April 17, 1991

RD:  John, yesterday I was following a truck and it had a sign on the back saying, "I am polluting the atmosphere."  I had never seen a sign like that acknowledging the part we're playing.  As the time clocks about the environment run on, how do we get a sense of the catastrophic implications?  How does humanity begin to sense what's going on? JS:  That's the fundamental question, isn't it?  Because if we were able to fully acknowledge what was happening, then surely we
would have the necessary will to prevent it from happening. The technology certainly exists and there'd be nothing standing in our way of living sustainably on the planet.  We know how to  grow food properly, we know how to control population, we know all of
these things, but the will doesn't exist because the penny hasn't dropped and we don't really believe that this is happening to us yet.

RD:  How do we come to really believe it?

JS:  Well, I believe that loss of the ceremonies and rituals that acknowledge and nurture our interconnectedness with nature is a large part of the problem.  We modern humans are the only culture as far as I've been able to find out who have ever attempted to
live without these ceremonies and rituals as an integral part of our societies.  The people who place great importance upon such rituals and ceremonies are people who live in very, very close connection with nature, hunter-gatherer societies for instance,
where people are immersed, imbedded in nature all of the time.  If we consider that they find it necessary to guarantee that connectedness by performing such ceremonies, how much more we, living such denatured lives, must need to do this.  And so, since
those things have been given up, and perhaps not willingly, perhaps we're forced to give them up by inquisitions and other things, we have now pushed"the environment" somewhere"out there."  Even though we may know intellectually that this isn't
the case, all we have to do is hold our breath for about a minute to prove that the environment isn't really "out there," but that there's a constant exchange not just of air, of course, but of moisture and of soil into our bodies, we don't feel it, we don't
experience ourselves in this way.  Our experience of ourselves is still mediated by thousands of years of Judeo-Christian brainwashing, which makes us feel that the real reality is somewhere else, it's in heaven, it's anywhere but here on this

RD:  I recall Florence Kluckhohn, the anthropologist, who differentiated between cultures that were human under nature,
human in nature, and human over nature.  And I associate most of the rituals you're talking about as something to, in a way,
appease the forces of the universe, which came out of the human under nature trying to calm everything down by honoring.  And I
think you're more talking about the human in nature cultures. What are examples of those kinds of cultures?

JS:  Well, I'm thinking in particular of some dances and ceremonies that I saw among the Hopi Indians on those mesas a
couple of years ago. I was particularly interested in them because they seemed so like the Council of All Beings, which is the
particular form that I've been mainly involved in, where a hundred dancers were dressed from top to toe with different animal
features, animal masks and feathers and all kinds of things.   And I realized then that these people think this was the oldest
continuously inhabited village in the Western hemispherehad been performing these ceremonies and rituals without break for
thousands and thousands of years.  So this isn't a process that you complete.  It's not as though, "Well, we are alienated
therefore we need these therapies and then we'll be okay."  It's more like being okay is to realize that these ceremonies have to
have a space in our lives.  It's not something that we're ever finished with.  So I'm thinking of that and the Penan in Sarawak
who are the last nomadic hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia, who also speak for the other voices of nature just to make sure that
everyone remembers those voices. 

RD:  When I think about where the culture is, what's feeding the continuity of the culture we're in that denies this reality, the
whole urban power of the intellect kind of preoccupationQwill it take incredible crisis to awaken that consciousness or can you see
it seeping in from the edges? 

