stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline_imageI received this email via a friend in my inbox this morning. With permission from the author, I am posting the contents on this blog because this group of people is attempting to protect their water supply from a massive petroleum infrastructure project that could jeopardize their health, culture, and local environment. (Imagine if the residents of Flint, MI had had the opportunity to oppose the actions that lead to the poisoning of their water.) In recognition of the extremely urgent need to leave fossil fuels behind, many others have joined the Native American groups who are putting their bodies between the place they love and the machine of the global economy. This is a proverbial David vs. Goliath moment. Or perhaps, love versus an anti-social form of capitalism.

Please hold a sacred space around this topic and this issue. The players need guidance from their higher selves. You can help by avoiding contributing to the animosity, and instead contributing to the solution(s). Collectively, we and our descendants all stand to benefit from stopping this pipeline. We all stand to lose by allowing it to stumble onward.


Dear Friends and Political Allies,

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a proposed $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect Bakken crude (which is fracked & highly volatile) production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.  This pipeline will cross the Missouri River and Cannon Ball River threatening drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and those who live downriver.

The water and land protectors who are peacefully resisting this pipeline comprise over 100 Native-American tribes (from the U.S., Canada, and South America) and their non-Native allies.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple is calling on the National Guard to assist with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.  The Governor claims that the National Guard will be used in a ‘very limited role.’  (But since I’ have first-hand knowledge of how law enforcement treats Native-Americans in the Dakotas, I am very skeptical!).
With the assistance of the Highway Patrol, Morton County Sheriffs have arrested or brought charges against many people, including well-know journalists (Amy Goodman & Deia Schlosberg) and the actor Shailene Woodley.   This attack on journalists’ First Amendment rights speaks to how desperate this Dallas-based corporation is to try to complete this pipeline in secrecy.
Winters in North Dakota are harsh! Even harsher that the ones I experienced in South Dakota.
So, resources are needed for those resisters planning to spend the winter fighting this pipeline.  Here are some ways that you can assist the brave, committed environmental justice activists:
  1. Call North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200.  When leaving a message, state your thoughts about this issue, but please be respectful.
  2. Sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-construction-dakota-access-pipeline-which-endangers-water-supply-native-american-reservations
  3. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  4. Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit:  202-761-5903.
  5. Sign other petitions asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Here’s the latest to cross my desk:  https://act.credoaction.com/sign/NoDAPL
  6. Supplies (requested list at http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/), cash or check donations can be sent to:  Sacred Stone Camp, P.O. Box 1011, Fort Yates, ND  58538
  7. You can donate money electronically to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Fundhttps://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp.
  8. Donate WINTER clothing items from the Sacred Stone Camp (Amazon* Wish List) Supply List
    • Carhartt Men’s Quilt Lined Duck Bib Overalls R02
    • Carhartt Men’s Big & Tall Sherpa Lined Sandstone Hooded Multi Pocket Jacket J284
    • Carhartt Sherpa Lined Sandstone Hooded Multi Pocket Jacket J284
    • Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus III Omni Cold-Weather Boot
    • Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Li Wide Snow Boot
    • Go Athlectic’s Men’s SUB-ZERO Cold Weather Gear Thermal Base Layer Pants-XL
9.  If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area…on November 10th, the Place for Sustainable Living (1121 64th Street in Oakland) is having a fundraiser for those defending the water and land against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Items that have been requested:
    • tents (various sizes) and army tents
    • 1 person pup tents
    • flashlights
    • lanterns
    • sleeping bags (heavy duty)
    • blankets
    • heat blankets
    • rain coats/rain gear
    • woo; socks
    • Winter gear
    • Shades/canopies
    • chem lights
    • tarps
    • folding tables
    • coolers (large)
    • cell phone boosters
    • solar powered chargers/lights
    • walkie talkies
    • fire wood
    • parachute cord
    • jumper cables
    • non-perishable bulk food
    • variety bandages
    • splints
    • ace wraps
    • sleeves
    • Goldbond
    • medical tape
    • athletic tape
    • medical scissors
    • ice/hot packs
10. Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
11.  If you have a 4wd pickup that you’d like to donate, e-mail: sacredstonecamp@gmail.com.  The truck will be used for getting water, firewood, and other supplies to the camp.  The camp is in need of something than can handle harsh cold, snow, and steep dirt roads.

