'EARTH PHILOSOPHIES AUSTRALIA'
Founded on December 1st 1996 at the Forest Meditation Centre near the Channon, Northern NSW
A gathering of ecophilosophers in the sweet regenerating forest, high on a ridge, sheltered in the gaze of the Goddess, bathing in the golden lights of dawn and dusk and the resounding chorus of the night. Welcomed by creatures and gentle spirits all ... goanna, land mullet, rifle bird, grasshopper, mosquito. Enlivened by stories, thunder rolls and lightning flashes.
'Earth Philosophies Australia' is the name we chose after a 4-day gathering of some 20 folks interested in radical environmental philosophy. Among those present were Patsy Hallen and Val Plumwood (philosophy, Murdoch University), Freya Matthews (Philosophy LaTrobe University), John seed and Eshana (Rainforest Information Centre).
The following report by Eshana was circulated among the participants. It contains:
* Cover letter with I-Ching reading
* Brainstorm of names for this new movement
* Strategies for action
* Contexts for action
* Roles/Goals and Processes
* Bush School
* Communiversity (by Eshana)
* Circle of Correspondence (by John Seed)
* EPA Principles Dec '96 (by Patsy Hallen, Freya Mathews and Val Plumwood)
The next meeting of EPA took place in Denmark, Western Australia in May 1997, when we held the Kurrabup Bush School. A web-site for the EPA has now been set up through Murdoch University, http://wwwistp.murdoch.edu.au (there is a button on that page to the Earth Philosophies site)
4 December 1996
Hi everyone! We're down in the big smoke of Sydney, fully inspired by the last few days with you all at the meditation centre. Lots of energy to write up our experiences and initiate a circle of correspondence!
Last night John and I consulted the I-Ching, and the two hexagrams it gave were 'Joy' and 'Gathering Together', which described our time together well.
"THE JUDGEMENT The joyous. Success. Perseverance is favourable.
The joyous mood is infectious and therefore brings success.
THE IMAGE Lakes resting one on the other: The image of the joyous. Thus the superior man joins his friends For discussion and practice.
A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. It is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalising force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self- taught."
We're looking forward to ongoing conversations with you - in person, by telephone, email, letters, computer discs!! Thanks for coming to the gathering and making our time together so special.
Loving Earth, Eshana
A WHIRLPOOL BRAINSTORM OF NAMES FOR THIS NEW MOVEMENT
Ozecology... the Earth philosophy ... land liberation... eco- salvation... radical ecology... organic wholeness interaction... Nature... church of the immaculate biosphere... engaged philosophies of the Earth... re-animation... love of wisdom... deep ecology... new earthian coalition... liberation ecology... plenitude... planetude... enlivening philosophy... terranism... plant liberation... Earth narratives... a new philosophy of nature... sacred Earth... re- Earthing... cosmic ecology... think galactically act terrestrially... living Earth awareness... land liberation... philosophy of the Earth... Earth consciousness... macro-eco-rap (the only rap there is)... Earthies... ecological consciousness... E.L.F. (Earth Liberation Front)... humans for the Earth... Gaian ethics... caring... re-nature... deep edibility... re-animation... fundamental deep ecology... Earth stories... living ecology... Earthianism... engaged philosophies of the Earth... coalition of active Earth philosophers... salvation ecology... rainbow ecology... TECIA (The Earth Consciousness Institute of Australia)... plant liberation... eco-salvation... New Earthian Coalition... pagan love cult... a new philosophy of nature
In accordance with Freya Mathews' pre-gathering suggested theme 'Whither Ecophilosophy?' (a review of Australian ecophilosophy and where we should be heading), several participants gave short presentations to the group: Freya Mathews, Wendy Sarkissian, Ian Mills, Patsy Hallen, Val Plumwood, Eshana, Sam Buckland, and Ingvar Anda. These talks focused on recent work and future plans, and were followed by discussion by the group. Patrick Anderson also told us some environmental good news stories.
WE SUGGEST THAT EACH OF THESE PRESENTERS WRITE/SEND A SHORT ABSTRACT OF THEIR PRESENTATION TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS CIRCLE OF CORRESPONDENCE.
In the lead-up to our gathering, John Seed made the following suggestion for an action-oriented focus:
"HOW MIGHT WE CONSTRUCT AND MOUNT A 'CAMPAIGN' TO SPREAD ECOLOGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS, ECOLOGICAL SELF? "
Could we devise strategies for making ecophilosophy more popular, more of a mainstream concern rather than fringey and irrelevant to the day- to-day course of worldly affairs?
