A while back I changed the screen saver on my phone to a photo planet earth. I am not sure what prompted me to do this at the time (boredom? lack of originality?). But upon recent reflection, I wonder if unconsciously I was trying to remind myself of my place in this world and the responsibility which we all share to take care of the great Mother, this being Mother Earth.
But who is Mother Earth exactly?
The archetype of Mother Earth, called Gaia was born out of primordial chaos in Greek mythology. Gaia personifies the entire ecosystem of planet earth. She constantly works to achieve harmony, wholeness and balance within the environment. Gaia experienced terrible pain during her mythic life including the banishment of her children back into her womb by the order of their father, Sky, who took a violent dislike to his offspring. The pain, which mythical Gaia suffered, is representative to what we have inflicted upon planet earth.
Gaia is also is the name of a scientific principle; being Gaia theory. It seems dear old Mother Earth just can’t resist harmony. She can even bring mythology and science together!
Gaia theory explains that earth provides all we need for survival and as long as our consumption equals production, nature remains stable
Gaia theory was originally conceived by James Lovelock in the 1970’s. This theory regards the earth as a holistic self-regulating organism. Gaia theory explains that earth provides all we need for survival and as long as our consumption equals production, nature remains stable. The cycle of life being that all comes from the earth and all returns from the earth. However, as you’ve probably guessed, reality is not matching theory. Our consumption of planet earth is one and a half times what Gaia is able to regenerate. With every generation, we continue to deplete the earth’s resources. This doesn’t take into account the relentless harm we are causing Mother Earth with pollution, war, urbanization etc. If we didn’t interfere with nature as much as we do, then Gaia’s work would keep us all in balance. Gaia is in serious trouble. And if she is in trouble, so are we.
The importance of balance is key in almost everything. We often come to therapy to achieve balance of some kind. To achieve the middle ground of two extremes. To look for the grey in between the black and white. And maybe that’s our starting point to save Gaia from her mythological destiny. If we can internalize Gaia and have our own self-regulating ecosystem (both emotionally and physically) then surely as balanced souls we would be far better tenants of the earth. To make Gaia theory a reality, we need to start within. If we begin to be balanced and therefore live balance lives, then surely Mother Earth will reap the benefits also.
Professor Stephen Hawking stated that he believed the human race would need to colonise a new planet within 100 years to ensure our survival.
Recently the renowned academic, Professor Stephen Hawking stated that he believed the human race would need to colonise a new planet within 100 years to ensure our survival. We’ve depleted Mother Earth to the extent that regeneration can never catch up. Like a swarm of locusts, once we have fully exhausted the earth, we’ll need to find a new planet. But even if this happens, will we have learnt our lesson? Will we begin to respect the very thing, which provides us our nourishment? Will we begin to work with Mother Earth (in balance to her), not against it? In this current climate of political/corporate greed and short-termism, I am doubtful about our ability to become conscious of this and make the immediate necessary changes.
How on earth (excuse the pun) did we end up in this mess? Many theorists have attributed our over consumption of Gaia due to the fact that we, as human beings, have separated ourselves from nature and therefore have treated nature as ‘other’.
to separate ourselves from nature, is to live out of balance
Transpersonal ecology emphasizes the importance of expanding our sense of self-outwards so that we achieve a wider and deeper identification with Gaia. Warwick Fox, one of the main advocates for Transpersonal Ecology, explains that to separate ourselves from nature, is to live out of balance. To live out of balance with Gaia (as we currently do) is to have disease and suffering, (and we have way too much of that in the World right now). Fox suggests that we have a deeply ingrained blind spot when it comes to seeing ourselves as part of nature. Instead our human-centered way of being treats earth as if it was created for our sole use and purpose. But in reality I see us as merely tenants of earth, with the greater universe as our landlord, and suffice to say we are never getting our deposit back!
The love that once existed between nature and man has almost been annihilated
I also wonder (and am sure I’m not alone here) about whether our over masculinized capitalist way of being has played a role in our pillage of the Great Mother. As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman writes, “The love that once existed between nature and man has almost been annihilated. It is at the point of death, yet the archetype of the feminine as it is constellating now, is not clear. Maybe the darkness is not yet deep enough”. Woodman suggests and I unfortunately agree, that maybe things need to get worse before we really wake up to this pending environmental disaster.
However maybe it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some (but not many) positive stories coming out of this environmental mess, which we have created. The tiny country of Tokelau (3,800 km from New Zealand) sits at just 5 metres above sea level thanks to rising sea levels due to global warming. Who would have thought that Kevin Costner’s film turkey, Waterworld (back in 1995) would have seemed so prophetic? Although this small country might be on the very frontline of climate change, they are learning how to manage and work more in balance with the earth. For example Tokelau became the first country in 2012 to become 100% solar-powered (they all drive electric golf buggies) and they have reverted back to an old tradition called inati which is the collective sharing of food and fishing, to ensure minimal waste. Tokelau might be a tiny and remote country but I feel something positive about the way the residents have coped with the rising tide (literally) so maybe there’s hope for us yet.
So, what me then? As I’ve been writing this piece, a little voice in my head (one of many) has been niggling at me. It moans, “yes well that’s all well and good Suzie, but what are you personally doing it?” So I resolve to make a simple pledge right here, right now as to what first small step I will take to help Mother Earth.
I love take out coffee and use a great deal of disposable coffee cups (which cannot be recycled). I estimate I use 10 to 15 coffee cups a week, that’s potentially over 700 a year! So I now pledge to use fewer cups. I’ve dusted off my portable glass cup (bought a few years ago with the best of intentions and the worst of execution) and have started to use it out and about. I have now managed to reduce my coffee cup usage to 2 a week! Not only does this help the environment but I’ve also had free or discounted coffees because of it. It’s also forced me to ask the barista for special attention, thereby standing out from the crowd and claiming my space, a personal challenge of mine. So not only do I get my (hourly) caffeine fix but I also get an emotional workout at well. Win-win for all! It’s a small first step, but least I am opening myself up to becoming more conscious of my responsibility as a citizen of the earth. I hope from small acorns, real change can happen.
Google reminded me the other day that Earth Day is the 22 April. Much as one day (out of 365 days) is a nice sentiment and all, it is wholly inadequate, especially at this late hour. Every day needs to be earth day. Every day we need to find that all-important balance; within ourselves and within our environment.