Sustainability, Deep Ecology, & the Sacred


As our world stumbles to the brink of ecological collapse, the “tipping point” of irreversible climate change, sustainability has become a vital issue. But in order to consider the question of sustainability, it is important to begin with the question: who or what is being sustained? Does sustainability refer to “sustained economic growth,” and an environment that is able to sustain our present human civilization with its energy intensive, consumer driven needs and image of material progress? Or does sustainability refer to the whole ecosystem, an interconnected web of life with its vast and rich diversity of species? Which world are we trying to sustain?

The first image of sustainability has economic models of growth and energy efficiency, often with accompanying “green” ideas such as green technologies or green jobs to help our civilization develop. It is orientated almost solely towards our human wellbeing, which the environment is seen as supporting. This is sometimes referred to as “surface ecology.”

The second image of sustainability is often referred to as “deep ecology” and it considers the ecosystem as a living whole of which humanity is only one part. In this complex web of interrelationships all species are dependent upon each other, and it is this dynamic pattern of inter-relationship that needs to be sustained. No one part can be considered as separate from the whole, and the idea that the environment is just here to support our human civilization is a travesty of real environmental consciousness.

Deep ecology moves beyond the Newtonian idea of humanity being separate from the world in which we live—the image of humanity and its “environment.” It does not see humanity as a “superior” species, which the rest of the ecosystem should support in a subservient manner, or that nature is for humanity to master and control. Rather than embracing a Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest, deep ecology sees life from the perspective of co-operation and inter-dependence. It brings into question whether our present civilization, with its model of continued economic and material growth, is ethically or environmentally sustainable. Is it right that our human needs and desires take precedence over the whole of creation, to the point of unprecedented species depletion, pollution, and destruction of natural habitat—as well as constellating a climate change that is bringing our whole ecosystem into a dangerous state of imbalance? And if creation is an interdependent whole, how long can we all endure this present ecocide?

An interdependent ecosystem is closer to the dynamics of particle physics, which we begin to understand as underlying our physical world. Here not only is no one part separate from another, but everything is interacting, both locally and at a distance. And consciousness itself is not separate from physical reality. We are interdependent in ways we are only just beginning to understand. And yet we still live in a civilization dominated by an outdated Newtonian image of separation. Sadly even much present “environmental consciousness” remains within this paradigm, seeing the ecological imbalance as a problem that we can solve scientifically or economically. We have only begun to recognize the degree to which this unprecedented global crisis requires a shift in consciousness. If we are to truly respond to the need of an interconnected whole, we need a quality of consciousness that embraces the whole.

Once we step into the reality of a holistic consciousness that is truly in “interrelationship” with the whole, we will find our self in a very different world in which everything is interacting with us in a continually dynamic state. Even our consciousness is affecting the physical world. The question then becomes what is our role in this truly interdependent reality? Even our present image of “deep ecology” primarily sees the world through a consciousness of separation—the analytic and rational framework of our education and conditioning. We rarely experience our consciousness merged into the oneness of the world around us, as for example exists with indigenous peoples for whom even the idea of an individual being separate from their environment does not exist.

Sadly separation is so embedded into our present Western consciousness that we are not even aware of the limitations of our perception, or how our problem-solving mentality has a determining effect on how we see and interact with our environment. We have been educated to see the parts rather than the whole, and to think and act from an attitude of separation. If we are to truly embrace the reality of an ecological sustainability that recognizes the world as a living whole, we need to make the shift into a holistic consciousness, a consciousness that sees the whole in every part. Only then can we fully respond to the environmental crisis that is being caused by our present Western consciousness and the values it supports. Deep ecology requires not just a shift in values or ideology, but a shift in consciousness.

We cannot return to an indigenous consciousness, and we need the tools of science and technology to survive in today’s world. However, within indigenous awareness there is a key that can awaken us to an awareness of oneness. This key is the recognition of the sacred nature of creation. For indigenous peoples everything is sacred, and they live this primal knowing in all of their daily activities. All of the world is sacred, and all of their everyday activities a lived relationship to the sacred. This is the heartbeat of their world. It could be argued that our Western civilization is unusual in not having the awareness of the sacred at its foundation. In our image of “progress” we are unaware of having lost something so essential to life.