*I’m aware that some activists boycott Amazon.

Best regards,
Alfreda Wright
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”-Alice Walker

Capture-Trump-for Blog

Many people are perplexed at the popularity of Donald Trump as a presidential contender. In this blog I claim that, though I am a true bleeding heart liberal, I’m nevertheless seriously questioning the hatred directed at him, and for a few important, strategic reasons.

Hint: the title of this post could just as well be, “Hate Trump and Hate Wins.”

Hate is Not Ecological

It’s one thing to become enraged in a fit of righteous indignation when faced with Trump-type rhetoric, and then recover yourself and return to clear, creative thinking (which might include working to understand the worldview of Trump supporters; not to “support” their worldview, but to understand what fuels it). It’s quite another thing to brood, to badmouth him to friends and family, and yes, to hiss and spit at his face on the t.v. or internet.

You may think that your vehemence is justified. However, you fail to note that he has laid a trap for you and you have fallen right into it. This trap is called “hate.”

Hate is energizing (in a closed, pinched sort of way) in the short-term, and exhausting and unsustainable in the long-term. Moreover, hatred divides. Hate is life-degrading. There is nothing logical about hate, most of all, nothing eco-logical.

How He Wins

Trump wins by fostering hatred in others: both in those who support and in those who oppose him. Hate is fostered in those who support him when he aligns his rhetoric with their small selves: the parts filled with hatred that cover over fear of the “other.” He invites the small, fearful part of people to come out of the closet.

Hate is fostered in those who oppose him by relentlessly hitting buttons that fill the listener with righteous indignation. This righteous indignation all too easily spills over into sustained bad feelings that pollute one’s self and the world. (If you’re familiar with Eckhart Tolle, I’m referencing him here.)

The more liberals hate Trump, the more Trump supporters love him. However, that’s not all there is to it.

Let’s get metaphysical…but we don’t have to.

Us bleeding heart liberals love to proclaim the cosmic interconnection of the world when looking out onto a vast field of flowers on a beautiful, sunny day, or when contemplating the fluid beauty of dolphins at play in the ocean. Us very same people, however, quickly disown a person like Trump, and wonder if he’s even actually human.

Trump looks like a relatively successful business person who has turned his attention to another, larger conquest: the U.S. presidency. However, from a zoomed out level is he is a puppet of larger forces that are being played out on the world stage. If I describe the forces that are supporting Trump as “open, feeling, thoughtful, empathetic, loving,” even he would know I’m full of crap. If I describe these forces as “closed, emotionally suspicious, mentally dogmatic, harsh, hating,” at a visceral level you would know I’m closer to the reality.

Even if you subscribe to a materialistic reductionist worldview, can you imagine the sheer impact of millions of people walking through their days repeatedly faced with a visage of a specific person and his words? And for months at a time? It doesn’t matter if they hate or revere that person, they are thinking of him, and that is how he wins. Even if he doesn’t win the presidency, the forces of hate win anyway, by filling the world with suspicion and animosity, cutting us off from one another even more.

A thoughtful analysis of the consequences of his aggressive rhetoric combined with the current media climate is provided by this report from the Harvard Kennedy School:

Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials…Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally. Ref

Further, Republicans see the press as liberal:

[Journalists] are not in the business of sifting out candidates on the basis of their competency and platforms. They are in the business of finding good stories. Donald Trump was the mother lode. During the invisible primary, the press gave him what every candidate seeks — reams of coverage. In his case, even the media’s attacks were a boon. Many Republicans dislike the press enough that its attacks on one of their own are nearly a seal of approval.

A Word on Fear

“Clinton wants to let radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country. They enslave women, and they murder gays.” Ref

The glaringly obvious element of this quote is fear. Hatred holds the hand of fear. With triumphant posturing, Trump would have the American people believe that he has enough hate in him that he is best able to “protect” us, and that Hillary is a sad, distant second in her level of hatred, and therefore, in her ability to protect us.

