A reflective essay by Heidi Majano
As the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day was approaching amid unprecedented uncertainties, I pondered and reflected on this question and took note that I needed to slow down my thoughts to allow for something to appear. My morning walks have been a source of contemplation as spring offers bountiful life; colorful flowers blooming, squirrels and birds chattering as if the delicate fragrance of jasmine and lavender awakens life thus summoning us to engage in a different way. I slow down my pace and from there I decided that to write about the earth, I needed to write from life experience.
During the late 60’s, my father was on a work visa and found himself picking apples in Washington State. Determined to pave a life for himself and his young family, my father became increasingly literate in the business model of the seventies and the eighties and aspired to be more of a humanitarian during the civil war in El Salvador. As a young adolescent and entering my adulthood, his endeavors opened opportunities for me to reach further and explore deeper.
I was fourteen when we were living in San Salvador, El Salvador settling in after a two-week drive from San Francisco to San Salvador during the summer of 87’. On that drive, I had many questions; questions which had appeared while my father drove by fields after fields of fruit and coffee plantations with poor families scattered on the land from Tijuana, Mexico to the border of El Salvador.
My father had another kind of relationship with his field workers and with the land they worked on. To help me explore my own inquiry, he had me read a passage from the book, “Small is Beautiful” written by economist E.F Schumacher in 1973 about the modern world and the problem of production:
“The illusion of unlimited powers nourished by astonishing scientific and technological achievements has produced the concurrent illusion of having solved the problem of production. This error is closely connected with the philosophical, not to say religious, changes during the last three to four centuries of western man’s attitude to nature. Modern man does not experience himself as a part of nature but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it.”
My father and I spoke in length that afternoon outside on the veranda patio in the humidity overlooking the rose garden and the mango trees teaming with green parrots. We were drinking coconut water. I remember clearly because I was listening to the military helicopters flying overhead while my father was speaking on the philosophy of materialism and the plead for a different order of priorities.
Before “shelter in place”, close friends and colleagues were sharing how “busy” and “overwhelmed” they were feeling within their lives. Conversations centered around the political, social, and environmental climate both nationally and globally. I too shared these feelings and recognized in myself the need to reach out and connect with others. Now, nearly four weeks later and as the pandemic spreads into the southern hemisphere and into countries torn by war and genocide, COVID-19 is changing the landscape of our global communities, the international fabric of the economy and how we interact with one another.
Slowing down becomes a necessity, allowing us to reflect where we are, review where we have been, reevaluate our values and open ourselves in an honest way, as painful as it may be to further evolve as humans. In the last few weeks, I have noticed the change in air quality and in our tempo. Everywhere people are posting how the earth is healing. We are being encouraged to move away from com-modifying our natural world and moving into a more intrinsic relationship with earth.
In 2010, I began my post graduate studies in International Development at the University of Sydney. After living and working in rural villages in Papua New Guinea, I was searching for answers, an intellectual framework towards bridging my emotional understanding of my experience and how it relates within a global context. The following is an extract from an extended essay I wrote on the research question: How useful is the concept of global governance for explaining international cooperation in the twenty-first century?
“Fueled by decades of international trade agreements, globalization may have brought the great economic trade powers together and accelerated the technological advancements, but it also divided us displacing millions of people and widening the gaps of the have and have nots. Nothing was more evident and real for me as my experience living, working and studying in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, El Salvador, Egypt and India where the attitudes of postcolonialism and institutionalized prejudice is embedded in the systems of governance omitting the grassroots population in the discourse of international cooperation.
The historical data is there we have a long and crippling legacy in our own systems of thoughts constructed within a global paradigm that has taught us to place a monetary currency in front of the human currency thus sacrificing our humanity. Somewhere along the dialogue between financial institutions of development, the quest to divide our human nature is increasingly becoming more apparent.”
Nearly ten years later, here I am contemplating the question on how we relate to earth. Perhaps we can begin to relate with earth in a different way when we begin to see ourselves as a unified entity connected to the elements which sustains life. As we begin to see with eyes unclouded, a possibility to be different within ourselves emerges, leading from a place within our humanity. By facing our self-doubts and fears, we are stepping up to meet the demand of a necessary change.
The great insight of our spiritual traditions and practices is that the external reality does not impinge upon us as a prison or as an ultimate constraint. The great insight of our spiritual traditions is that we co-create the world that we live in. Indigenous teachings remind us that everything is spiritual, and everything has a spirit. Spiritual traditions tell us that we have complicity in the making of the world as it is. We are not victims of that world; we are its co-creators.
We share responsibility for creating the external world by projecting either a spirit of light or a spirit of despair. Either an inner confidence in wholeness and integration or an inner terror about life being diseased and ultimately terminal. We have a choice about what we are going to project and in that choice, we help create the world that is. By nature, humans have access to the cosmic energy of creativity and this energy makes it possible for us to act, to come to real understandings, and to begin the work of transformation.
We have a collective need for a holistic vision of money which encompasses ethics, human values, community and ecological sustainability. When economics is our central value system codified as value equation that determine how much we value one thing relative to another thing, we need to ask ourselves the questions:
“What do we value and what are our incentives?”
Renewing our relationship with the earth includes renewing our local economy and developing appropriate systems through an evolved consciousness. We can begin with simplifying our experience and living within a more localized community. Innovative and creative solutions are paramount to finding ways to localizing our efforts, our economy, our organic food source, our education and health care systems. Using our collective intelligence, knowledge and experience to be more with less, to put a call of community responsibility alongside our livelihood.
How I relate to Earth depends on how I relate to myself, to my community and to all living beings. By resting our wants and recovering our humanity, our renewed relationship with earth will open possibilities to engage with the land, rekindle a sense of wonder which by nature is a transformative state of being.