JS:  I think the problem with trauma is that at the moment things seem so precarious for the Earth that if the traumas that we've
already had aren't sufficient, then I'm afraid that any trauma that would be sufficient would also be lethal.  For instance, the
Director General of the United Nations Environment Program, Dr. Mostafa Tolba, says in his introduction to World Conservation
Strategy that at the current rate of destruction, "we face by the turn of this century an environmental catastrophe as complete and
as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust."  And this is echoed by many scientists.  So if this is true, that in the next ten years
or so this will take place, it's hard to imagine any trauma sufficient to turn the huge inertia of this whole way of being
around that wouldn't also just be a death blow to the planet. So then if not that, what can we hope for?  And the only
     thing is something that I sort of feel...  It seems I have
     been evolving on this planet for four thousand million years.
     I've looked at the evidence, and it seems that as a creation
     myth this has advantages over an old man with a white beard
     creating everything six thousand years ago, or even a turtle
     with all of this growing on its back.  The composition of my
     blood, and the relationship of that to the composition of sea
     water four hundred million years ago when we left the oceans,
     the whole growth of the human fetus with the vestigial tail
     and the gills, so, so many clues indicate that this is
     actually a true story of where we came from.  And if that's
     the case, then I have been successful through all of that
     time.  That whole road is littered with the bones of those
     who couldn't adapt, who couldn't adjust to the crisis of
     their time, whatever it was.  But somehow I feel like we have
     this perfect pedigree, and that we must have some hidden
     resources that we're not aware of yet.  And what could
     trigger us off so that we begin to identify with that larger
     body of ourselves rather than merely this tunnel vision that
     we have now, looking only at this very immediate time?  So in
     the end nothing but a miracle would be of any use at this
     time.  When you look at the rate of destruction, whether it's
     of the rainforest or the ozone layer, the climate, all of
     these things that are happening, and if you were to multiply
     all of the efforts of conservationists by a factor of ten or
     even a hundred, it wouldn't be enough.  So there's nothing on
     the horizon that can help us, you know.  And so then you
     think well, what kind of a miracle would that be?  Well, it
     would be a very simple one, really.  All that it would need
     would be for human beings to wake up one day different than
     they were the day before and realizing that this is the end
     unless we make these changes, and then deciding to make the
     change.  That doesn't seem like a very likely thing to
     happen, but on the other hand the whole road that we've
     traveled is so littered with miracles that it's only our
     strange kind of modern psyche that refuses to see it.  I mean
     the miracle of being descended from a fish that chose to
     leave the water and walk on the landQwell, anyone with a
     pedigree like that, you can't lose hope.

RD:  Is that process of your awakening to your relation of
ontogeny and phylogeny and all that a rational process?  Is it
intuitive?  Is it a cellular wisdom?  What level of awakening are
we talking about when we talk about that miraculous awakening?

JS:  Well, I think it has to be all of those things because,
though our concepts may be of some use to us, in fact reality has
no seams, you know.  My own awakening shall we say started when I
left my job as a systems engineer for IBM and I dropped out and
was living on the land.  I had no interest in ecology but then I
found myself, just through circumstance, involved in the defense
of a particular forest.  And in that forest I was gripped
emotionally, and much against my beliefs at that time, found
myself defending that forest.  Once I started to do that I also
started to become intellectually interested in the subject, and
then I discovered that this rainforest that I was defending was in
fact the place where I had evolved for the last hundred and thirty
million years, and therefore it wasn't in the least surprising
that it was able to get inside me and affect me so powerfully and
use me in this way.  So it kind of makes sense on every level.
And when we do, for instance, one of the processes in the Council
of All Beings, where we recapitulate our evolutionary journey,
what we're hoping for is that the intellectual agreement that this
is indeed what we did, coupled with the physical involvement of
our bodies through dancing and crawling and gliding - this whole
process will awaken the deep memories.  I think there's a lot of
evidence from rebirthing and LSD research and so on that the
cellular memories do exist, but through our conceptual framework
and filters we shut them off from ourselves most of the time.
That's where ceremonies and rituals really have the power to
release us from those normal filters and to allow these other
realities to enter us.

RD:  There are two scenarios of that miracle.  One is that the
inevitability of evolution forces it, and what humans think
they're doing is kind of irrelevant.  The other is that there's a
key moment where what humans think they're doing is critical.
Where are you standing in that place?  I'm hearing right in

JS:  I guess I haven't really looked at that because I feel that
my own journey is one where I continually make that surrender to
the larger picture whenever I am at any kind of a crossroads - then
I look at it and I make that surrender and I don't need to know
that.  My own sense is that the earth is undoubtedly alive, the
earth is undoubtedly intelligent, much more intelligent than me,
and in fact my intelligence is only the tiniest fragment of the
intelligence of the Earth.  I'm just a leaf growing on this tree.
And so it's safe for me to just surrender and allow the sap to
come from the tree and move me where it will.  So I don't know and
in a way I don't need to know.