The “sacred” is not something primarily religious or even spiritual. It is not a quality we need to learn or to develop. It belongs to the primary nature of all that is. When our ancestors knew that everything they could see was sacred, this was not something taught but instinctively known. It was as natural as sunlight, as necessary as breathing. We all have within us a sense of the sacred, a sense of reverence, however we may articulate it. It is a part of our human DNA. We each need to find this key within us. What does it mean for something to be sacred, what feeling does this evoke? How do we recognize the quality of the sacred, and how do we then respond?

If we recognize the sacred and embrace it within all of life, we will find that life will speak to us as it spoke to our ancestors. It will remind us of how to live in harmony with creation, and how to restore the balance that is intrinsic to life. This is the ancient wisdom of the Earth itself, the Earth which has evolved and changed over millennia, been through previous ecological shifts. Unless we return to this deep knowing, real sustainability will remain a concept rather than a lived reality.
“We need not a human answer to an earth problem, but an earth answer to an earth problem. The earth will solve its problems, and possibly our own, if we will let the earth function in its own ways. We need only listen to what the earth is telling us.
We still carry this primal knowing of the sacred within our consciousness, even if we have forgotten it. A relationship to the sacred is older than any formalized religion, even though it is found at the foundation of many religions. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty and divine nature of the world. It is a felt reverence, an inner sense—we even speak of “a sense of the sacred.” Once we bring this foundational awareness into our consciousness, into our relationship with the world in which we are present, we will find that it opens a door in our consciousness into oneness. The sacred is a quality of spirit in which all is one. Once we recognize something as sacred we feel its unity—the whole of which it is a part—the sacred naturally draws us away from separation towards oneness. The remembrance of the sacred is a key that can awaken our consciousness to the oneness to which we belong.”
(Thomas Berry)

The awareness of the sacred reconnects our consciousness to the primal structure of life which was known to our ancestors. For them the world was sacred and whole—they could not conceive of it being other. The greatest tragedy of modern man is that we have lost this primal awareness, this knowing of the sacred. The most needed work is to reconnect with the sacred in our outer and inner life. Through this simple act of remembrance we can regain the balance we have so dangerously lost. Then we can see how we are a part of the interconnected web of life and know the work that needs to be done. Our outer actions, rather than reconstellating the patterns of separation, will naturally come from oneness and help life’s unity to unfold. We will again be a part of the evolving organic interdependence of life. Without this simple key of awareness of the sacred we could remain lost in the wasteland world we are creating.

If we remember the sacred we will find our self in a world as whole as it is holy. This is not a world that sustains our models of economic growth and consumer desires. This is rather a world of wonder and magic, and a world that needs our attention—that needs to be sustained as much as it sustains us, sustains our souls as well as our bodies. But first we need to make this shift in consciousness, to see the earth with new eyes.
“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity—then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.” (David Suzuki)

author: Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
article source:


Bioenergetic Landscapes: How the energy of plants can improve our health

The idea that plants and in particular trees are beneficial to men is today broadly shared. Over the last decades, university institutes and research centres all over the world have addressed this issue, carrying out experimental studies on the influence of green areas at psychological, sensory and emotional level, above all in medical facilities, study rooms and workplaces. Results are often astonishing.

