What we are a part of, which is everything

Posted October 13th, 2014 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on What we are a part of, which is everything

And what does that mean? That whatever we do or don’t do, we do or don’t do to everything.

That’s the way it works. That is the only way it has ever worked. On this planet, our small local expression or manifestation of that cosmological truth, it has been uniquely true in the evolution of life, an unfolding of mind-boggling complexity that even now we fail to completely comprehend.

But we are coming to know it – deeply, inescapably.

I urge you read this article in its entirety because it is but one example of what I mean:  ‘Unspeakable Poverty of Loss': Intergenerational Trauma and the Bakken Oil Fields, written by Winona Laduke.

You see, it works like this. Humans believe they can continue to wrest energy from the Earth with vastly more destructive technologies, that they can endlessly burn this energy sending greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere forever, thrust toxins into the local air where extraction is going on, and even more toxins into the sources of water and soil that we need for life, then move the stuff by rail and pipelines in a vast network across North America, while strip-mining Wisconsin’s, Minnesota’s, and Iowa’s sand hills for the silica sand needed for fracking, destroying local farms, air, water, and children’s lungs, and we can do all that – AND NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO US!!

Fracking wells in Colorado - Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

Fracking wells in Colorado – Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

But here’s the thing: when we did all that, we did it to everything!

Or in Laduke’s tale of horror, what do we see there? Dehumanizing of those who were here before White Europeans ever arrived (the obscenity of Columbus Day as one supreme example), committing genocide against them, stealing their land, consigning them to impoverished reservations, demonizing them when they then have social and economic problems, blaming the victim  as a way of forever excusing this injustice, corrupting their political leaders with vast amounts of money to sell their souls to the western corporations, and we can do all that – AND NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO US!!

But here’s the thing: when we did it to them, we did it to everything, including us!

Dehumanization – which side of this relationship lost the greatest amount of their humanity?

Last week or so, I started following the Facebook page of “Racing Extinction”, a new film guaranteed to break our hearts. Their posts include little tidbits from the documentary, things like a last image of a last creature of a living species disappearing forever into extinction.

Saving Species: The Grasshopper Sparrow from Oceanic Preservation Society on Vimeo.

When that creature is gone, it is gone forever. When that extinction occurs, it occurs to and within everything.

Now, millions of living beings have come and gone in the story of the evolution of life on this planet, but never before has one species brought about a rate of mass extinction like the one we humans have perpetrated.

When we did this, when we launched this seemingly irreversible extinction event, we did it to everything, including us!

And we know now that if we go on like this, the extinction event itself will include us!

Everything we do or don’t do, we do or don’t do to everything. There is no place in this living process where you can put a true separation between or among things, where relationship suddenly ends and there is no more connection. You can’t say, I made this money all on my own or built this house separately from the materials used and where they came from and the place it was built, or from the living systems disturbed by all of this activity and within which all that happened – in other words, free of cause-effect-cause-effect…

You cannot inject highly toxic fracking waste water deep into aquifers in California and think it will be gone forever, affect nothing, not poison that through which it will move, layers of rock and soil, the pulse of the planet, because that is what the planet does and that water can never be contained as separate from other living forms, not to mention the fracking itself and the frac sand mines in Western Wisconsin which is removing our soil and thrusting the sand put here by immense geological processes over immense spans of time into wells in North Dakota, Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania… Oh, not to mention that all that waste water is water removed permanently from the hydrological cycle which helps keep the Earth producing life.


This was once boreal forest. Near Ft. McMurray, Alberta. Photo credit: Margaret Swedish

Or the way the boreal forests of Canada, now being clear-cut, permanently torn apart and fragmented for synthetic tar sands oil, are part of the breath of the planet all across the northern hemisphere making climate and weather and taking in CO2 and breathing out oxygen and are therefore part of the breath I take in right now as I sit here typing this into the computer made with rare earth minerals probably from a toxic mine in China where workers are breathing such toxic air that their lives are shortened by how this computer came to be.

What I do or don’t do, what the fracking and tar sands industries do or don’t do, what tanker car trains and pipelines do or don’t do, is done or not done to everything.

Or take the chemical industry. Tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals not created by Nature have been introduced into the environment by humans, most of them never tested, and about 42 billion pounds of which are produced or imported every day. Of the small minority tested, including many used in fracking, for example, we now know that many of them cause cancer, autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, and more. Neurotoxins are stored in all our bodies now, including the notorious glyphosate, ingredient of Monsant0’s Round-Up pesticide, sprayed all over the food growing in the depleted soils of our big farm states.