RD:  So if I try to think of the catastrophes that force change,
I'm looking at the interaction between human consciousness now and
some time clock process.  Like Three Mile Island wasn't enough.
Chernobyl wasn't enough.  The combination of Three Mile
Island-Chernobyl wasn't enough, so we're getting graded
catastrophe and there's some probably critical moment where
behavior changes.  And then the only question is, is it too late,
is it irreversible?  And it's interesting how the data about
irreversibility continually is disputed by other scientists who
say, oh these are all nay sayers, and technology will solve the
problems.  How do you talk to those people?

JS:  Well, that's really difficult because technology's so good at
covering up the problem that it's very, very difficult even to see
the problem in certain places.  I mean it's possible to hide
oneself from the problem so easily, and especially for the
powerful and the people with vested interest, they can distance
themselves a great deal.  But I feel like there's no evidence that
we can actually create the things that we need.  For instance, the
medicines that we use are derived from rainforest plants.  These
plants invent the medicine over billions of years in their genetic
material.  We can then synthesize those same medicines.  We don't
need those plants any longer once we've unlocked the combination,
but we can't ever create any of that ourselves.
     To give an example of the scale of the destruction that's
     going on, the present Minister of Environment in Brazil, Jose
     Lutzenberger, was one of the great environmentalists in
     Brazil and was appointed Environment Minister as an answer to
     Brazil's critics, I suppose.  So he quoted some studies a
     year or two ago of the amount of solar energy that was
     captured by the jungle in the Amazon necessary to lift the
     amount of water up into the atmosphere that was taking place
     there.  We have in the Amazon this huge river, but the
     hydrological cycle in the Amazon is five times as much water
     as the Amazon River itself.  It was calculated that the
     amount of energy required was the equivalent of two thousand
     hydrogen bombs a day of solar energy that was captured by the
     vegetation to lift this water into the air.  So this is a
     huge heat engine that drives the winds of the world, those
     winds that the ancient mariners knew and the same winds that
     deliver moisture regularly and predictably to this country
     and to Europe.  They don't just exist, they're not "just
     there" the way that we think, but they're actually
     continuously being created and maintained by the large
     biological systems.  This is one of the vital organs of Gaia,
     the living planet.  Lutzenberger says that if we lose as
     little as one third of the Amazon, it will irreversibly
     disrupt this process.  First of all the rest of the Amazon
     will start dying back because the immediate hydrological
     regime will have been disrupted, and then of course the
     climate everywhere around the world will be disrupted.  So
     what this says is that to save a huge national park here and
     a huge national park there - even if we could do it, which
     we're not even successful in doing because the national parks
     are being colonized and burnt before our eyes, but even if we
     could do that - it's not enough.  It's based upon a false
     metaphor of what life is and what the Earth is.  A better
     metaphor I think was described by Lovelock, the British
     scientist who popularized the Gaia hypothesis, when he said
     that what we're doing to the Amazon is as if the brain were
     to decide that it was the most important organ in the body
     and it started to mine the liver for some benefits that it
     might get from it.  Once we realize the connection, we
     realize deeply that we can't do that any longer because we
     know that it can't be in the interest of the brain to mine
     the liver or in the interest of a leaf to destroy the tree on
     which it's growing.  And so we have to say this - national
     parks are just not enough.  People may reply, "Well how can
     you say this, because we're having enough trouble getting a
     hundred thousand acres or two hundred thousand acres here and
     there as a national park, and you say all the cutting has to
     stop?".  But still it has to be said.  It may be impossible,
     but nothing less than that is going to be of any use to us.
     To try and keep the Earth alive with a few representative
     areas of natural places is like trying to keep a tree alive
     by leaving a few pieces of bark on its surface or trying to
     keep the human body alive with a few pieces of skin.  I feel
     that if this was understood, then everything else would fall
     into place.  So then the question is, "How can this
     understanding reach people?"

RD:  How much do you feel it's useful to put your energies into
political consciousness like the United Nations and how much to do
it at the local level or at the Earth First! or Council of All
Beings kinds of levels?  How are you deciding how to make this

JS:  Well, I feel that I wouldn't know how to evaluate or how to
make a rational decision.  What I do is I lie down in the forest
and cover myself in leaves, and I say, "Mother, I surrender to
you," and I deliberately allow all of my energies to sink into the
the Earth and to be aligned by the Earth.  Then when I get up,
whatever I want to do, that's what I do.  Then I can just behave
spontaneously, and I get more and more confidence as time goes on,
and I'm able to look back at the results of those spontaneous
actions to see that there's an order there, that I do make my
flight or I do make that connection, and I just feel supported in
this work.  When I look back over the last year for instance, I'd
say I spent about half my time doing workshops,
spiritual-psychological workshops, which is also fundraising
because all of the money from these workshops goes back into the
rainforest, and as more and more people become interested in this
that part of it grows.  And about half of my time is spent on
political action including large projects to protect rainforests
in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and Ecuador that I'm
involved in and supporting, and on direct action like chaining
myself by the neck underneath a vehicle to prevent it from moving
into the forest.  And I don't know how I budget that time - I just
do what I feel like doing.