Most recently Trump has outright accused President Obama of supporting terrorist groups. It appears as though his pro-hatred experiment has reached new heights…or new lows.

Fear is always conveniently directed outward (well, almost always), yet the problem really lies within. Fear and hatred are not sane ways to deal with fear and hatred. Clarity, intelligence, insight, strategy…all of these human capacities are greatly diminished or even wiped out in the presence of fear and hatred. Trump is Mister Hate. One wonders if even he is aware of the extent of the damage for which he is responsible.

This Time is Unique

Not just anyone can pull off what Trump has, and not at just any ole’ time. Obama fired up the vehemence of present-day Trump supporters just by being black and having an Arab name. I repeat: just by being black, and having an Arab name. That by itself tells us something about the power of fear and hatred.

Granted, some of us liberals might be suspicious of a character like Trump just because he’s a white, rich, American male, but if so, we can and should own that prejudice. We might say, “Well, it’s justified, just look at the world!” This is exactly and precisely the very same simpleton mindset that is going on in the heads of those who support Trump: “Well, it’s justified, just look at Florida!” Or 9/11, or Paris, or whatever else the mind can pull up in support of an opinion. The minds of the Trump supporters operate in exactly the same way as the liberal mind, but with a different agenda, and a different worldview.

A Unique Opportunity

Hatred and fear are not critical thinking–directed at Muslims or directed at Trump. Hatred and fear are easy, or shall we say, lazy. And the planet is in such dire straights that we can’t afford easy and lazy anymore.

Every little bit of hatred in which you take part has consequences, as in the straw and the camel’s back. If you’re on the phone with you mother and she says, “God, I hate Trump! He’s such an ass!” and you say, “Yeah!” you’ve just added a straw. You’ve just engaged with the forces of “closed, emotionally suspicious, mentally dogmatic, harsh, hating.” So stop it or you’ll get us in trouble.

On the other hand, if after (or ideally, before) spouting off you can take a breath and remember to come home to yourself, or even your Self, then perhaps there might be a moment of opening, of feeling your body, of coming out with a thoughtful response, of empathizing with the fear in your mother’s voice but also loving the world enough to take back your negativity and turn it into positive action. That might include participating in a rally with a life-affirming message (which might include what Eckhart Tolle calls a “high quality ‘no'” directed at Donald Trump’s agenda), lobbying the DNC, elected officials, or friends and family to support a progressive Democratic or Green agenda, and more simply, a commitment to peace within.

As stated by the husband of slain British lawmaker Jo Cox about what he feels his dead wife would wish,

She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous. Ref

The fate of the world is in your hands.

Specific Opportunities

Register to Vote

DNC: Support Bernie Sanders’ progressive agenda

Eckhart Tolle, Marcus Aurelius: Shrug It Off

Tending the Wild

Tending the Wild-Native American KnowledgeWe had a lot of food on the California property on which I grew up, but we didn’t know it. No one told us. Instead, there were times when we were reliant on food stamps: huge blocks of government cheese and bags of pinto beans and powdered milk. I appreciate the food bank folks, but pine nuts, chokecherries (adequately prepared so as to not poison ourselves), and more miners lettuce than the tiny bits we picked…these would have been much more nutritious. The two rattle snakes I did eat–and my mom nervously cooked–stand out as extreme against our sterile modern diet.

“The Sierra Miwok alone used forty-eight types of greens; by comparison, we commonly eat only about a dozen domesticated greens…” (p 266-7)

I’ve heard that Native Americans respect the land and only take what is needed, but I had never read the details of this. It just sounded good, and seemed to match up with majestic media portrayals of native peoples.