Early on in the gathering, it was agreed that developing a strategy for changing consciousness is problematic. This is because consciousness doesn't reside only in people's heads but is embedded in our institutions, behaviours, social relations, language and politics. We therefore needed to focus our change-strategies on all of these things as well as consciousness.
The vibrant brainstorm which ensued yielded the following action strategies:
* Understanding processes of social change (including the movement of ideas) and applying them. For example, the Bradley method of bush regeneration (a biological metaphor for social change) would suggest starting the movement in the places of greatest strength (e.g., environmental activists and academics). Not getting stuck in merely an information-diffusion approach. Action research, self-reflexivity to ascertain what works and what doesn't!
* Recognising the multiple foundations of ecophilosophy and engaging in a diversity of campaign strategies.
* Developing something NEW - something shocking, intriguing, with novelty value, a new angle on ecophilosophy.
* Developing an alternative education network. This should combine intellectual philosophy with experiential process and practical action. Different forms suggested were a 'communiversity', 'bush summer schools', a roving university course, community education programmes and professional development courses.
* Providing contexts for encouraging people's OWN relationship with the Earth. Helping people to REMEMBER and create their Earth philosophies rather than pushing our own ideas. We need to create a campaign which is 'no campaign', remembering the root of the word 'education' is 'leading out'.
* Providing opportunities for fun (and humbling experiences) in the bush.
* Challenging the culture of academic environmental philosophy which presently has a fear of engagement, can be hypercritical and competitive, and tends to treat the human-nature relationship as just another intellectual puzzle.
* Asking deeper questions about the roots of the environmental crisis. Philosophical inquiry. Offering new thoughts and answers to these questions. Challenging anthrocentrism (and explaining that we are not anti-human!). Encouraging others to ask deeper questions. Retaining a node of intense intellectual philosophy, alongside nodes of activism, spirituality, etc.
* Finding simple ways of formulating and communicating Earth philosophies. Reducing jargon. Creating an accessible, reachable philosophy complete with practical activities in which people can engage. Finding key points (ideas, images, metaphors) from which ecophilosophy can ripple out into the wider community.
* Being creative. Think broadly and involve the arts. Visual arts, performance arts, community arts: theatre, poetry, film, humour, song, rock'n'roll! Festivals and other Earth celebrations!
* Facilitating circles and conversations - within and between academia, the larger community, environmental and other social/liberation movements. Encouraging philosophising and communication.
* Communicating with each other. Nourishing a community of Earth philosophers. A journal, newsletter, circle of correspondence, and/or internet web-site. Gatherings. Opening the circle to others. Being non-exclusive and aware of race, gender, class issues.
* Working with all age groups, especially children and youth.
* Learning from indigenous people and their philosophies. Reconciliation, reciprocal relationship, not appropriation. Healing relationships between conquerors and indigenous. Supporting the indigenous in their struggles.
From the preceding brainstorm, I have drawn a schematic diagram representing the different contexts in which we wish to act / encourage action, i.e., the different groups of people and social movements with whom we wish to connect and work/play. Each of these groups has particular skills, experiences and perspectives of generating a healthy system of relationships between humans and the rest of the natural world.
As indicated in the diagram, the development of an alternative education network (including a newsletter/internet website) forms a central link between these other social movements / contexts / groups of people.
* academia - environmental philosophies (deep ecology, ecofeminism, ecopsychology, social ecology, environmental ethics) and other environmental fields (environmental studies, geography, environmental psychology, cultural studies, anthropology, literature)
* environmental education - 'about', 'in' and 'for' the environment - focus on childhood
* environmental movement - defense of nature, permaculture, voluntary simplicity
* human health services/movement (mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, social) - human potential movement (new age workshops), psychologists (including ecopsychologists), physical health professionals (alternative and mainstream), social healing (e.g., conflict resolution)
* social and liberation movements - feminism, socialism, peace movement
* artists - writers, visual artists, community arts festivals, street theatre groups, 'theatre of the oppressed', musicians, 'the media'
* indigenous people, culture, philosophies, cosmologies
* 'mainstream' community groups - rotary clubs, sporting associations, business people, professionals
(It should be noted that my choice of the alternative education network as the central position in the system could simply be because it is the activity which interests me the most! As a complex web, each of these nodes might form a 'centre'.)