Now according to the logic of capitalism, we must, must, must continue to grow economically, which really means grow profits and stock value for the affluent. Since we passed the Earth’s carrying capacity back in the 1980s, what is growth for them is actually depletion and loss at an ever-accelerating pace. But, the good news for them is that if they give us cancer and various brain and nerve diseases, increasing profits will be made in the health sector to treat them – the for-profit hospitals, the big pharmaceutical companies, the research centers looking for cures, and lots of jobs for health care workers, construction companies that build the buildings, and developers of all sorts.

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Focus on prevention? Stop making us sick? Get these chemicals out of our bodies and our environments? Yup, big economic crash, big time recession, big loss to stock portfolios. The logic of the system. Stop fracking the Earth, somebody’s fortune is going to be lost, somebody’s profits made off boom town economies are going to be lost. We like striking it rich, and we like to believe anybody, including me, can strike it rich. I’d rather we all get cancer than have that fantasy taken away from me. Or so the story goes.

You see, what they do or don’t do is done or not done to everything, including us! And clinging to these kinds of fantasies is doing something to me and to you and to Nature and to our future prospects on this planet.

So, that’s one side of the coin of “interbeing” – whatever destruction we do with our lives, even in our smallest decisions, we do to everything. This is true because there is not separate self, no self outside and apart from everything that is. The belief in the separate self, the ideology of individualism and self-interest is not just illusion, it is delusion and a source of so much of what we suffer in this world now.

Here’s the other side of the coin of interbeing: whatever we do with our lives, even our smallest decision, to get out of this interconnected web of destruction, to weave a different web in sync, in balance, in harmony with the Earth’s genius at renewing and recreating and restoring life in all its complexity and beauty – we do to everything!! Whatever we stop doing to add to the destruction, we stop doing to everything.

Credit: Margaret Swedish

Credit: Margaret Swedish

And therein lies the essential ethic of New Creation as we intend the meaning of the term here. We are now in our time seeing abundant evidence of the interrelatedness of all that is, especially of all that is living, breathing, moving, on this beautiful Mother Earth of ours. We know now in the most visceral and at times terrifying sense just how connected we are with all that is. But the intensity of what drives us forward on this path of industrial destruction, the intense dynamism of the system, feels impossible to brake, to get out of, to free ourselves from (the nuns taught me never to end a sentence with a preposition).

And yet, just as we have made and now feed that world, that dynamism of the economic era, we can unmake it, we can stop feeding it. We can begin to remove ourselves from the “market” economy that is based on this belief that we prefer to establish our identities by what we consume, by the unneeded stuff that we have, by the lifestyles we lead and whether or not they represent elements of “privilege,” or various forms of expression that would lead us to believe we can, at least in our own good well-deserved cases, live outside the reality of the web of existence, the interrelatedness of all life and being, the “interbeing” that is our true nature.

Hanging out with other beings on the banks of the Athabasca River. Photo: Swedish

Hanging out with other beings on the banks of the Athabasca River. Photo: Swedish

And, as in all other relations in which what we do or don’t do is done or not done to everything, we need to begin to embrace this ethic on a massive scale, with one another in connection, in partnership, with all the sentient and non-sentient beings with whom we are in relation – which is everything.

The tar sands industrial site in Alberta is a great example of this. That boreal forest, the magnificent watershed of the Athabasca River, is being shredded so that Canada can become a powerful petro-state, so that the West doesn’t need so much Saudi oil (although that itself is a myth), so that oil and mining companies can make huge profits, so that stockholders and retirees holding pension funds with oil and mining stocks can live off them, so that CEOs like the Koch brothers and Rex Tillerson, can be enormously wealthy and powerful – at the cost of a forest called “the lungs of North America,” the beautiful waters of Northern Alberta, the health and cultures of aboriginal peoples, the threat of oil spills and environmental wreckage from construction of a vast pipeline network across the U.S., and on and on. You get my point.

This is what our ecological crisis is teaching us – it is teaching us about connection. Now, we could wish that more of the world had come to that lesson by another path; but everywhere we look we see the signs of the awakening. As more and more people, often beginning at the most local level, the first direct threat to their places, come to see how this is all connected, how no matter where you start you eventually begin to see the unraveling of the whole, and the logic underneath that unraveling, that awakening is ignited.

The boreal forest in Alberta. Source: Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program

The boreal forest in Alberta. Source: Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program

And that is exactly the “place” where we want now to go look for new creation, where we see it happening. We want to invite people to open their hearts, their grief over their threatened places, their love for their living communities, to this perception of the reality of interbeing, how we are all in this together, how it is not too late to re-create our human lives so that we become committed to what holds and strengthens the connections rather than what tears them apart.

The work of New Creation.

We welcome your stories and insights.

 ~ Margaret Swedish


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