Research activities carried out by the University of Texas demonstrated that patients hospitalised in facilities provided with gardens have shorter hospitalisations and are more satisfied, as is the staff: ultimately lower costs and higher comfort (R.S. Ulrich et al., 1984-1999-2002; Cooper-Marcus and Barnes, 1995; Whitehouse et al., 2001). Also at workplaces, the presence of plants can increase the yield by up to 12% and reduce stress and sick leaves (V.I. Lohr et al;, Washington State University, 1996; T. Fjeld, 1998). Studies have also proved that just watching natural landscapes and plants is enough to improve blood circulation in a few minutes, reducing stress (R.S. Ulrich et al., 1991-1999; Hartig, 1991; Nakamura and Fujii, 1992; Heerwagen, 1990) and activating a therapeutic effect based on emotional suggestion, which could be therefore defined a “placebo” effect. Hence it is confirmed that the “healing tree” is an archetype of ancient origin that is still today deeply rooted in our psyche. Over the last twenty years these results have encouraged many designers to create “Healing Gardens”, which are gardens thought above all for the weakest and most disadvantaged people, with the purpose of producing wellbeing feelings through the therapeutic effect of the landscape, which is mainly linked to emotional, psychological and sensory stimulations. For a few years, new studies have been investigating the reasons of the beneficial influence that plants and above all trees can exert on human beings, analysing this interaction in terms of “energy”.
Ancient cultures used to teach practices and rituals that included the physical contact with trees, as they thought they had a therapeutic power based on the exchange of vital energy.

We are linked to the plant world through a biological affinity, which seems to have been confirmed by scientific research, as it has highlighted the existence of great similarities between some aspects of the animal and plant physiology. For example, recent discoveries by LINV (International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology) of Florence have proved that the plant root system has a great similarity with the animal brain and that plants have sophisticated skills enabling them to react to external stimuli and to choose the most suitable answer to the environment and the human beings they come in contact with.
Moreover numerous studies have proved that all physical forms (humans, animals, plants and minerals) are held together and controlled by electromagnetic energy fields (electrodynamic theory by H.S. Burr, Yale university, 1940; H. Frolich, 1988, F.A. Popp, 1989), spurring further research to deepen the knowledge on the relation existing in this field between human beings and the environment. Hence it is no surprise that in terms of energy men, animals and plants depend on the environment even though at the same time they emit biological energy fields, in form of weak, but specific electromagnetic fields.
In the 60s the Belgian researcher, Dott. Walter Kunnen (1921-2011) started to investigate the electromagnetic influences of biosphere on life and health of human beings, stating that we are not really aware that the only difference
between a corpse (animal or plant) and a living body is neither of physical, nor of anatomic nature, but it is only an energy matter. His unconventional studies highlighted the existence of subtle electromagnetic fields emitted by men and of those existing in nature, which are able to influence health. Thanks to the evolution and the use he has developed of the most advanced tool of biophysical measurement, the “Lecher antenna”, he was able to measure the biological quality of natural and artificial electromagnetism with a precision that still today is impossible for electronic equipment.

As a consequence, new studies have been recently carried out in the plant field to deepen the knowledge on the energetic relation between men, trees and biosphere, which lead to the idea of “Bioenergetic Landscapes”. It is an innovative technique, which, through specific measurements, recognizes that plants and in particular trees are able to influence men and their vital functions from an energetic point of view and which is used to create therapeutic “bioenergetic gardens”. All this is possible because plants emit electromagnetic frequencies, which are identical to those produced by human organs, the intensity and quality of which vary according to the plant genus and species. These frequencies interact with our organism by resonance, the same principle applied for the functioning of radio, and according to their characteristics they can provide energy to the different human organs, sometimes producing also great benefits. Electromagnetic properties of each species can be precisely measured and used for therapeutic purposes in the creation of green spaces and areas where is beneficial to have a relaxing and regenerating stop.

