This first article was written by Jackie Giuliano
(Used with permission)
NO ONE IS UNTOUCHED
I teach, I preach, I reach for
Some sign that I am making a difference.
While driving down the busy highway
on the way to hear the activist speak
of the injustices in the world and
the poor use of resources.
No one is untouched.
On the way home, I declare that I am hungry.
I drive to the market while
thousands of babies die of diarrhoea.
Prepared veggie sushi, corn chips, warm bread.
I feast while writing of the pain
and inequity in the world.
No one is untouched.
-- Jackie Giuliano
We are deep in the midst of a mindset that pervades our culture, a mindset that keeps us separate from each other and the natural world. Tonight I heard Chellis Glendinning speak to a group in Los Angeles. Her book, "My Name is Chellis and I am in Recovery from Western Civilization," is powerful. It eloquently tells how we became disconnected from the natural world. Forty people came - there are over 15 million people in Southern California.
She reminded us of how deep the mindset is, the mindset of imperialism, of domination. Virtually all of us have been touched by the disassociated and disconnected values of our culture.
How else can one explain that, during the course of one day, people:
* throw out 200,000 tons of edible food;
* use 313 million gallons of fuel - enough to drain 26
tractor-trailer trucks every minute;
* take 18 million tons of raw materials from the Earth;
* use 6.8 billion gallons of drinking water to flush toilets;
* throw 1 million bushels of litter out of car windows;
* add 10,000 minks to their closets and coat racks;
* spend $200 million on advertising;
* saw up 100 million board feet of wood;
* use 250,000 tons of steel;
* use 187,000 tons of paper.
Compared to an average citizen of the country of India, a typical person in the U.S. uses:
* 50 times more steel;
* 56 times more energy;
* 170 times more synthetic rubber and newsprint * 250 times more motor fuel;
* 300 times more plastic.
We waste huge amounts of energy and human resources in the arms race. There is one soldier for every 43 people in the world and only one doctor for every 1,030. Forty percent of our research and development expenditures and 60 percent of our physical scientists and engineers are devoted to developing weapons to kill everyone on Earth 67 times.
* One-quarter of the adults on this planet cannot read or write;
* 1 out of 5 is hungry and malnourished and does not have housing;
* 1 out of 5 lacks clean drinking water;
* 1 out of 3 lacks adequate health care;
* more than one-half lack sanitary toilets.
How did we get so out of touch? How did we make earning money more important than feeding babies? When did we give corporate leaders the right to make world-shattering decisions that affect us all? We have to work hard to get back in connection with our world and ourselves. What can we do? Here are some thoughts.
First we have to acknowledge that we are contributing to the problems. No need to spend a lot of time blaming or feeling guilty. Just say "Yea, I am contributing to the problem. I am doing the best I can, but I can do better." We waste a lot of internal energy by trying to believe that someone else is actually to blame. Take responsibility. It's not so bad.
Look for and acknowledge some of the historical clues. This is an important step in taking responsibility. Here are a few. They are oversimplifications, to be sure, but they are suggestive:
1. A long time ago, when our connection to the natural world was more
easily seen, people fed themselves mainly by subsistence farming, growing only enough to feed their families.
2. The size of the population size kept down by high infant mortality
and spacing of births caused by the suppression of ovulation during the 3 to 4 years a woman would breast-feed their children. The way the world treats women has had an affect on population.
3. Around 5000 BC, the invention of the metal plow literally changed
the face of the Earth for all time. Crop productivity increased, irrigation-assisted agriculture began, and families began producing more food than they needed. The excess food had to be stored and sold.
4. The population began to increase because of the larger supply of
5. People cleared increasingly larger areas of land and began to
control and shape the surface of the Earth to suit their needs.
6. The domestication of animals changed forever our relationship with
the other life forms on this planet. Chellis says in her book that the relationship with the natural world changed from one of, "respect for and participation in its elliptical wholeness to one of detachment, management, control, and finally domination." She feels that the domestication of animals and the transformation of our planetary neighbors into food resources created a condition where the human psyche maintains itself in a "state of chronic traumatic stress."
7. Urbanization began as people began to settle around the large
farms they could not create. Specialized occupations and long-distance trade developed.
8. The trade in food and manufactured goods made possible by
agricultural-based urban societies created wealth and the need for a managerial class to regulate the distribution of goods, services and land.