RD:  I experience you as becoming an instrument for the earth.
You're a pseudopod that comes out of the Earth and speaks for it.
You speak for the trees, you speak for Gaia, and you're kind of
surrendering, not even intentionally, and I can feel how that
transformation might have occurred in you.  Can you talk about the
change in your self consciousness as you become more and more
surrendered into that intuitive way of expressing the needs of the
Earth to be heard?

JS:  Well, once I understand intellectually that my relationship
to the Earth is that of a leaf to a tree, the needs of the tree
have priority over the needs of the leaf.  The tree can exist
without the leaf but the leaf can't exist without the tree.  New
leaves can come, you know.  So once I know that intellectually and
then once I discover the tools for taking that knowledge and
allowing it to sink more deeply into my being to that place where
my values are made, where my intuitive moment-to-moment decisions
are made, and I practice those things, then I feel like I start to
partake of the nature of everything else, which is just total
ordinariness.  It's not as though there's anything special about
this way of being:  I think about a certain species of butterfly
that I saw on a television program in the Amazon where one flock
which flies together is made up of two different colored
individuals, I think black and orange.  And when they land on a
stalk of grass, the black ones all land to make a perfect circle
and the orange ones form these petals around it disguising
themselves as a flower that fools their predator.  Now the black
ones didn't decide, hey I'm a black one, I'm going to go in the
center.  They just did what they wanted to do, they just did what
they did.  And I'm made out of the same material as those
butterflies.  I'm related to them, you know, I've been around here
since exactly the same time that they've been around here and
we're all made out of the same aboriginal substance.  For a long
time, because of this big bulge here [touching forehead], I forgot
a lot of that, and I have this propensity to forget.  The
butterfly never, never forgets who it is and what it wants, but I
can easily forget.  Therefore for me to spend my weekends
acknowledging and searching for and finding and loving my
rootedness in the Earth and accepting my dependency on the Earth,
accepting that I'm not an independent spiritual being but that my
spiritual being grows out of a complex and exquisite biology, then
I just become an ordinary miraculous butterfly-like creature.

RD:  You're talking about being a butterfly with prefrontal lobes
as opposed to the older brain which is much more instinctual.  Is
the prefrontal lobe the enemy of evolution?  Or is it...?

JS:  Well, that remains to be seen of course, the wheel still
spins.  If I was a gambling man, I'd have to say that the odds are
that we're going to succeed in destroying complex life on Earth.
All the scientific evidence that's coming in now suggests that
time is growing very, very short for this huge turning that we
will have to take.  But I really like Thomas Berry's idea, and
Matthew FoxUs, that we're here to somehow be able to reflect back
upon the Earth, that we are the Earth coming into this reflective
mode, and that there's a certain risk in that.  I mean it's the
birth of something new, and birth is attendant with the risk of
death and I assume that the Earth must know what it's doing to
take such a huge risk, and I just surrender to that wisdom.

RD:  Tom Berry has this beautiful sense of the revelation which
includes us manifesting.  He's trying very hard to hold onto his
Catholic identity and also this ecological perspective, and I can
feel it's quite a tension for him.  Is there some role that an
institution like existing religious structures can play?

JS:  I feel that all of the existing religions have their growing
points, ecological growing points.  The Christians have Thomas
Berry and they have some Quaker thinkers like Marshall Massey, and
there is Matthew Fox's Original Blessing and things like that.  I
feel it's very important to nurture those growing points in every
possible way, because for most people to give up that kind of
infrastructure of their whole psychological and spiritual lives is
too difficult a task.  If thereUs no other way perhaps they can do
it, but if there's some way that they can start from where they
are and grow into a love of Earth then that's much easier.

RD:  But basically they're doing what Tom Berry talks about as
following a dysfunctional cosmology.