Actually the intensity of electromagnetic fields emitted by trees is very low (like the one of bio-energetic fields produced by man, which are currently studied in many universities all over the world); yet it has an extremely high biological affinity. It usually does not have any influence on the organism if the distance from the tree is more than few tens of centimetres.
Yet the study carried out has enabled the discovery of natural electromagnetic vectors, called “generator fields”, able to transmit the energy properties of trees, which can be defined their “biological information”, up to a some meters of distance.
Thanks to accurate measurements, plants are located with high precision and in compliance with specific procedures along the path followed by these
vectors, which collect the bio-electromagnetic information of the plant. This allows to create bio-energetic areas rather large. These can stretch up to 20-30 metres from the plants, roughly of the same width.
To better illustrate the phenomenon, it could be useful a simile. Imagine the natural electromagnetic field as a pure and clear mountain stream; then we immerse in the middle of it a glass filled with ink of a certain color, that in our case is the tree with its particular energy: until the ink will come out from the glass, the water will flow downstream coloring itself for some distance, until returning transparent. Much like this happens in electromagnetic reality studied by the Bio-energetic Landscapes, with the only difference that the tree never wears out.
Bioenergetic areas are particularly suitable for a rest and they have different levels of beneficial electromagnetic qualities to our organism according to the plant used and its specific properties of biological influence. Staying a few minutes in these spaces facilitates and nourish the most vital functions and well-being of our organs (immune system, circulatory, liver, thyroid, adrenal gland, etc ) and involves a more intense and effective recovery from stress as evidenced by the measurements performed with diagnostic tools as GDV Bioelectrography (Gas Discharge Visualization) by prof. K. Korotkov – University of St. Petersburg – (Russia) and with various vibration devices of electromagnetic and TRV infrasound and ultraviolet analysis.
Using this technique, it is possible to plan and then create bioenergetic parks and gardens,the therapeutic function of which is truly based on the beneficial properties of selected plants, achieving levels of qualification for the environmental electromagnetism that no other system can provide. To obtain this result, the choice of plants is fundamental. Most of the common mediterranean and continental species exert a positive influence on the different organs, and only few of them have negative effects, such as the Walnut (genus Juglans) or Cypress.

Interestingly over time men have used their experience and sensitivity to recognize the positive influence of many tree species, which have then become symbols of vitality and objects of worship. In ancient times, they represented the powers and the qualities of the deity, who was associated to them and who sometimes chose the tree as dwelling. For example, Oak (Quercus robur) is a tree with an excellent resistance and particularly beneficial for the cardiovascular, immune and endocrine systems, as well as for the reproductive organs.
In antiquity, in the whole Mediterranean basin and up to northern Europe, it was considered an oracular tree, a sacred tree, which was placed at the centre of the Celtic Nemeton or of the Roman Locus as object of worship evoking the power of Zeus or northern deities. It is not excluded that the thaumaturgic power attributed to some sacred trees could stem from a particular position that enjoyed the best conditions of the local biosphere, thus enabling them to enhance and spread around their great beneficial force.
The link between tree and symbolic and divine meaning is clear also in other plants belonging to the European sacred tradition, like the Olive, the Ash and the Birch. These trees have a positive effect for the organism, they help the heart and the immune system, and hence they are precious for our health. As far as the Ash is concerned, for example, we know that in the Greek mythology it was sacred to Poseidon, the god of the sea, the springs and the waterways. The bio-energetic analysis of this tree highlights an excellent therapeutic influence also as regards kidneys, bladder, lymphatic system, all organs concerning indeed liquid flows of the body.

The ancient gesture of hugging a tree achieves a higher meaning, as it brings us in contact with the real energy emissions able to activate wellbeing mechanisms, as well as walking in a wood enables us to move and rest within an environment that is deeply influenced by the bio-electromagnetic proprieties of trees, thus transforming our trips into moments.

author: Marco Nieri
article source:

The Healing Power of Nature

In today’s fast-paced world, almost everything we ingest is artificial, processed and synthetic, be it food or medication. Even when it comes to exercising, many of us choose to walk on the treadmill, or take a dip in the public pool, instead of heading towards the park or the ocean. Smoking and drinking have probably becomes the most common ways to reduce stress and anxiety, especially with working individuals. Needless to say, the air we breathe in is far from pure, at least in urban areas! And when it comes to curing any ailment, even something as mild as a common cold, many of us waste no time in popping a pill. But did you know that many of your health problems can be treated without a trip to the doctor or the pharmacy?Fortunately, many people are now realizing the healing powers that nature can have on their bodies. After accepting homeopathy and herbal therapy, for treating several different types of ailments, many individuals are now exploring the benefits of Eco-therapy.
In simple terms, Eco-therapy can be described as a form of natural treatment, which encourages people to build mutually-beneficial relationships with nature. Those who have been undergoing this therapy make an attempt to use their mind, heart & senses to interact with the world. While many people practice Eco-therapy in different ways, this treatment requires you to:

  • Head off to the woods or a garden
  • Sit beside some flowing water
  • Watch the scenery when you are traveling by car or train
  • Interact with domestic animals like cats, dogs and horses
  • Embrace activities like gardening as well as tending plants and watching them

Basically, you need to get involved with different types of living species other than your own.
Intuitively, many of us have been aware of the healing power of nature for a very long time and recent research proves that we have been right all along.