To both use and conserve nature requires complex knowledge and practices, far more complex than leaving nature alone. Hidden in the simple act of gathering lay sophisticated rules that safeguarded the plant stock from overharvesting … Anthropologists recorded the existence of this rule from the northern extremity of the state, among the Tolowa, to the southen border, among the Quechan (Yuma). Indeed, rules commanding the user to take no more of a resource than is absolutely necessary are common throughout North America and existed among groups as diverse as the Cree, Beaver, Koyukon, Kaska, Inland Ilingit, and Tutchone of Alaska and Canada. (p 128)

Yes, instances of massive kills by driving animals over cliffs in droves are recorded too (evidenced from intact piles of bones at the bottom of cliffs), but the fact remains that native groups survived–and thrived–for thousands of years on this continent, and from what modern science can tell, their overall impact was life-supporting as opposed to life-degrading.

 Much of the landscape in California that so impressed early writers, photographers, and landscape painters was in fact a cultural landscape, not the wilderness they imagined. […] But according to the European rationale, only raw, unspoiled, unused nature was capable of emanating this kind of beauty. It did not occur to them that the size of the trees and the open pattern in which they grew were products of human intervention. (p 158)

The importance of tending with fire was almost completely unknown to me. Indeed, it brings to mind the alchemical process.

The majority of plant species that California Indians relied on for food and medicine and for making cordage, basketry, and tools thrive only in full sun or partial shade…The areas where the favored plants occurred frequently were burned so as to keep them open and decrease competition from weeds. […] Based on this relationship, it can be hypothesized that the disturbance caused by California Indians’ use of fire in a variety of ecosystems, occurring at intermediate intensities and frequencies, promoted a maximally heterogeneous mosaic of vegetation types and increased species diversity. (p 152-3)

Other equally important points made by the author, M. Kat Anderson, include deconstructing the “hunter gatherer versus agriculture” dichotomy, and replacing it with a spectrum that includes “protoagricultural techniques” (p 253), which really revolutionizes the way we think of agriculture. The book also covers the complicated net of factors that resulted in genocide; “from 1769 to 1890 the population plummeted from approximately 310,000 to 17,000” (p 64), including legalization of murder, and making it illegal to simply be Indian (p 87).

This book paints a picture of a virtual army of people roaming the California landscape, trained since birth to tend to life in its myriad forms, fostering the growth of plants and animals, and securing a sustainable livelihood for their own kind in the process. The fact that those people were driven off of the land and murdered in unimaginably massive numbers, and in horrific ways, does not speak kindly of our history and society. Further, in the absence of the Indians, who is tending to the land? Will the remaining tribes willingly communicate their knowledge in an attempt to save all of us? Will they simply wait until the dominant society evaporates? Will it be too late for all of human kind at that point; will there be anything left? Are they talking but we’re still, to this day, not listening?

One cultural universal was that food was never taken for granted. A gatherer asked the plant for permission to gather its parts, and gathering was followed by prayers and offerings of thanks. … At the end of the harvest season ceremonies were often held to thank the rains for nourishing the earth, or the black oaks for bearing heavily, or the Canada geese for returning. (p 249)

This level of deep humility and care does not marry well with a materialistic reductionist mindset. Is true sustainability possible “in the absence of the sacred”?

Bioneers and Me

I was honored to be asked by Bioneers to write about my experience with their work; how it has impacted my life and why I have contributed time and money to Bioneers since 1998.

When I sat down to respond, I found the experience of writing to be a valuable synthesis; it was an opportunity to reflect on the fourteen years of gifts I have received from the Bioneers Conference and community, and how participation has impacted me spiritually, as well as psychologically, professionally and emotionally.

Here are two excerpts from the “Donor Spotlight“:

Over many years of attending the conference, I have constantly looked for patterns and insights into the questions: Why are we still collectively on a doomsday track, even while we have so many brilliant, deeply caring, willing people working every day for a different, more sustainable future?  Why do we continue to head in the wrong direction while most people actually want a better world…? 

I am in an extremely advantageous position, having grown up in Northern California, having had access to primary and continuing education, and having been enabled to attend the Bioneers conference over many years, as well as having been exposed to a great diversity of profound thinkers and spiritual teachers, in person and through media.  While Bioneers has shaped choices I have made in my life, and in many ways my very personality, the bigger question for me is, what will I do now that I have received so much?  What will I give back?  More and more the answer to that question is to simply be.  The more I am, the more possibilities I see.