JS:  Well, that's so, and especially the Judeo-Christian cosmology
coupled with our immense technological power is a terribly
dangerous thing.  As long as we think that we can subdue and
dominate nature, and conquer nature, and we don't remember that we
are also part of the nature that's being conquered - that's a very
dangerous situation.  But on the other hand there are other
interpretations of Christianity which need to be supported, and in
particular I'm thinking of a reading that the covenant wasn't
between God and the Jews, but between God, the Jews and Nature.
The creation was the third party to that covenant, and a lot of
things have been forgotten and perhaps require rehabilitation or
reinterpretation now because it's hard to see how most people are
going to find their way - it's too big a leap from where they are

RD:  You're suggesting spiritual practices that would awaken
people to their relation to the Earth like rituals, and you would
see practices which involve extricating yourself from an identity
with form as counterproductive now.

JS:  That's so, but these rituals and ceremonies, the Council of
All Beings and Evolutionary Journey and the like, are really
fairly recent for me, and my own changes took place before I knew
about these things.  For me all of this started with the
non-violent direct action in defense of nature, which I didn't see
as being a ritual at the beginning.  But when I think about it now
it actually seems to me to be a ritual activity - to go to that
place where humankind meets wild nature, that line where nature's
being bulldozed and plowed and pushed back, and to stand right on
that line, not looking at nature with the eye to conquest but
looking back as part of nature saying "No" to this whole thing.
That was really the biggest turning point of my life, the first
time that I was involved in something like that.  And the reason
that I believe this to be ritual is that I can't really take it
seriously now on its own terms - you can't save a forest, you can't
save a tree.  Today with the ozone layer disappearing, with the
atmosphere changing, with global warming, all the forests, all the
trees are going to be gone.  The ones that you saved in 1979 or
1989 are going to go along with everything else.  Unless you can
save the whole thing, you can't save any of the pieces.  So any
attempt to be saving a little piece here and a little piece there
can only be seen as a kind of a prayer.  You know a prayer for the
awakening of people.

RD:  I hear.  But as a symbolic statement also itUs very powerful.
Give me an example.  Let's talk about Papua New Guinea.

JS:  This is the most recent work weUre engaged in - in fact this is
taking place as weUre speaking now.  For ten years or so our main
activity in those jungles was to stop bad things from happening.
Always we went everywhere to stop this and stop that.  It was a
struggle all the time.  In the Pacific, in New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands, in Vanuatu, where the people do have land rights,
the decisions about the fate of the forests are much less in the
hands of governments than in the hands of communities who've
traditionally owned the lands.  The only way to protect the forest
in the end is to offer those people some alternative economic
development that doesn't require the destruction of the forest.
You can't expect them, having no economic life whatsoever, to take
a lofty view of these things.  They don't want to see the forest
logged but they see themselves as having no alternative.  The
problem is that they don't have the skills or the kind of
infrastructure that allows them economic development.  So one of
the things that we noticed was that there was a small portable
sawmill called the "walkabout," that was being manufactured in
Papua, New Guinea.  There were about 300 of them around the
country, and wherever these sawmills were the logging companies
couldn't get a contract because all of a sudden the people found
that the trees had value for them.  So the first thing we did was
an ecological audit of existing walkabout sawmills and we
discovered, as we'd suspected, that the worst of them was an order
of magnitude better for the forest than the best of the large
logging companies, mainly because the sawmills require no
bulldozers and heavy machinery compacting the soil is even more
damaging than the removal of the trees.

RD:  And also the logging companies cut everything don't they?