9. As ownership of land and water rights became a valuable economic
resource, conflict increased. Armies and war leaders rose to power and took over large areas of land. A new class of powerless people, the slaves, minorities, and landless peasants, were forced to the hard, disagreeable work of producing food.
10. Forests were cut down and grasslands were plowed to provide vast
areas of crop land and grazing land to feed the growing population of these emerging civilizations and to provide wood for fuel and for buildings.
11. The massive land clearing altered many habitats and hastened many
species to their extinction.
12. Machines that could harness energy derived from the burning of
fossil fuels, greatly increasing the average energy resource use per person. The number of people needed to produce food was greatly decreased, so our connection to the land through the growing of food was eliminated.
Ok, so what have we learned? To sum it up, our eating habits, our living habits, the way we treat animals, and the way we let technology into our lives dramatically affects our connection to the world.
So now what? Here are some suggestions:
1. For one week, keep a Mindfulness Log of all that you eat. Keep a
separate log of all that you buy. On these logs, write down where the food or other item came from. Be aware of the source. If you ate a hamburger, write down that a part of a rainforest may have been cleared to raise the cow that was fed 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to make one pound of hamburger. Remind yourself that a child dies from starvation in the world every 2 seconds.
If you are a woman, remind yourself that the risk of breast cancer for those who eat meat daily is 4 times higher compared to women who don't. The risk of breast cancer is 3 times higher among women who eat eggs, milk, butter, and cheese than those who do not.
If you are a man, remind yourself that men who eat meats, cheese, eggs, and milk daily have a 3.6 times higher risk of getting prostate cancer than men who do not.
When you buy paper at the local office supply store, remind yourself that every 8 seconds, an acre of trees disappears in the U.S. You see what I mean.
2. Try eating a meal that consists of foods that have less of an
impact on the world and your body than your usual diet. Just try it for one meal. If it feels OK, try it for another meal. See what happens.
3. Reduce your driving. This is important for resource conservation,
to be sure, but also because we have not developed a sense of "place." We don't have a relationship with our surroundings. Try to stay home at least once a week. Work around the yard, read a book outside, do your work at home. Notice the surroundings. Hear the birds sing or notice that there are no birds around you.
4. Notice the technology you are using. This includes car phones,
cars, traveling by plane, listening to your stereo, using your computer. Ecopsychologist Allen Kanner said we need to carefully examine our relationship with technology. Technology, he says, is not neutral. Our commonly held belief that how we decide to use technology defines our relationship with it is not enough. We need to examine how technology changes our conception of "reality, distance, time and space." So simplifying our lives is more than about resource use - it is also about restoring our perceptions of the world around us.
These are baby steps, to be sure, but they can be done. We are all struggling together to find a path, to live consistently, to find our voice. We see and learn many things each day that are revolting and we need to revolt.
Czechoslovakian activist and leader Vaclav Havel said that the true nature of revolt is to "attempt to live within the truth." He said we must step out of living within the lie, reject the ritual and break the rules of the game. Through this, he says, we can discover suppressed identity and dignity.
As I have said many times before, we must notice what is going on in our lives and in the lives around us. We must realize that no one is untouched.
1. You won't find a lot of Internet links in this week's resource
list. Sometimes, you just have to turn off your computer and go the library or bookstore!
2. The data on what people are doing every day comes from a wonderful
textbook about the environment and our impact on it: Biosphere 2000: Protecting our Global Environment by Donald G. Kaufman and Cecilia M. Franz. (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuqe, Iowa, 1996).
3. Another powerful textbook-type resource is Environmental Science:
Sustaining the Earth, by G. Tyler Miller. My description of the historical influences on our environmental and social dilemmas was influenced by this book. It is available from Wadsworth Publishers, Belmont, California.
4. For complete information on how our dietary choices affects our
bodies and the world, check out Earthsave International, an organization founded by author John Robbins (Diet for a New America) at http://www.earthsave.org/mission.htm
5. You can learn more about how our dietary choices affect the world
from the Beyond Beef campaign at
6. Chellis Glendinning's wonderful book is available from Shambhala Books at
6. The words of Vaclav Havel can be found in his book The Power of
the Powerless, published by Unwin Hyman in London in 1985. Read a piece by him at
7. Read about Allen Kanner and other psychologists transforming the
field in the February 1997 issue of the Utne Reader. Their web site is at http://www.utne.com/lens/
8. Check out other week's installments of this column with the
Envirolink Search engine for more links on reducing consumerism, community, and activism.
