Humans: On our relationship with Earth & ourselves

I will forever be a climate optimist… because what is the alternative?

Eco-anxiety is on the rise, with young people feeling an extraordinarily justified collective heaviness brought forth by the looming uncertainty and physical devastation of the climate crisis.

This Earth Day, I would like to offer forth my rooted belief that one of the most fundamental changes we must make in order to adequately respond to the climate crisis is a change of heart.

I often say that collectively, we humans are in our teenage phase of emotional and psycho-spiritual development. Some humans are in their “rage against the machine” phase, while others remain unbothered by “business as usual”, and others may just be trying to get through another day.

As children, we are impressionable, naive, and yet deeply connected to the truth of our fundamental existence. Somewhere along the way, we internalize the belief systems we are taught and demonstrated. Without even knowing, we can become complicit in the harms perpetuated against people and our planet.

Yet we are not those belief systems. We are still those children connected to a deeper truth.

I have faith in humanity. Each day, I see more people waking up and questioning the histories they have been taught, reflecting upon their role in the greater ecosystem of life, speaking truth to power, and becoming willing to reimagine our existing systems.

Humanity, in our phase of introspection and maturation, is awakening to the fact that we do not have to continue along a path of destruction. It will take many of us grounded in what Dr. Vandana Shiva calls “compassionate courage” to change our trajectory and to come home to our role in the greater wheel of life.

The most powerful form of change we can make, both as individuals and as a collective, is a paradigm shift from an ethic of extraction and commodification to an ethic of care and compassion. This shift begins with a willingness to go inwards and to reflect on the ways we have harmed both the planet and one another, whether consciously or unconsciously.

It begins with asking questions. If you feel called to do some reflection, I’d like to offer a few questions to support you along your journey inward.

How do I see the world around me — do I see nature’s value as relative to its utility to humans?

Do I see myself as a part of nature or as separate?

Do I assess the value of both people and ecosystems based on their productivity and status in the existing system?

How have I internalized the mental frame of extraction and consumption?

Does facing the truth of the harm that my (talking to my fellow white people here) ancestors commit on Turtle Island (USA) against these lands, waters, and our Black & Indigenous brothers and sisters stir up discomfort? Defensiveness? Why?

How do I contribute to the systems of oppression that harm BIPOC and our Mother Earth?

How do I engage in activities like greenwashing (using sustainability as a marketing tactic) that does not reduce consumption, but simply promotes consumerism through green colored glasses?

What is the purpose of the endless cycle of consumption?

Is it filling a hole where community and soul-centric activity once was?

What do I feel when I allow myself to slow down and be present with nature?

How can I do better not perfect, but better?

In order to heal our planet, we must heal ourselves. Healing is non-linear and may never be complete, but embarking on the journey is what matters in helping us to re-cultivate a reciprocal relationship with Mother Earth and all beings who call her home. Regenerative healing of both our systems and ourselves is a radical act of rewilding — of reconnecting with that which makes us most fundamentally human.

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Nadine Clopton

Nadine Clopton

Weaving compassion, climate justice, mindfulness, & systems change together to co-create a 🌎 in balance. M.A. Enviro. Policy.