Nature can have a positive impact on your body in numerous ways

Medical Benefits: Just looking at nature can help your body heal faster. Research has shown that patients in hospitals experience less pain and recover faster, if they have access to the views and sounds of nature. Even looking at murals of natural scenery and listening to recorded sounds of nature can have a similar effect on your recovery process.

Emotional Benefits: Continuous focus on everyday tasks, at work and home can drain you, causing you to feel irritable, fatigued and stressed. Nature can increase your sense of overall well being with its restorative effect. Adults and teens claim to feel more relaxed after spending time outdoors. Taking part in a variety of activities like jogging in the park, camping in the woods or swimming in the river, can help you feel more self-confident and patient.

Therapeutic Benefits: Interacting with nature for just a few hours each day can help you combat some serious health issues, like depression and anxiety. A recent study conducted in England showed that people experienced a reduction in depression when they walked outside, but experienced little improvement or even worsening of their symptoms when they went walking in a shopping mall for the same amount of time. In certain schools, teachers are encouraged to take hyperactive students outside for a brief walk, so that they can concentrate on classroom activities for the rest of the day.
No one can really explain how or why nature has such a deep impact on our bodies and yet, its therapeutic power cannot be ignored. The best way to test the effectiveness of Eco-therapy is by spending time in the outdoors and interacting with other living beings.


Ortoterapia, perchè curare le piante è un po’ come curare se stessi

La scoperta di provare un grande amore per le piante è stata per me come una rivelazione improvvisa. Preoccuparsi di innaffiare ogni giorno, sporcarsi le mani di terra, toccare le foglie più belle e staccare quelle secche, vedere le api, le coccinelle e le farfalle sul mio balcone mi ha fatto riscoprire cosa vuol dire il rapporto con la terra e la natura, anche se abito in città. Vedere crescere, fiorire e fare frutti le mie piante mi ha regalato tanto buonumore e un’ insolita sensazione di realizzazione personale. L’ortoterapia è tutto questo e molto di più.
Chiunque ama e capisce un giardino,vi troverà dentro della gioia” recita un proverbio cinese. Con la versione casalinga dell’ortoterapia si ottengono buoni risultati, ad esempio, su depressione e ansia. Le piante, infatti, sono un potente antistress e prendersi cura quotidianamente anche solo di pochi vasi sul davanzale della finestra, sul balcone o sul terrazzo mette in moto tanti muscoli dell’organismo, rallenta il battito cardiaco, ossigena il cervello ma soprattutto libera la mente dai pensieri negativi.
L’ortoterapia vera e propria è nata negli Stati Uniti grazie all’intuizione di Roger Ulrich che notò come i pazienti in cura presso un ospedale della Pennsylvania guarivano più rapidamente se la stanza in cui erano ricoverati era esposta sul grande giardino della clinica. Ulrich capì che un giardino armonico e ben curato poteva lenire un po’ il dolore e favorire a livello psicologico il processo di guarigione.
Dopo questo primo passo, compiuto a cavallo degli anni 70’-80’, sono stati fatti diversi studi ed esperimenti su giovani, anziani, disabili, pazienti psichici, riscontrando sempre ottimi risultati. Chi si prendeva cura di un orto aumentava l’autostima personale e la capacità di lavorare sia in autonomia e in gruppo. La American Horticultural Therapy Association, un’associazione che attualmente negli Usa si occupa di ortoterapia, promuove questa tecnica alternativa per tutte le persone ansiose e depresse, affiancandola alle normali terapie mediche. Ma l’ortoterapia si sta diffondendo anche in altri paesi: Canada, Australia, Giappone, Germania, Inghilterra e piano piano anche in Italia.


Letture consigliate:
Healing Garden. Il giardino che cura
Cristina Pandolfo
Brigantia editrice