it was back then. The sea is still polluted, the land is still misused, forests are still being destroyed and people are suffering from all of this aswell.

But also, it is not a hopeless case. And although, as individuals, we may not be able to resolve all of the issues in the book. The very least we can do is to answer and resolve the problems it poses in our own lives, by the means that we are capable of. That’s the meaning of “Think globally, Act locally,” have a vision of what’s happening in the world and apply the implications in your own life, fight for the planet in your own life. You could be fighting for it politically, socially, spiritually or practially, there are many fronts on which to fight this battle, and many ways to be an eco-warrior. But it always begins with the individual and then expands from there.

Planted tree

 “A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for.” Martin Buber

“Seek ye divine happiness through the hardships and sorrows of this physical world, and behold spiritual well-being in the struggles of this fleeting existence.” Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures (replace “hardships and sorrows” with “joys and sorrows”, and “struggles” with “experiences”, then you have my version of the quote 😉 )

“Lord if I worship You from the fear of Hell, throw me in Hell. If I worship You from the hope of Paradise, deny me admittance to Paradise. But If I worship You out of Love for You alone then do not deny me the Bounty of Your Eternal Beauty” Rabia al-Adawiya  


I hate spiritual nihilism. Sounds contradictory but I’ll explain what I mean. “spiritual nihilism” is a negative attitude towards the material world in favour of some abstract, heavenly or spiritual realm. It views the world as a mere waiting room, somewhere where you are just “passing through” or, as I saw recently in one blog, a “sinking ship to be abandoned.” These are dangerous beliefs, because, like unspiritual nihilists, we may fall into the habit of acting in this universe like our actions don’t matter, like we can do “whatever” thinking there are no real consequences to our actions and leave the world in a poor state because we have a greater destiny lying elsewhere, beyond it.

For me, spirituality isn’t about transcending this “realm” of matter, it’s about transforming it; emerging within it, contributing to the cosmic/living/spiritual/evolutionary process and then dissolving back into it, leaving it for future “contributors” or co-creators to take my place in the ongoing process of Creation. I do not need a Great Divine Authority to justify this belief nor some concept of reward or punishment to guide my actions. My ethics stand alone by my own choice, because it’s the “right thing to do” regardless of childish hopes of reward or fears of punishment. Slightly different emphasis than Rabia, but with some parallels.

Children learn from these things; reward, punishment and authority, but when they mature into adults they should (hopefully) be mature enough not to have to lean on these things. Authority is (hopefully, again) transferred from parents to child, so an individual takes responsibility for their own actions in this world by their own individual self-made ethical choice. That can take some humility, to be a building block in the creative process of the universe, instead of using the universe as a spring board into Heaven or some higher incarnation or whatever.

Then I was tagsurfing my way around and found another quoting blog with this…

 “To ‘realize Buddha in this body’ is to realize that you yourself are in fact the universe.  You are not, as parents and teachers are wont to imply, a mere stranger on probation in the scheme of things; you are rather a sort of nerve-ending through which the universe is taking a peek at itself, which is why, deep down inside, almost everyone has a vague sense of eternity.  Few dare admit this because it would amount to believing that you are God, and God in our culture is the cosmic Boss, so that anyone imagining himself to be be God is deemed either blasphemous or insane.  But for Buddhists this is no problem because they do not have this particular idea of God, and so also are not troubled by the notion of sin and everlasting damnation.  Their picture of the universe is not political, not a kingdom ruled by a monarch, but rather an organism in which every part is a ‘doing’ of the whole, so that everything that happens to you is understood as your own karma, or ‘doing.’  Thus when things go wrong you have no one but yourself to blame.  You are not a sinner but a fool, so try another way.” Alan W. Watts, In My Own Way-

cosmic-druid4This blog is a medley (or synergy) of quotes. It all happened because of an interesting thread on a message board. A comment came up about how things could only be changed by a charismatic leader summoning the enthusiasm of the masses. I agreed with this, but with some serious reservations. This is my reply, though it has been edited to fit The Grove of Quotes:

The value of a leader is important; to be able to set up a vision and to concentrate the energy towards that vision so that it manifests; to be able to coordinate a group into effective action, that’s what a leader can do.

“Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.” Winston Churchill

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.” Felix Adler

But we should be careful of who the charismatic leader is and what they stand for. Hitler, for instance, was very charismatic, he took the apathetic and despairing (at the time) German nation and shook them up into enthusiasm. His speeches, his military displays sparked a fire in the hearts of people. An insane and murderous fire, but fire none the less.

The problem here, as Hannah Arendt says, is “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” People without any charisma or vision of their own can become unconsciously swept up into herd mentality under the banner of a dangerous “Charismatic Leader.”
To avoid this we should listen to Carl Rogers advice; “If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.”

It is the individual that makes the difference and the foundation upon which social change is created…
“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.” M. Scott Peck
“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Confucius

The other part of social change is to connect the individuals, to concentrate their energies in a whole, but not to melt together…
“We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” Jimmy Carter

This is what has happened with my own life. At some point I took the initiative and thought about my own individual life. I started to develop that, not content with everything that my society had. I wanted to go beyond it somehow, expand beyond its limitations and become something that was really me, not some pre-determined role or stereotype I had to fit into. I didn’t want to give in to peer pressure or live up to others expectations, my goal became to fulfill myself and express my own individual truth.

I stayed true to this, no matter how obscure my vision of it became. I still had a deep trust that my inner process with my individual truth would take me somewhere, and it has!
As Anais Nin said, “The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

Finally I found a role (for want of a better word) that fit me, not a role that I fitted into. It started in my own personal life and then expanded beyond that, finding others of “like-mind” (but NOT the same mind!) that I could work with, where my individuality could work alongside other individuals in a group effort without having to lose my sense of personal uniqueness (see Earth Sanctuary). For me it is proof that different individuals can collaborate for a common goal, a Greater Good that each individual has come to by their own choice, that there needs not be a charismatic leader showing the way to apathetic followers. If there is to be a charismatic leader then the followers should also be charismatic self-leaders, at the very least. Each individual takes a committed responsibility for their own life and also for a Greater Good. For me, the Greater Good to really concentrate on is a healthy interdependent and synergistic relationship between humanity and Gaia, the living Earth of which we are a part.

And here’s a few more quotes that sum synergy up, particularly the first one;
“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

“The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place, just as we make it a safer place.” Marian Wright Edelman

“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do it.” Marieanne Williamson

Then, as I was writing this post on the message board I receive a very apt comment on The Grove of Quotes saying;
“We walk a common path,” Mary Oliver said “whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination – calling to you to take up your place in the family of things – in this time of the great shift it is important to hear the voices in the chorus calling, leading the people to a new world order.”

BUT, it can only be done with a chorus. One bright soul followed by a load of blind sheep just doesn’t work!

“You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization. I believe this is a moral issue, it is your time to cease this issue, it is our time to rise again to secure our future.” Al Gore

This quote sums up Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth and not just that, it sums up the present situation on “our only home.” Humans are now going through a major transition, one from local levels to a global level. With the invention of the Internet, with satellites and advances in transportation, this world has become a remarkably smaller place, and with such an easier flow of people, international government and the internet, a global civilisation is beginning to come into being.

But we are also facing some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced, as pointed out in the movie. Contrary to what people thought in the past, the Earth, “our only home,” does not have unlimited resources that we can use as much as we want, and also, the Earth is not somewhere where we can throw our industrial waste without consequence.

The facts and figures in this movie are impressive, they’re not just entertaining special effects or a catchy storylines like in other movies, they have very real and serious implications for how we behave within the confines of Earth. It is, as Al Gore said “a moral issue,” but it isn’t new. Since the 70s, if not longer, science has been telling us to be careful of our planet because it isn’t a system that’ll support us no matter what we do to it. Movements have arisen in response, to be aware of being in balance with nature, but still it hasn’t become mainstream, being supported largely by specialist scientists and movements on the “fringes” of society.

But this is changing. Look at the daily newspaper and you have news about the environment. Look at the internet and you’ll find a HUGE amount of environmental websites. You can even go to a cinema to watch Al Gore telling us about the “Climate Crisis.” These media are the mythology of our age. Mythology is information about the state of the world we are living in and how we view it aswell, in some ways it gives us our morality.

If mainstream society’s mythology changes, then so can the direction that society takes and with the work of people like Al Gore, things look brighter. Environmentalism is becoming more mainstream, more people are aware that we don’t just live in a human world but also an ecological one, one that sustains us, as long as we look after it.