Krista Kurth, Ph.D.
Technical Solutions and Politics Alone Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
We also need to reconnect deeply with nature and our role in caring for it
Photo by Vincent Ledvina on Unsplash
Have you ever paused to think about the real cause of the climate crisis we find ourselves in and what it will really take to turn things around?
On the surface, we can easily draw the conclusion scientists have that it is caused by emitting too many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and therefore the solution lies in stopping emissions and drawing GHG out of the atmosphere. While we know this to be true, it hasn’t been enough so far to get humanity to do what is necessary to support long-term survival on earth.
Some attribute our meager response to the current life-threatening situation to a lack of political will and/or investment in technological solutions. We certainly haven’t been acting at the speed and scale necessary to address the magnitude of the crisis. Nor have we invested enough money in solving the global climate emergency. However, I think our lack of adequate response goes deeper than politics, money, and technology. It’s rooted in how we see and value nature and our role in caring for it.
As David Loy, author of EcoDharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis, and Duane Elgin, author of Choosing Earth, say our human society at large believes we are separate from and have dominion over nature. We act as if the planet is a collection of free, inanimate resources to be exploited for profit. Because we no longer see we are an integral part of a larger living planet, we lose the meaning that comes from feeling a part of something greater than ourselves. And then, we devalue and destroy the very environment and biodiversity we need to survive.
Thomas Berry captured this sentiment beautifully in “The Meadow Across the Creek”:
“We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’.”
Essentially, what these authors and I are saying is that the climate crisis is also a spiritual crisis. One that demands, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we transform our relationship with nature. In his work, Elgin rightfully states we need to change how we view the earth and open our hearts and minds to realize what it means to be biological beings intricately interwoven into the web of life. To make this point, in a recent live talk during Spirit Rock’s Showing up for the Earth event, Elgin quoted Wendell Berry:
“The idea that we live in something called ‘the environment’ is utterly preposterous… The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; we eat, drink, and breathe it; it is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.”
Thomas Berry makes a similar point in The Spirituality of the Earth: “Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived.
Our relationship with nature involves more than resource use, scientific exploration, and appreciation of beauty. It requires a deep intimacy with our world, a recognition of our essential interconnectedness with, and a calling to care for, the larger ecosystem of life we call Earth.
8 Ways to Reconnect with the Web of Life
Recognizing our true interconnectedness requires a shift in mind and heart. Here are some ways to begin to do that.
1. Reflect on how you treat nature. Ask yourself: What do I believe about my relationship with nature? How do I act towards nature (consciously or unconsciously)? What does my spiritual/religious community say about nature? How would I like to think differently about my relationship with the web of life?
2. Put your feet on the ground, literally, in a place you love. Take off your shoes and feel the grass/dirt/sand/ ground under your feet. Bend down and let your fingers dig into the earth. Recall the Wendell Berry quote that talks about how we are made from the earth. And then, as Colleen LeDrew Elgin suggested in a recent live talk during Spirit Rock’s Showing up for the Earth, see the place where you are standing as a profound gift from the planet. Allow gratitude to arise and remind yourself that you care for what you love. How are you inspired to care for your beloved spot on the planet?
3. Notice the aliveness in the world around you every day, in small and big ways. Colleen Elgin also recommended pausing several times a day to pay attention in this way. Instead of being afraid when you see a bee, follow its path to see how it’s carrying out the process of pollination, a crucial step in food production. Watch the trees move in the wind or the ant crawling across your path. What do you find inspiring about the aliveness of which you are a part?
4. Immerse yourself in nature. Slow down and connect with the earth. Stand outside in the rain. Plant some vegetables or flowers at home or volunteer at an organic farm. Go outside and watch the stars and listen to the crickets at night. Turn over a rock and look at the critters. Dip your feet in a cold stream. Sleep outside one night. Remind yourself that you are a part of what is all around you.
5. Acknowledge and learn from Indigenous traditions on how to view the earth and then incorporate their deep wisdom into how you see and act on climate. If we can inspire ourselves with the wisdom that indigenous communities have carried for many centuries, we will be more likely to move from destroying the environment to participating in life in a mutually beneficial way. Watch this video on native teachings on Earth’s Creation story. Read about how Indigenous knowledge contributes to Mother Earth, or about their vital connection with Mother Earth, or how to restore the planet using Mayan Wisdom. Watch these animated videos to hear storytellers from Africa tell how Indigenous communities are regenerating their lands, waters, and cultures. Sign up for an online course or a journey to the Amazon with Pachamama Alliance, and or take part in their Amazon advocacy work. Join in the work of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
6. Watch the 4-minute trailer for Facing Adversity: Choosing Earth, Choosing Life documentary by Duane Elgin and Colleen LeDrew Elgin and then if you are inspired, watch the whole 70-minute film. You can also download a free PDF of the book, Choosing Earth.
7. Practice the guided visualization I created to help you connect with your love for the Earth.
8. Watch this video, A Window Into the Energetic Lives of Trees: New Scientific Discoveries of the Connection Between People & Nature.
Once you have reconnected a few times with Mother Earth (using the ideas above, listed in this previous post of mine, or one of your own), then ask yourself:
What is my role in caring for the planet? What do I have to offer that will help restore the world?
What are the issues and solutions around climate calling to me? What tugs most at my heart?
Listen to, and then follow, the guidance you gave yourself!
I wish you all the best in remembering you are an integral part of the web of life and can play a role in restoring Mother Earth.