The ROLE/GOALS of the EPA could be to facilitate the following activities in the broader community:
* asking deeper questions about the roots of the environmental crisis
* nurturing a love of Earthly wisdom (conceptual, emotional, spiritual and physical)
The PROCESSES through which we might go about doing this are
* circles and conversations - communication, support, gathering, community-formation
* creativity - creative expression and engagement, synergy, allowing emergent properties to arise
* remembering and encouraging - not forcing ideas onto people but drawing out and nurturing healthy relationships with nature
* critical inquiry and self reflection, intense intellectual philosophy
* continually investigating, understanding, and applying social change process
BUSH SUMMER SCHOOL
The idea of a bush summer school attracted much attention at this point in the brainstorm. Key points raised included:
* A holistic approach to philosophy, with the program involving
- engagement in positive action (e.g., permaculture, defense of nature, urban community gardens)
- a conceptual node (e.g., multiple ecophilosophies, systems theory; teaching, research and critical inquiry)
- an experiential component (e.g., deep emotional work, ritual, group process, sensory awareness)
- spiritual practice (e.g., yoga, meditation)
- artistic expression (e.g., performances, engagement in) .
* Holding the course in a bush setting. This was generally agreed upon, but the need for an urban connection suggested a multiple or dual venue, allowing the comparison between and adjustment to urban and bush.
* Accessibility and non-exclusivity. Keeping the price low, being close to a city, advertising widely.
* The need for support between summer schools - some sort of ongoing community or network (i.e., Earth Philosophies Australia).
The first Bush Summer School of Earth Philosophies Australia is planned for next winter! In the May Uni holidays, John Seed, Eshana and Freya Mathews will join Patsy Hallen and Peter Summers for an EPA school including the environmental ethics course at Murdoch University. On their way to Perth, John and Eshana will stop off in Melbourne with Freya, to do some teaching and workshopping. Plans were discussed for another Bush Summer School, possibly on Plumwood Mountain near Canberra, at the end of '97.
COMMUNIVERSITY (by Eshana - and for more of her writings...)
The idea which excites me the most is one of an on-going land-based community which is actively engaged in Earth Philosophies education. (This is my first real attempt to put my ideas in writing, and is very much an initial brainstorm open to the comments and inspiration of others.)
* a place where we can live ecology - home - a nurturing base for activism - an equal valuing of inner and outer, nurturing and social change work - access to the bush
* materially self-supporting - growing much of our own food, organic vegetable gardens and fruit orchards using a permaculture design; developing ecological industries (e.g., native tree nurseries, sustainable timber industry, retreat/education centre)
* good communication processes - group process, valuing individuality, special skills and joining together to make decisions allowing emergent properties of the whole to arise
* valuing spiritual practice, emotional and psychological exploration - integrated within, and forming a strong basis for, the community
* open to all ages - creating as 'natural' a village situation as possible from children to grandparents. With respect to teaching, it would be great to offer courses for children an older adults. Who have really inspired me in this vision of a 'communiversity', however, are the youth who are leaving school, keen to learn but are not being offered the type of Earth-based education they long for.
* offering a series of short courses (e.g., weekend or week-long) in the wide variety of things we need to know, practice, and be in order to live harmoniously with each other and the planet (e.g., permaculture, natural healing, music, ecophilosophy, conflict resolution). I like the idea of starting small and growing organically - starting with small courses, watching demand and viability. These short courses could eventually be brought together to form an on-going course, or an eco-badge system (you know like in the scouts!) providing a 'Diploma in Earth Skills'.
* bringing people together - those who want to teach something with those who want to learn it. Breaking down the traditional student teacher relationships - encouraging students to teach whatever they have to share.
* participation in the daily operation of the community could be included in each course
* connection with the mainstream university system (e.g., university students receiving credit points for attending communiversity courses), but not controlled or limited by it (e.g., by funding or need for accreditation). The communiversity can also function to support those students in the mainstream system, both in terms of social support (access to a larger community of people working, living, feeling, understanding the world in similar ways; a venue for joining together with other like-minded university students) and academic support (access to trained academics - e.g., environmental philosophers, scientists, psychologists)
* alternative economic scenarios. How can we support this system materially? Be creative! Seek support from outside sources - e.g., Foundation for Deep Ecology. Charge money but offer scholarships. Barter? Students - work on the community. Teachers - pay their transportation, offer a beautiful time on the communiversity plus an extra week's holiday with guide and transportation around the area.
The 'communiversity' concept harks back to the traditional 'hippy commune' of the 1970's, but with less 'dropping out' or rejection of mainstream society. In a communiversity, the creation of an alternative lifestyle is intimately linked with the sharing of this living ecophilosophy. The lines of communication remain open between the 'mainstream' and the 'alternative' communities. People are invited in and we go out into the wider community. It needs to be accessible.
