THE WORLDVIEW of the international Green movement often hinges on a set of simple beliefs that have become obstacles to facing the global crisis. Dogma and ideology develop when we treat beliefs as absolute truths.
The unofficial Green Credo says:
1. We are stewards of the earth.
2. Resources are worth saving for future generations.
3. The future matters.
4. Time is running out.
We treat these and other dogmas as truths carved in rock rather than ways of conceiving values. Challenging these beliefs provides a service to ourselves and the earth.
1. WE ARE STEWARDS OF THE EARTH.
Thoughtful Christians introduced the notion of stewardship to counteract the questionable biblical injunction “Man shall have dominion over the earth.” In the West we assign ourselves a particular role that places us above the rest of nature. We imagine we have a special part to play in the scheme of things. But there is nobody who can claim to be a steward of the earth, since we are all actively engaged in forming its present condition. The notion of stewardship falls into the realm of human mythology. If we truly care for the environment, for the whole ecosystem, we realize the emptiness of notions of identity and a special role in the world.
We do not belong to a role, nor does a role belong to us, and it is arrogant to claim this. We belong to the nature of things. The idea of stewardship is a patronizing view of life, a kindly form of global colonialism. The dissolution of any kind of special identity is vital. The Buddha suggested we realize akincina—be nobody, hold onto nothing, expect nothing, and identify with nothing. Jesus put it succinctly when he said, “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.”
2. RESOURCES ARE WORTH SAVING FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
Information about the decline of resources through the rapacious appetite of the mining industry, defense industry, and agri-business has not made an iota of real difference. The Green movement exhausts itself putting out information about gradually declining resources. Few can relate emotionally to such concerns. Industrialists refer to long-term mining at board meetings, but their careers depend on output, not conservation. Directors and geologists in the mining industry still possess the hunter-gatherer mentality and will continue to tap into fresh deposits of raw metals. Reading that copper, nickel, zinc, and lead will be exhausted within fifty years hardly spurs anybody into action. Strategic use of nonrenewable resources is only preserving our current lifestyle for a longer time. One solution offered to the depletion of resources is recycling—the last link in the chain of exploitation of resources. The end of the chain is worth tackling, but the causes lie deep in the psyche of human behavior—thus equal priority must be given to digging deep into our inner resources.
3. THE FUTURE MATTERS
The international Green movement has adopted with unquestioning obedience the conventional interpretation of time. It views the past, present, and future as the irrevocable truth, and therefore is prone to making absolutist pronouncements bearing little relationship to the true nature of reality. To radicalize our notions of time we must declare that the future does not exist. There is no truth in the notion of the future; it is a human invention. Since the future has no substance outside what we proclaim, we can declare that the future does not matter. The future does not matter because it exists exclusively in the realms of imagination. To abandon obsessing about the future is to clear away one of the major distractions to the Here and Now. The international Green movement has led millions up a blind alley through obsessing over what will happen in the “future.” It puts out a message that global affairs will only get worse if we go on like this. Indirectly the message is that the present situation is not yet bad enough. Thus when we believe the future matters we provide a disservice to the earth and the Here and Now.
4. TIME IS RUNNING OUT.
What does “time is running out” mean? There is no point in making such a statement to disbelievers, and those who take on board such remarks feel under pressure, which expresses itself in demanding behavior, aggression, or anxiety. “Time is running out” is empty of meaning, since time is a human convention. This rhetoric has a dulling effect on our minds, yet we repeat it even when it ceases to touch our feelings.
When we promote an optimistic view of the future we live in a foolhardy world of our own making. Any widespread analysis of global problems must surely render a serious diagnosis. Famines, wars, dying species, and widespread destruction of land, water, and air is already the common currency of global life. Instead of taking past, present, future, and the world for granted, it might be profoundly creative to examine these perceptions. I believe we take much for granted in the way we perceive situations and how we respond to them. We have become blinded by our belief systems. We imprison ourselves in our notions of time by endless conjecture about the future, whether expressed as tomorrow or the next millennium. We imagine we are competing to save the earth against those who compete to consume it.
Spiritual teachings of awakening point to ultimate realization so that we don’t go over the top with concern for the fate of the earth. The preservation of life, the so-called sanctity of existence, is not our most important concern, no matter how much we consider ourselves thoughtful human beings. Nobody immerses themselves full-time in the fate of the earth; it is only one of our daily considerations.
Everyday tasks take up most hours of our day, and if we go on and on about saving the earth we will lose our sanity. The psyche of human beings and the world are inseparable events; we claim stewardship for the earth only when we have an audience for such a claim. This identity becomes an escape from the inseparable cycle of humanity and earth, and we become eco-missionaries bearing tidings of evolution or doomsday. The endless struggle of so-called good against evil, right against wrong, for and against has bedeviled humanity since its conception. We naively dismiss spiritual awakening as irrelevant when we have decided what reality is.
We have a certain kind of self-assurance when we are busy trying to save the earth. We seem assured of the rightness of our position and of the necessary remedies. We rely on our painful diagnoses and painful prescriptions, which hardly endorse the enjoyment of life. When we do celebrate, we turn to gluttony followed by pangs of short-lived guilt. We have to explore the movements and involvements of self’s behavior and beliefs. Instead of being somebody, who imagines he or she is doing something, we realize the emptiness of the formations of our ego. We have to be up front with our egotistical claims so that we can enjoy life, care for one another and the environment, and let the truths of life enlighten us.
If we are concerned with famine, let’s change our diet, reduce our weight, campaign to stop unhealthy food and drink advertisements, and ensure money, skills, and resources go to the needy. If we are concerned with the use of the private cars and airplanes, let us be aware of motives for travel, use energy resources wisely, and publicly state the number of miles we travel each year by air and road. If we are concerned about consumerism, let’s detail any investments, our earnings, and what we spend our money on. The individual and society’s relationship to money lie at the heart of global issues. So “being open” has genuine significance for the earth. Then the benefits go far. Otherwise we continue to live this double life, that is, sustainable rhetoric with unsustainable lifestyle.
I believe we must
a) put to rest the myth of stewardship;
b) end the notion that resources are worth saving;
c) end the notion that the future matters;
d) dispense with the rhetoric that time is running out.
To end these beliefs without falling back into the conditioned patterns of the consumer culture means finding fresh realizations about ourselves and our world. Rather than constantly deciding what is true, we acknowledge what is false and corrupt and let the Truth take care of itself. We investigate the world of deep values, lifestyles, privilege, social and environmental justice. We have the opportunity to reach another dimension of understanding. The price for this is the shedding of our conventional credos, but for the sake of the earth it is worth it.
As Greens, we campaign for a nonviolent revolution to change the wretched consumer value system that haunts the earth and humanity. But an equal revolution must take place in our perceptions to reveal an authentic spiritual awakening. It is a feeble response of the Green movement to preoccupy itself with cleaning and tidying up the earth. Famine, wars, and environmental destruction will continue to be features of life on earth until the end of time. To imagine otherwise is foolhardy. There is the danger that such home truths trigger despair—”What’s the use?” But a critical inquiry into Green beliefs liberates the heart and mind, awakens our existence so we act wisely amid the truths of life.
Spiritual realization is a transformed perception that decimates constructed beliefs and the hopes and fears tied up with them. We pay the greatest respect to the earth and its people through ruthless inquiry and committed awareness. Those who feel disheartened by the tide of circumstances belong to the realm of hopes and fears. There are other ways of being in this world. The international Green movement with its noble values must challenge its contemporary credo so that the light of awareness permeates the nature of things. This awakening reveals immediate and compassionate action, rendering irrelevant the future and concern with results.
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