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Balance with Nature

Testimony of Earthcare Interfaith Network
at the Globescope Pacific Assembly - November 1989

Until recently, the planet was a large world in which human activities and their effects were neatly compartmentalized. ... These compartments have begun to dissolve. ... the various global crises that have seized public concern ... are not separate crises ... They are all one.

Our Common Future, p. 4

The essence of this crisis is that we are out of balance with nature. We need to find ways within our personal lives, and within our institutions to restore that balance with the natural world.

The key to restoring that balance is in the rediscovery of the spiritual dimension of our relationship with the earth. We need to reexamine that relationship in the light of our own faith tradition, the teachings of other faiths, and in the light of a renewed opening to our own direct experience of the natural world, and of the holy spirit -- however we may know it.

We need a restored balance with nature to permeate our own personal lives. And, as we begin to find that personal balance with nature, we may find renewed grace and power in our work towards a common future. We may be able to move closer to the Taoist ideal of "wei wu wei" -- doing without doing, accomplishing effortlessly.

Restoring our collective balance with the natural world will mean profound changes in all our institutions. On my way in from the airport, I saw a sign on a new building that read "Asphalt 1, Trees 0", a score that is repeated over and over again, in Los Angeles, and throughout the nation and the world. We need to uncover, and redress the biases that fail to provide for an adequate voice for the trees.

We may need a constitutional amendment that would give legal standing to nature, so that the interests of the trees, and of the land can be represented in the Courts. A Nature Rights Amendment could give force of law to the responsibilities that come from an acceptance that "the land is the Lord's, and we are but strangers and sojourners" (Leviticus, 25), from an acceptance of the Native American teachings that the Earth is sacred, that we are all relations -- including the land, the trees and the animals -- and that we must love, and give respect to all our relations.

We need to bring the challenge of our common future into the forefront of the religious arena, and to encourage the religious community to take a leadership position in raising public awareness of issues of environment and development.

We need to build awareness of the integral relationship between issues of peace, justice and the health of the earth. We need to develop an effective interfaith network involving dialogue towards a common ground between faiths. We need, for example to work with the movement for Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation that is becoming a major focus of the World Council of Churches.

Throughout all of this, we need to foster an open, gentle and responsive process of dialogue based on an ethic of inclusion and open participation, and a commitment to listening and responding to "that of God" in each person, even when his or her views or actions appear to conflict with our vision of our common future.

We need to develop a holistic approach that involves a deepening of the appreciation of the interrelations between personal, social, political, economic and natural systems and processes, and that embodies an acknowledgement and responsiveness to inner sources of guidance and a commitment to integrate that inner guidance with effective participatory action at a local, regional, national and global level.

The impact of development on the environment was raised in 1855 by Chief Seattle in an address to President Franklin Pierce, on the occasion of the sale of native lands to the American government.

It is time to take note of Chief Seattle's words, to acknowledge our spiritual connection with the earth, and for that acknowledgement to guide our daily lives and our efforts to develop a sustainable common future.

How can one buy or sell the air, the warmth of the land?
That is difficult for us to imagine.
We do not own the sweet air or the sparkle on the water.
How then can you buy them from us?

Human kind has not woven the web of life,
We are but the thread of it.
Whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together, all things connect.
Whatever befalls the Earth befalls also the children of the Earth.

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