CIRCLE OF CORRESPONDENCE (by John Seed .. and for more of his writings...)
Following our discussions I have the following (draft) proposal for a circle of correspondence to network, communicate, strate gise and spread the ripples of Earth Philosophies Australia outwards from here. This is similar to how I've heard the Ameri can revolution and the US constitution were designed, planned and networked. Now with photocopiers and email, the Earth Philosophies revolution should be a lot simpler but hopefully just as profound.
I'd like us to work on email as much as possible and encourage those of us without email to make a connection by getting hooked up to email or finding a friend who's email you can use.
However, one of us should commit to printing the material and sending it out to those who aren't on email (I'll do it if no one else wants to) and receiving input (in ascii on disk) from those who can't send email which can then be sent out to the group.
The best way to do all this would be via a website. One of the folks at a university would be best placed to do this at no cost. I suggest a moderated read-only website to avoid the boring and irrelevant conversations that plague such groups. I'll moderate it if no-one else will do so, but once again, this would be easiest and cheapest if handled by someone(s) at the university where the EPA website is located. This person(s) would receive emails and post those to the site that she thinks fit.
Every so often someone can print off the contents and send them to those who subscribe for the cost of printing and postage.
The first issue could be like this: this offering from Eshana and I as a draft plus abstracts of the offerings given at our EPA gathering plus anyone elses offerings plus the address list. If our website had enough disk space at Murdoch or wherever, then hypertext at each abstracts could allow one to click to each entire paper. Also we would announce the EPA meeting in Perth in May, in Melbourne whenever we decide to hold that, in Canberra in the summer. Availability of John, Eshana, Nitya, Govindi and others to facilitate Council of All Beings workshops; John Seed's US schedule.
We would have an editor or editors to select from papers being submitted to the website/newsletter. We would have links to the relevant other homepages such as Roszak's ecopsychology homepage, the deep ecology homepage etc. We would have an ongoing discus sion of the EPA platform and of strategies to popularise Earth Philosophies.
Any of us could take the material and turn it into stories for conservation and mainstream press. In the immediate future, these could be about the formation of the EPA and how to connect with it, letting people know the url address of the website.
Like I say this is a draft and now it's over to you for comments about this, additions, criticisms etc.
Generated by the group at the December 1996 meeting, and written up by Patsy Hallen, Freya Mathews and Val Plumwood.
1 : We recognise that Earth is the source of life and the ground of philosophy.
.2 : We believe that philosophy should foster the love of wisdom and a cooperative search for the good life. Philosophy should promote ecological literacy, learnt as part of a dialogue with place.
3: Philosophy is lived through rather than despite the body and may be expressed through social and political action that challenges the dominant presuppositions of its societies.
4 : The EPA sees as one of its central objectives supplanting the dominant conception of human/nature relations as based upon a rational meritocracy in which all other species serve humanity. Rather than supporting the over-development of a particular dominant life form at the expense of all others, we aim to creatively serve the earth community and replenish its sources of diversity and life.
5 : We acknowledge [the ethical principle] that we are not owners of but rather plain members of the earth community, and aim to relate communicatively with it and discover its responsiveness.
6: We recognise [the epistemological principle] that a complete knowledge of nature as a whole, and of individual human and more-than-human others, will never be available to us and that we require therefore humility, openness and a beginner's mind in our interactions with the universe.
7: One of our central political purposes is to understand, expose and resist oppression, whether it is of race, gender, class, species or other in form, and whether economic, political, cultural or biological in character.
8 : Honour and remembrance are due to the forgotten and erased histories of human and non-human generations who were tested and often sacrificed to give us the present, and whose gift must be passed on to future generations.
9 : We acknowledge that conflict suffering and death also have their role in the web of life and need to be challenged where appropriate and wisely negotiated when not.
10: We aim to respect our differences and celebrate one another and all of life through a cultivation of playfulness and and aesthetic participation.
11: We aim to deepen the green cultural project through promoting critical understandings and discussion of human-centred and other centric aspects our cultures and education in decentred and polycentric futures and alternative earth philosophies.
12: We encourage the embodiment of these principles through heartfelt ecological practices which help to combat consumerism and promote self-reliant, earth-respecting food production, the judicious use of resources, local, steady-state economies which recognise the generative power of the land, and earth-sustaining technologies and life-styles for health and strength.
Meta-Principle 13: The members of the EPA are entitled to discuss, revise and augment these principles periodically as seems to them suitable. [We can set out more specific conditions for their revision if we wish after discussion].
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