JS:  They do cut everything, but even in cases where the walkabout
sawmill was being used in too small an area and where everything
was cut, even then the regeneration was much better because the
bulldozers weren't present.  So then we were funded by the
Australian government aid agency and we produced manuals to go
with future sawmills that were sold so that people would know what
their options were in terms of forest management, and then we
found an area to intervene using these sawmills.  This was in
Morobe Province in Papua New Guinea where a large logging company
was about to sign a contract with the Zia tribe.  This company had
moved its way along that stretch of coast clear-cutting its way
along, and it was so confident of getting this contract for about
250,000 acres that it had already built a wharf and a fuel dump,
and it was a matter of weeks before the contract was finished and
signed.  We came in and offered the people a choice, saying if we
could provide them with three of these small sawmills, one for
each of the villages in that community, and a management plan to
go with them so that they could rotate around through a small
section of forest in a sustainable way, and also a guaranteed
market for the sawn timber, would they agree to spurn the advances
of the logging companyQwhich they did.  So four months later, we
now are handing over those sawmills this week.  The Australian
High Commissioner, I believe, is over there as part of that
ceremony.  The people are getting 200 times as much for each tree
they saw as they would have got for the logs from the logging
company, and although in the short term they're not getting as
much of a windfall in 1991, they can see that this is going to go
on sustainably.  Each sawmill only cuts seven acres a year, and we
believe that on a 50 year rotation they'll be able to go back to
the first side again and keep logging.  So that's 350 acres per
sawmill for three sawmills out of the 250,000 acres that were at
threat from the logging company.  So we feel like this is now a
model and we're looking for other places where we can use the
sawmill in this way, and also other modes of sustainable
development that we can provide using Australian aid, and other
funding sources.

RD:  What have been you dealings with the lumber companies
themselves?  Is there any way, any effort to have them redirect
their energies into small sustainable operations?  What happens?
Do you get stonewalled?  Is this just such a hard economic reality
that there's no space in it, or what?

JS:  So far we haven't had any success at all with the logging
companies.  Last week in New York I had a meeting with executives
of Mitsubishi from their timber subsidiary because we're about to
crank up a boycott campaign.  I'm going to Japan now for a series
of presentations and press conferences and then for a
demonstration outside Mitsubishi, and this will be happening
worldwide.  But there was no comprehension on their part.  For
them it was a public relations problem - they didn't see it any
other way.

RD:  They don't have any ecological consciousness at all, or they
don't want to, or they can't possibly see it?

JS:  Well, the individuals may.  We had a two hour meeting with
them in New York and one of the women in our group in trying to
explain her concerns began to weep.  And I could see that this
actually changed something, that something shifted in the room,
but it only changed something personally and really they weren't
speaking for themselves as persons, they were speaking as cogs in
a much larger machine, and very quickly they regained their
composure and were able to continue.

RD:  That's a far out story, right at the edge of where you have
to go, because what you're doing mainly is dealing with
individualsU shifts of heart, and yet we're talking about that
kind of impersonal amoral corporate entity that is really where
the perpetuation of the problem lies.  I guess boycotting and the
public relations issue is the only entre you have at this moment.

JS:  Well, with that particular group.  This was the same with
Burger King in 1987 when Rainforest Action Network discovered that
Burger King was responsible for more than 80% of the beef exported
from Costa Rica, that Costa Rica was being cut down to provide
unsustainable pasture that would drop a few cents off the price of
a hamburger in the United States.  After unsuccessful attempts to
negotiate with Burger King, who didn't really take this seriously
at all, Rainforest Action Network initiated Whopper Stopper Month
in May, 1987 and there were demonstrations outside Burger King.
Once people realized what the actual cost of these hamburgers was,
no one attempted to defend this practice, and there was lots of
publicity.  Burger King's sales dropped 11% at the end of that
month and six weeks later they came out publicly and agreed to
stop using rainforest beef.  The problem is that somebody else
bought that beef who didn't have an image like Burger King that
could be attacked.  Also, Burger King continued to make hamburgers
out of domestic beef, and after reading John Robbins' Diet For A
New America I realized that that is probably as large an
environmental problem in the United States as it is in Costa Rica.
So it's not anything that we can feel terribly victorious about,
but it does show that in certain circumstances we can start to
change things.  But only through pressure - there's no indication of
a change of heart.

RD:  This is so on the edge of what civilization's about, and
where civilization falls short.  It's just so painful to see who
we aren't, to see how our economic necessities have gotten to rule
us by the standard of living we've created.  John, what does the
term, "deep ecology" refer to?

JS:  Well, I would just have to tell you what it means to me
because it's kind of a problematic term that means a lot of
different things, but to me it refers to the biocentric as opposed
to the human-centered approach to things.  It means rather than
seeing the world as a pyramid with human beings on the top, we see
the world as a web and the humans as just one strand in that web.
So it's the kind of deep questioning, using the intellectual
science of ecology as almost a spiritual truth, to allow those
truths to become personal.  The contrast is with a resource-based
environmentalism which sees the world as being composed of human
beings on the one hand and resources for human beings on the other
hand.  Now some people might just lay those resources to waste
while other more responsible and dutiful people might say, well we
shouldn't destroy these resources, we should preserve them for
future generations of human beings.  But I don't see the world as
being composed that way, I don't think that that's the right way
to describe the world.  The world contains 10 to 30 million
species of plants and animals, and we are one of those.

