All is not lost. There is in fact a way to “save the world.” I put it in quotes, because ultimately the choice we face is not about our survival, it is about what kind of world we choose to live in. One vibrant with life? Or a gigantic strip mine/waste dump/parking lot? So let us say there is a way to regenerate a world vibrant with life. The way is to enact a reverence for life in all its forms. This translates to three priorities for environmentalist attention and funding.
The first recalls traditional conservationism. We must absolutely protect any remaining intact ecosystems from development, whether it is for oil and gas, minerals, lumber, ranching, suburbs, dam reservoirs, industrial-scale fishing, or biofuels. The few remaining intact organs of Gaia are its reservoirs of biodiversity and its memory of health. Note well that to “protect” does not usually mean to fence off and keep humans away. In fact, right human participation can enhance the health of ecosystems when those humans have intimate understanding and reverence for the places where they live.
The second priority is regeneration, the restoring of life to places where it has been depleted. Regenerative farming and ranching, agroforestry, marine preserves, beaver reintroduction, salmon reintroduction, dam removal, and water retention landscapes are just some of the ways to revitalize the organs of the Earth and bring them back online to stabilize the climate.
The third priority is detoxification. I suspect a lot of forest death (it isn’t just oaks) and insect collapse (in most places at least 80% of insects have disappeared) is due to the ubiquity of herbicides, pesticides, toxic waste, and other pollutants in the environment. It shocked me when I learned that vast areas of forest in the eastern United States are routinely sprayed to “control” pest insects. Dioxins, PFAs, antibiotics, pharmaceutical residues, and agriculture chemicals contaminate every ecosystem on Earth, every animal, every cell. They are detectable even in Antarctica.
Add to these the aerial spraying of aluminum and other particles in geoengineering experiments, causing elevated levels of aluminum in places remote from any industrial source. And let’s not forget the little-recognized impact of electromagnetic pollution, light pollution, and noise pollution on ecosystems. All of the above harm the Earth on the tissue level, further weakening her already compromised organs.
In fact, right human participation
can enhance the health of ecosystems
when those humans have intimate understanding
and reverence for the places where they live.
The ecological crisis and the spiritual crisis
that we call “mental health”
share a common source:
denial of the Earth as a living being
worthy of love, worthy of service.
The soul of the environmental movement
I do not worry that our system is not sustainable. I worry that it is. I am afraid that we can continue to lay waste to the living Earth indefinitely, ending up on a concrete world, so chronically ill physically and mentally that we must incorporate technological assistance into our very brains and bodies.
I am afraid we will compensate for the lost connection to a living world with a burgeoning array of virtual substitutes, digital realities, and online adventures, tragically seeking something that we come to forget we ever had. Do you remember how loud the frogs were? Do you remember flocks of birds extending from horizon to horizon? Do you remember the clouds of fireflies that lit up the nights of my father’s youth? I am afraid we will forget we ever lived in such wealth and make do instead with Mario Cart.
We are already far down this path to a concrete world, and far down the path of learning to cope with it. American doctors write every year around 120 million prescriptions for SSRIs, 118 million prescriptions for Adderall, Ritalin, and other ADHD medications, and 120 million for benzodiazepines (I got those numbers by consulting the oracle, I mean ChatGPT). That’s more than one psychiatric drug prescription per capita! No wonder people have never been happier.
The inner desolation mirrors the outer. The ecological crisis and the spiritual crisis that we call “mental health” share a common source: denial of the Earth as a living being worthy of love, worthy of service. The conservationist draws from a well of truth: that the purpose of a human being is to participate in the flourishing of life. To serve with. Sundered from that purpose, we inevitably become sick. That inner sickness, that soul sickness, reflects the outer sickness of ecosystems. Could there ultimately be any doubt that the global climate reflects the social climate, the political climate, the economic climate, and the psychic climate?
The three priorities I listed above are no mere technical tweaks to the project of engineering Earth. They occur naturally to anyone who beholds Earth as a living being with a complex physiology. Beholding Earth as a being, a magnificent being, a gorgeous being, a sacred being, we fall ever deeper in love. Here is where to find again the soul of the environmental movement and fulfill its destiny to transform civilization.
Reprinted with permission by the author from https://charleseisenstein.substack.com/p/how-the-environmental-movement-can#footnote-1-110660236