Flowers in a Shamanic Mandala at the Our Sacred Earth ConferencePhoto by: Susan Eirich

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

The Our Sacred Earth conference in Lucca, Italy was organized by Kamran Mofid, a person of great heart. This gave people the permission and sense of safety needed for the freedom to explore, together and without fear, as we all sought solutions to our current crises. Warmth allows us to open to new possibilities.

It was so rich it will take a while to share all the ideas. Some I will share in the next Conservation Conversations and future blogs. But interestingly, one of the presentations that offered a beautiful, unique perspective on healing and moving forward was a project aimed at healing the trauma of the Nazi concentration camps. What does that have to do with Earthfire and animals? Those are the same forces and impulses that cause us to destroy, with callous disregard or even hate, both other humans, animals and living forests. The deeper we go, the more we close in on a common source for most of our difficulties, human and environmental (actually, they are not separate), and that is where we have to go for deep and long-term healing and from there, to thriving. The presentation I refer to was on an initiative from the One Humanity Institute. It was started by Nina Meyerhof, who was born on the day her grandmother was killed at Auschwitz. With incredible audacity and courage, she is starting a “City of Hope,” where the initial members live in the actual SS barracks of that concentration camp, working to transform terrors and horrors into hope. In our way, we at Earthfire are working to heal and transform our relationship with animals and the Earth. There are many angles to how we heal ourselves and the Earth, all worth pursuing.

The Villa that Hosted the Conference

A scene from the grounds of Villa Boccella, where the conference was hosted | Susan Eirich

Interestingly, a presentation by John Thompson also brought up trauma, focusing on the idea that it is at the basis of our environmental destruction. We have all once been indigenous peoples. With the beginning of agriculture we “colonized” the land (in the sense of how aboriginal peoples were colonized), turning it to our exclusive use 10,000 years ago, changing from a respectful, reciprocal relationship with the living land, to seeing and using it as a commodity there for our sole gain. We also colonized animals for our use. (Following this idea, I wonder if we can think of the land as traumatized, too?)

Trauma destroys our sense of safety, and the intense inner state of chaos is so terrifying that the human brain copes by shutting down, losing sight of the big picture—our connection with the Earth and the long term consequences of our actions—and focusing instead on threats, a sense of urgency, detail and the immediate. From that position we continue a semblance of life. Born into it, we see this coping method as normal and hold it up as the ideal. Over 10,000 years we have carried that burden from generation to generation and adapted to a traumatized world. To feel safe we need more, ever more, which is a driver of capitalism. In addition, with the growth of a sense of separation and the importance of individuality, we have lost the profound sense of an interconnected community that supports healing from trauma. The result is a need for material things to replace the inner sense of security we have lost.

As I mentioned in the beginning, warmth creates a sense of safety. John’s point is that without a sense of safety, we cannot drop into our hearts and come up with a loving, Life-oriented culture based on heart values. Healing us is a priority.

Susan and her panel members speak at the Our Sacred Earth Conference | Mumta Ito

Some other themes from the conference:

  • There is no environment. We are the Earth’s extended body.
  • Questioning may be the meaning of life.
  • If we change the story we change the future.
  • Make part of the business school curriculum being outdoors.
  • The concepts of Eco-crime. Eco-spirituality. Ecological consciousness.
  • The universal calming effect of being in contact with the Earth.
  • Don’t wait for leaders. We all carry the power of solutions.
  • Real solutions are big solutions.
  • Economics is a human study. Economics must be rejoined with values.
  • Justice is a state of mind—not an external ministry.
  • Our institutions are built on faulty foundations, accepting the logic of the market.
  • Happiness for humans is belonging—being in community. And that is also where true healing takes place.
  • Is ending poverty a pipe dream or an essential element of a sustainable and harmonious world?
  • It takes massive energy to maintain our separation from nature.
  • Our system of law treats living beings as objects or property, an economic paradigm based on endless growth (wildly unrealistic on a finite planet), that leads to the destruction of nature. We need laws that recognize the intrinsic value of nature, and a legal framework that aligns with ecology to sustain life. This is beginning to happen.
  • Cell life, the basis of all life, has a globally distributed and emergent quality. There is no one place we can point to in a cell that is “life.” It is in the relationship of the parts that life emerges. Death is when connections are broken.
  • All Life is sentient. It is not all conscious, but it is sentient. That includes animals, plants and the Earth.
  • Our Earth a massive information processor and source of information. We can ask the land what it wants and use that as a model for developing lifeways not just to the sustain us but help us thrive. After all, our Earth did generate Life and the incredible systems that sustain it.
  • The Earth is waiting for us to invite her in.

All of the presentations were videotaped and will be available at the Globalization for the Common Good website.

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Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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