RD:  So you're saying that the idea of being responsible to save
resources isn't really the motivation out of which ecological
consciousness finally arises and feeds people.

JS:  It may work for a few people, but on the whole we're not
capable of making the necessary sacrifices.  When we look at how
difficult it is to make the tiniest change in our behavior, people
see therapists for years for the smallest change, how are we going
to make the huge changes that are going to be required of us in
order to live sustainably on the Earth again?  I feel as Arne
Naess, the professor of philosophy from Oslo University who coined
the term "deep ecology" about 15 years ago, said, "Responsibility
or duty is a treacherous basis for conservation."  Because we're
not capable of this high moral elevation, most of us, not in a
sustained way.  How many of us are GandhiUs?  What the rituals do,
and what just being in nature does, is to provide us with new
sources of joy that replace all the stuff we try and fill our
lives with.  When you consider 5,000 million human beings all
aspiring to this so-called high standard of living, the Earth
obviously can't support it.  We have to dig up the Earth and turn
it into hair dryers and automobiles and all of these things.  And
then we stuff our lives with these things thinking that somehow we
can find satisfaction this way, that somehow we can fill that
gaping hole, but it never works - you never see anyone who finally
comes to the end of that process.  And in a way it seems to be a
kind of displacement.  The real desire is not for these material
things, the real desire is for a psychological or spiritual state,
and we hope to find that.  We're led to believe by advertising and
other things that we can find that in a material way, but this
isn't true and it's very destructive.  Whereas if we can
experience great joy and ecstasy even, just from being alive on
the Earth and from being related to all this other life, and from
experiencing the interconnectedness and the flow, then this is a
very harmless way of finding that satisfaction.

RD:  Can you experience that feeling even in the face of the
hopelessness of the situation?

JS:  Well, it's funny, because in a way it's mainly the
hopelessness of the situation that makes this feeling accessible
to me.  As I said, I was working at IBM as a systems engineer.  If
it hadn't been that there was something wrong, I'd probably still
be there, and somehow the hopelessness is an incredible
opportunity because it's like how, I think Robinson Jeffers said,
"How can one have ambitions in a paper forest?"  Who wants wealth
or who wants fame or whatever it is once one has seen this, you
know?  So in a way it makes it very, very simple.  The kind of
huge obstacles to spiritual development of the past, the intense
glare of what's coming down towards us really burns those things
away, and then it leaves us very open to being able to experience
this joy.  And then to do everything that one can for the Earth, I
think that it's a very joyful position to be in.  And to invite
the despair and the rage and the sorrow and to partake of that, to
feel the pain of the Earth.  As Thich Nhat Hanh said, "The most
important thing we can do is to hear within ourselves the sounds
of the Earth crying."  Because when we do that then our compassion
is out there, we're out there with all of the rest it, we feel
that interconnection, but also we then begin to be in a position
to be able to do something about it.  Without that pain there's
not enough motivation.  Our ideas aren't enough motivation to do

RD:  It seems that we've been under the assumption that our
happiness lies in denying the suffering and the pain of other
people, of other forces and entities, like the Earth.  Now the
data are in that that doesn't work, and yet we go on denying it.

JS:  Well, I think the culture has a lot invested in that denial.
What we find in one of the processes in the Council of All Beings
is a deep mourning, where we start to grieve the loss of things
that are being lost from the Earth, our favorite little piece of
nature that's now covered by a freeway or whatever it is, and
people begin to weep and howl and wail about what's being lost.
We're so afraid that we're going to be crushed by these feelings,
we've been led to believe that we'll be crushed by them, but
certainly in this context of a supportive group of people who are
encouraging each other to do things, the opposite is always the
case.  What we discover is that all of those huge amounts of our
psychological energy that were necessary to hold that denial in
place are released and we find ourselves joyful and empowered, and
what seems to be the case is that if we allow that sorrow to carve
out a space inside us, that is the very space that can then be
filled with bliss and with other emotions that we were seeking
before.  We were seeking those things, we were trying to run away
from their opposite, but all that we did was make ourselves numb
and make ourselves shallow.