For the full article: http://www.bioneers.org/blog/felicia-chavez

For this year’s conference schedule Oct. 19, 20, 21 in San Rafael: http://conference.bioneersgroup.com/

The International Association for the Study of Myth held it’s first symposium this September in Carpinteria, CA. A group of us presented who are students in Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Mythological Studies Ph.D. program. Our general topic addressed “tending the soul of the world” (Pacifica’s mission) as mythologists: what does that look like in practice?

Each of the six presenters on our panel shared personal and professional experiences. Here is the list, and links to each recorded presentation:

The Risk of Ego Inflation While Tending to Gaia – Ted Myers, MA, MPA, PhD Candidate

The Importance of Mythology in Community Work – Rosalie Bouck, PhD Candidate

Constellated Mythopraxis: Cannibalism, Consciousness, Aloha, and The Womb – Jessica Giambra, PhD Candidate

Mythological Intent: Tending the Soul of a Sustainable World – Felicia Chavez, Green MBA, PhD Candidate

Lady Justice, Knights in Shining Armor, and the Round Table – Margaret Mendenhall, J.D. and LL.M., PhD Candidate

The Practice of Myth in the Trenches of Life – Joe Elenbaas, M.Div., D.Min., PhD Candidate

The presentations were eye-opening and brought up many questions. Each person clearly illustrated how a mythological perspective illuminates larger patters at work in society. Ted checked our “hero” impulse, a potential pitfall of anyone trying to “make the world a better place,” with a story from his own life and career. Rosalie shared insights into how community organizations can better see into and serve the communities with which they are working. Jessie presented an international, social consciousness perspective, and Margaret illustrated how today’s Western systems of law and justice reflect motifs from the court of Arthur. Joe spoke to the heart of religion, what gets in the way of truly being of service and what supports it, and shared from his wealth of personal experience.

My topic, Mythological Intent: Tending the Soul of a Sustainable World, is a peak into the question, what does it mean to be “a mythologist in service to life, to nature, to furthering a sustainable way of life?” I touched on “wild law,” or “rights for nature,” as an example. My main point is that what counts is the “space of consciousness” at work behind the action.

For the text of each presentation, you may click on the presenter’s name at www.mythopraxis.com. For more information about mythological studies in general, including a forum, visit the  International Association for the Study of Myth (sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Opus Archives, and Pacifica Graduate Institute). Finally, in the future we hope to post more content relevant to the topic of mythology-in-practice at our YouTube channel, “The Myth Station.”

This book, The Earth Has a Soul, is a beautiful compilation of a wide variety of Jung’s writings that touch on–as the title says–“Nature, Technology and Modern Life.” But it’s more than that: it’s a seer’s insight into the psyche of a species in trouble.

The editor, Meredith Sabini, sums up a major point: “In order to develop consciousness, we had to separate from the instinctive base of human nature; however, Jung believed the separation had gone too far…” (p 67). Unfortunately, while the separation from nature has “gone too far,” the level of consciousness remains severely limited.

Jung himself lived in a time when European society was making a dramatic shift from rural to urban life (1875 – 1961), and he lived through both world wars. In addition, his personal experiences mining the depth of his own being, along with his life-long studies of human consciousness as a doctor, lent him a perspective on human nature unparalleled in the history of psychology.

Jung’s perspective on the human interaction with nature–or rather, the nature in humanity–was often poetic as well as empirical. His comment here speaks here of what we today call “biomimicry”:

“For instance, the glowworm represents the secret of making light without warmth; man doesn’t know how to produce 98 percent of light with no loss of warmth, but the glowworm has the secret. If the glowworm could be transformed into a being who knew that he possessed the secret of making light without warmth, that would be a man with an insight and knowledge much greater than we have reached…” (84)

His statements often tread the ground between commonly accepted, materialistic language, and referring to supernatural experiences and phenomena as real. However, his genius comes through most clearly when he illuminates points beyond a dualistic perspective entirely.

