Sunday, July 13, 2008
I'm back - after 2 weeks in the wilderness. Well, Scotland, to be exact, but in some ways it felt like a dip into the wild. After a weekend in Edinburgh for a bit of film festival celebrations for the premier of my brother’s latest documentary (The New Ten Commandments), we headed off up the west coast to the Highlands. A land I know well and love, in part due to the lesser dominance of human impact. No TV (no problem), no radio (hmm), no phone connection (survivable), no internet connection (hugely frustrating). Just the two of us, millions of midges and a pile of books.
Where some pray under the hallowed edifices of the kirk, I communed with the ancient and sacred standing stones to be found in and around the Kilmartin Glen trying to unravel the mysteries of a civilization who had far greater connection with our planet than we do. A childhood shaped by authoritarian Catholicism and the rigid teachings of Jesuits failed to instill in me a belief in religion (the questioning of which led to much time spent outside the classroom). To this day it remains too ethnocentric and paternal for my taste. Instead, it made me question what our earth’s systems are. In time this has evolved into a recognition that all species and organisms – non-humans – have rights too.
As often happens, an accumulation of thoughts ideas and conversations come full circle. For me…a year in Vienna in 1988, working with an ecologist who taught me about Tree Tenants ... more recently, last year a conversation with a close friend about tree rights… a co-incidental introduction to a few fellow tree rights supporters … an email dialogue … an introduction to some seminal texts…an invite to an inspiring day course on Earth Jurisprudence at the Gaia Institute. Books mounted by my bedside tantalizing me to read, but I needed a little time to digest, rather than hurriedly devouring before turning my thoughts to other more immediate concerns. Thus, with very little distraction, and in the midst of the most beautiful countryside, for the past two weeks I have turned my thoughts to addressing what I now consider to be crucial for the environment - even more significant than saving our rainforests and the implementation of technological renewable energy solutions (this is not to denigrate their importance – for they are of course also vital). Something that requires nothing less than a dramatic shift in our collective consciousness.
To stop and even reverse the plundering and the violation of our world’s resources (and as a consequence that which has triggered climate change), we need a recognition of a Duty of Care for our planet. Nothing less than a mandatory principle – the creation of a legal standing of the inherent rights of the natural world - is required. Such an overriding objective should thus be accorded primary consideration by what Thomas Berry in The Great Work refers to as the the four major spheres of influence – academic, economic, political, religious and their corresponding bodies: universities, corporations, governments and religions.
Our legislative frameworks shape our societies, but somewhere within our development humanity failed to recognise that planet rights must be respected too. We now accept that the exploitation of our eco-systems is human-driven; with this knowledge comes the responsibility to act. Without an overarching recognition of planet rights, all legislation applied to provide energy and environmental protectionism remains piecemeal, incoherent and insufficient for the radical shift in consciousness and understanding that is required.
10th December 2008 will mark the 60th anniversary of our Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 60 years that have also fashioned our planning, energy and business laws and as a consequence our general belief of our dominant role within the planet. But at what detriment: a detriment that needs to be redressed now to ensure future protection. Is it not now time for an International Declaration of Planet Rights?
"The Power of the World always work in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days...all our power came from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished"
Heka Sapa, North American Oglala Sioux 1930 - 1931
...and one I read that made me laugh out loud: There's a Hippo in My Cistern by Pete May.