"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Friday, 18 February 2011

How to build a culture of empathy with nature

Connection with nature is one of our most effective healing activities. And if we heal ourselves, we start to heal the world.
So how to build a culture of empathy with nature?

Here is a lovely extract from Aldous Huxley's Island:

‘For example, how early do you start your science teaching?’
‘We start it at the same time we start multiplication and division. First lessons in ecology.’
‘Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?’

‘That's precisely the reason why we begin with it. Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in.’
‘And let me add,’ said the Principal, ‘that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses - it's the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people.’

And as James Lovelock reminds us, we need ‘to renew that love and empathy for nature that we lost when we began our love affair with city life.’

Here are some ideas to build on. Comments welcomed.

The Big Picture

1. Build a truly holistic education – one that helps us understand that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves – the whole universe. Teach basic ecology from a very early age – to learn to value biodiversity in all species. Don’t teach our different subjects in isolation – The Hindus draw no clear division between the economic or political and the religious or cultural facets of life. The body and mind are in the service of the heart. In the same way Hinduism teaches that politics and economics are rooted in and guided by religion and culture, and ultimately by spiritual experience.

2. Alastair McIntosh holds a vision for a spiritually rich and holistic education. In his book Soil and Soul he imagines a life-long curriculum of organic food and biodiversity, energy alternatives and respect for all, healing skills incorporating not only the most advanced scientific advances but also the spiritual healing principles, of poetry and story. There would be the study of conflict resolution and how to eliminate the causes of war. And the kids would have fun and play in tree houses. McIntosh’s wish list is long but the spiritual message is clear. Such an education is about ‘building of community as right relationship between soil, soul and society, powered by the passion of the heart, steered by the reason of the head, and then applied by the skilled technique of the hand.’ (Soil and Soul)

3. Promote and support Green political parties and encourage a more holistic political agenda – our politics needs to build a wider vision, where humanity is seen not as simply inhabiting an environment there for our own use, but as being interconnected with the rest of the natural world, and in a spiritual as well as material sense. (see Jean Hardy: A Wiser Politics)

4. Question modern farming practices – and encourage minimum eating of fish and meat – promote vegetarianism.

5. Promote films that inspire us with the wonders of nature.

6. Support organisations working for the protection of nature – Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust, etc.

The Small Picture

1. Feed the birds – learn all their names, listen to their songs. Join bird organisations (in UK The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

2. Grow plants – anything - however small the patio or yard or garden. Make this a family activity - take on an allotment or join a community garden. Grow vegetables for the dinner plate – they taste so much better, and are healthier. Always buy organic.

3. Be outside in the open whenever possible – encourage outdoor play and recreation in safe spaces.

4. Walk in the countryside – in all its forms – woodland and forest, mountain and river, allow plenty of time to be still, to look and to listen and to just “be” a part of the wonderful natural world around us. Feel the sacred and the spirit in all living creatures. Hold or watch and contemplate the “life” in inanimate objects such as stones, water.

5. For those many of us in towns, take a daytrip by train or bus to the countryside beyond, and use the local parks.

6. Visit the seashore and cliff tops, – rock pools and sand dunes – watch birds at the edge of the shore – walk barefoot in the sand.

7. In fact walk barefoot wherever possible – because as Alastair McIntosh has said, we ‘tread on the earth so much more gently barefoot.’

8. Read and study the English Romantic poets, who understand their own place within nature.

1 comment:

edwin rutsch said...

Empathy with Nature! Help Stop Global Warming, Erosion, Deforestation, Pollution & Overpopulation!http://Causes.com/EmpathyWithNature

The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion.

Let's Find 1 Million People Who Want to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

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