Jackie Giuliano can be found trying to sort it all out in Venice, California. (Today, though, he is helping clean house.) He is a Professor of Environmental Studies for Antioch University, Los Angeles, the University of Phoenix, and the Union Institute College of Undergraduate Studies. He is also the Educational Outreach Manager for the Ice and Fire Preprojects, a NASA program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to send space probes to Jupiter's moon Europa, the planet Pluto, and the Sun. Please send your thoughts and comments to him at email@example.com
The Environment News Service is exclusively hosted by the EnviroLink Network. Copyright © 1997 ENS, Inc. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a comment received on this text:
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997
From: Thomas Ellis
Subject: Re: * HEALING OUR WORLD *
Thank you for the thoughtful piece by Jackie Giuliano on ecological
mindfulness. Some very disturbing statistics, well used, to make us all a bit
more aware of our deep-rooted alienation from Gaia, and our unwitting
participation in her destruction.
But lest we become overwhelmed with despair and futility, it is also
important, I feel, to keep in touch with the pulse of life everywhere around
us--the kitten on my lap, here at my computer, or the egrets poised at the
edge of the marsh beyond the highway.
As Gregory Bateson once noted, there seems to be a kind of Gresham's Law of
cultural evolution, in which the vulgar and hateful always overwhelms the
sacred and beautiful--but somehow beauty survives--(even if it's only a
wildflower poking through a crack in the concrete on a corroded highway
overpass...) If you make a practice of tuning into the beauty--the life
pulse of Gaia--in the present moment, it sustains you in the long battle
against the universal ugliness of Glomart. This beauty is accessible even in
the total absence of visible manifestations (like wildflowers poking through
the cracks in concrete). Just breathe, and feel the wildflower, the Lotus,
the pulse of Gaia, in your own heart.
Then keep on keepin' on: Be well, do good work, keep in touch.
IF YOU WANT TO READ THE "HEALING OUR WORLD" WEEKLY SEQUELS, CLICK HERE
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997
From: BURT WILSON
Organization: Center for Future Consciousness
Subject: Re: mission statement
RE: The statement that we strive to "bring Peace on Earth."
"How we can bring Peace on Earth"
Most people literally do not know what peace is? I wrote an essay,
"What is Peace?" which is posted on Bob Silverstein's site and I would
like to quote a few lines from it not in criticism of the mission
statement, but in clarifying the word "peace."
If you went out on the street and asked 100 people what peace is,
probably 99 would have either no clear answer or would say it is the
"Absence of war."
Peace is not a negative ideal, thus peace is not the absence of
something, it is the presence of something. In other words, just as it
takes acts of war to make war, so must it take acts of peace to make
peace. If planes, tanks, and guns are the instruments of war, what are
the instruments of peace?
We never ask ourselves these important questions, because our government
itself does not know what peace is; proof being its lack of a stated
"philosophy of peace," or a means by which peace can be achieved and by
which the country can support such a philosophy.
What is an act of peace? The answer lies within the dynamics of peace.
That is because the dynamics of peace, i.e., the method by which peace
is achieved, are the same whether it be between two people, two groups, two states or two nations. Thus the first law of peacemaking is to regard all others as friends.
Thus World Peace lies in the building of a series of cross-cultural
links in the same manner as we would find out more about a person
whom we want for a friend. This is the most important part of the
process because such links dispel fear of the unknown and promote true
knowledge and respect for another's culture. They also form the basis
of conflict resolution. And since true world peace is not possible
without providing for the collective security of people, that security
is best served through these cultural links--the "instruments of peace"
which replace the instruments of war.
The bottom line is that peace is pro-active and positive creativeness,
not a withdrawal from the arena, and everyone can participate on any
level they choose.
Here are ten points of peace which, if carried in our consciousness, can
change the whole peace paradigm from negative to positive, from
withdrawal from the arena to a pro-active participation in the arena,
from a nebulous utopian ideal, to a concrete attainable goal.
1. Peace is the most sacred goal of humanity
2. Peace is a positive ideal and not just the absence of war
3. Peace is a cooperative process, a way of solving problems
4. Peace is a product of pro-active involvement
5. Peace is creative
6. Peace is constructive
7. Peace is a dynamic process, ever changing to meet human needs
8. Peace is a unity of cultural diversity
9. Peace is in the best interests of all peoples and all nations
10. Peace is a realistic, attainable goal through positive effort of the human will.
Thanks for listening.
Thank you for all your good work,
The Committee for Peace through Culture
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