“It remained for modern science to despiritualize nature through its so-called objective knowledge of matter. All anthropomorphic projections were withdrawn from the object one after another, with a twofold result: firstly man’s mystical identity with nature was curtailed as never before, and secondly the projections falling back into the human soul caused such a terrific activation of the unconscious that in modern times man was compelled to postulate the existence of an unconscious psyche.” (p 86)

The sad result is, “Modern man does not understand how much his ‘rationalism’ (which has destroyed his capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has put him at the mercy of the psychic ‘underworld'” (p 97). Moreover, we re-encounter the ‘underworld’ in other people: “Projection is one of the commonest psychic phenomena…Everything that is unconscious in ourselves we discover in our neighbor, and we treat him accordingly” (p 111).

The results are plain and frequently family and friends–as well as one’s self–lament about battles with forces that simply don’t conform to our “conscious” expectations.

“He is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by powers beyond his control. The gods and demons have not disappeared at all, they have merely got new names. They keep him on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an invincible need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, dietary and other hygienic systems–and above all, with an impressive array of neurosis.” (p 127)

This is all quite depressing, but in light of recent (not to mention, historic) occurrences, I truly believe it is of utmost importance to look directly at the reality of human neurosis; one’s own, and mass neurosis. That does not mean wallowing and cynicism, but rather, opening our eyes and choosing to behold the truth, or as close as we can get. The crux of non-sustainability is sighing and looking away, doing our best to block out the haunting memory. In that spirit, let’s go one step further down.

First, Jung highlights the mechanism at work, saying, “Even when we have corrected an illusion, it by no means follows that the psychic agency which produces illusions, and actually needs them, has been abolished” (p 130). He speaks of “psychic agency,” which at times can manifest as a demon in the woods behind your house, or something far worse.

“The fantastic, mythological world of the Middle Ages has, thanks to our so-called enlightenment, simply changed its place. It is no longer incubi, succubi, wood-nymphs, melusines and the rest that terrify and tease mankind; man himself has taken over their role without knowing it and does the devilish work of destruction with far more effective tools than the spirits did.” (p 131)

This is the part in the article when we should expect that “ray of hope”; those uplifting words that shed light on possible solutions to the psychological maze. As perhaps expected, the ray of hope is what we often refer to as “return to nature.” That does not mean a backward slide in consciousness, but rather an embrace necessary to sustain life.

“We all need nourishment for our psyche. It is impossible to find such nourishment in urban tenements without a patch of green or a blossoming tree. We need a relationship with nature. I am just a culture-coolie myself, but I derive a great deal of pleasure from growing my own potatoes.” (p 155)

I can say from personal experience that here Jung is at least partially referring to a quite tangible experience of one’s own life force being nourished by the life force of plants, animals and the planet. It’s something that we all intuit, as evidenced by the growing numbers of people populating favorite hiking spots, for example. But it can also be clearly and immediately felt at a conscious level, and with a minimum of stillness and silence. The challenge is that nature’s ability to recharge and sustain us is reliant on our willingness to make way for her: less pavement and pollution, more trees in cities and clean energy sources.

As Jung summaries, “Real improvement can be hoped for only if there is a radical change of consciousness,” (p 160) and in other writings he explains his perspective that humanity is in a rather early stage in the evolution of consciousness. He emphasizes the utmost importance of individuality, “individuation,” as opposed to the “standardized milieu” (p 155). This in part means the direct look at one’s own neurosis, as mentioned above, so as to avoid–or at least learn from–the demons rising from the depths, or projecting the monsters onto “them.”

Truly, I would be happy to post dozens more quotes from this exquisite compilation, but I am happy to leave some discoveries–perhaps the major ones–to future readers.

–Jung, C. G. The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life. Ed. Meredith Sabini. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2008.

The Lorax

ImageI saw The Lorax movie just before it left theaters a few weeks ago. If you haven’t seen it or read the book, it’s a story that straddles both spaces: sustainability and, subtly, spirituality.

The original story is about a young boy who goes on a little trip outside of his known world, and discovers the home of the Once-ler, all enclosed up in his tower. Eventually, with persistence on the part of the boy, the Once-ler tells the story about how once upon a time this whole region was covered in wondrous Truffula Trees, not to mention wildlife.

Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!

But due to the Once-ler’s own industriousness, he causes the destruction of the whole entire region’s ecological system, leaving a sad, deserted wasteland. After the Once-ler cuts down the very first tree, the Lorax magically appears to tell the Once-ler off.

…I heard a ga-Zump!
I looked.
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I’d chopped down. It was sort of a man.
Describe him?…That’s hard. I don’t know if I can.

“Mister”! he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues…”

The Lorax returns to the Once-ler repeatedly, trying to get through his thick skull with example after example of various species becoming sick and eventually disappearing from the area. But repeatedly the Once-ler fails to listen, citing the necessity of providing his absurd product to everyone who wants to buy one, and his prerogative to grow and grow and keep growing his operation. Finally the Once-ler looses his patience, yelling at the Lorax that he has “rights,” and–in a telling moment–saying, “Now listen here, Dad!” And of course it’s just then…

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!

With the main natural resource exhausted, the business shuts down, and the Lorax exits in a different magical way.

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

With the ray of hope inspired by the transfer of the last Truffula seed from the old, depressed Once-ler to the curious little boy, the story ends with a clear plea for readers to–like the little boy–CARE.

Obviously the main point here in including this story on this blog is that The Lorax himself is a supernatural being who is urging this industrious but ignorant person to stop destroying the environment. We know The Lorax is supernatural primarily by his magical appearance and disappearance. I would suppose that Dr. Seuss himself was drawing from mythic and folktale precedents that tell of spiritual sources being the carriers of warnings for the human race. Not only that, but this Lorax cannot–or chooses to not–inhabit a landscape that has been rendered lifeless.

There is a lot more we could speculate about here, particularly with regard to the “Dad” reference relating to the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of God the Father, and the evolutionary path of a human from infancy to adulthood, as well as the evolution of humans as a species. (That path begins with being in awe of the parental figures, putting up with the parents, rebelling against the parents, and finally developing enough wisdom to see the wisdom of the parents.) But the most important factor is simply the inspiration the story has for those who do, actually, CARE.

We can only hope that more good than harm has been done in the wake of the release of this movie, considering the extreme marketing tactics: a multitude of corporations are touting their products as “Lorax Approved.” (I’d guess it’s about as close as they have yet come to “God Approved.”) As always, one has to rely on one’s own faculties–NOT labels–to discern what is a truly eco-friendly product, and what is just another “fool Thneed.” (Hint: 99.9998% of products are Thneeds.)

Source: Seuss. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.

“Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains why mindfulness and a spiritual revolution rather than economics is needed to protect nature and limit climate change”

I’m hastily posting this article, very excited to read it. As someone who has done sustainability consulting for a living, I almost immediately noted the distinct lack of a real “connection” between the work we were doing at our desks and the earth out the window. As someone passionate about LIFE, I knew this disconnected, feeble task list of PowerPoints and Excel spreadsheets was not the answer to the pressing reality of environmental collapse. At the same time, I deeply appreciated the commitment and spirit of those colleagues who showed true dedication and heart in their daily work, and wanted to see–for their own personal benefit–a more explicit connection made to the importance of “heartness” in the workplace.

Read the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/zen-thich-naht-hanh-buddhidm-business-values

This book is by Arthur Peacocke and edited by a professor at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont California, Philip Clayton. They have a program called Center for Sustainability and Spirituality.

The opening sentence I found confusing, but interesting, and it struck a chord in the end.

“A host of surveys indicates that what Christians, and indeed other religious believers, today affirm as real fails to generate any conviction among many of those in Europe and in intellectual circles in North America, who seek spiritual insight and who continue regretfully as wistful agnostics in relation to the formulations of traditional religions.”

I think the writer of this blog entry did a beautiful job of capturing the relationship between simple presence and business with integrity.


“This is the same intention of the entrepreneurs I met – to see each business relationship clearly and to look deeply at each part of their supply chain – customer, employee, supplier – as a relationship, not a transaction.  A relationship built on the recognition that each is an equal in the light of the sun, or whatever life-giving force in which you believe.”