RD:  In activist groups there is really quite a bifurcation
between those people whose motivation comes out of anger and those
whose comes out of the joy of participatory identity with the
whole.  Are you noticing that, and how do you work with it?

JS:  I do notice that, and I think it's a dangerous thing because
it's not the anger itself, it's the suppressed anger that I feel,
and also a lot of depression as well.  Sometimes the peace and
environment movements are represented by people who are wearing
themselves out, depressed, slightly hysterical, desperate or
putting out a vibe like, "Where were you while I was addressing
envelopes all night anyway?"  There's something so unattractive
that even someone like me, I just want to distance myself
immediately.  My reflex is to pull back from that, and it's very
counterproductive.  So we feel guilty, we are destroying the
Earth, we beat ourselves, we have to feel bad because of this, you
know, and it pushes people away.  So what has to happen is that
everybody has to take part of the suffering into themselves and
feel it so that we can allow our behavior to change, and we who
are already doing this have to be so attractive that in spite of
the pain, people still want to do whatever it is that we're doing.
So it becomes our duty in a way to be life affirming and joyful.

RD:  It's got to be true joy, it can't be phony joy.

JS:  It does, but we also have to convince ourselves that it's
okay to do this.

RD:  Yes, I understand.  I think that Trungpa Rinpoche talked
about standing right between hope and hopelessness, an interesting
metaphysical place to stand in relation to one's acts.  And not
being attached to how it comes out but just doing it because it's
one's part to play as part of the Earth's identity manifesting

JS:  Well, I hope that what we're experiencing is the Earth's
immune system cutting in, and if that was to happen, why it could
sweep everything away.

RD:  It could, it could.  I love the image of miracle, that any
moment the whole game can change.  That's very exciting, that it
can change that fast.  Without trauma.

JS:  It would have to be that way, because it's very difficult to
see any other way that it could be.  Now whether that will happen
or not is another matter, and what it depends on is another matter

RD:  And that's beyond us, we can just play our part.

JS:  It is.  But it may be that it's one of those situations like
the hundredth monkey or whatever, where if there are twelve honest
men in Sodom - if there are enough people who badly and seriously
and earnestly and with their whole lives say, we've been here for
four thousand million years on this beautiful planet and we want
to continue, we don't want to stop now - the Lord will spare the
city.  For most people it's just too hard.  They know that it's
coming to an end, but somehow there's not enough perspective.  But
maybe if there's enough people who say, "It's not too hard, we'll
do whatever we have to do," then it could be that that's the
condition for that miracle.

RD:  Or we'll stop doing whatever we have to stop, which is a
little more like it.

JS:  More to the point.

RD:  Yeah...  Tell me a little bit more about how people can
engage in some ritual that would help them, as Aldo Leopold says,
"Think like a mountain," and start to open to the joy that comes
from this identity.

JS:  It's my experience that this is something which is much, much
easier when it's done in community than when it's done
individually, so the first thing I'd say is find a group of people
with whom you can share the intention to heal that sense of
separation and isolation and alienation from the living Earth that
all of us feel.  Find a group of people to do that with and then
be very conscious in your intentions.  The first thing we do in
our rituals is a sharing of what our intention is, and how we see
things.  Then you suddenly find yourself together with a group of
people who love this Earth and have the intention to heal the
Earth and to heal our separation from the Earth.  After that,
almost anything that you do becomes a vehicle, so it can be as
corny as you like.  Everyone can go and hug a tree for half an
hour.  Most people haven't ever hugged a tree for half an hour,
and maybe even if you just go off and do it by yourself, it might
work for you.  But if you're with a group of people and you do
this and then you come back together in a circle again and share
your experiences, you'll find that half of those people have had
some very, very profound experience during that time.  Or you can
put your face really close to the ground and take a one hundred
inch exploration of a little piece of earth, with your nose right
on the ground and just inching forward.  Explore a hundred inches
of ground over half an hour and then get together with the group
and discuss what you've discovered.  To spend a day together just
doing anything at all which is bringing us into contact with
nature and looking at these things, every single person in that
group will undergo some shift, some transformation.  That's what I
found.   It's really amazing.  As a workshop leader people try and
put it onto me as though I'm in some way responsible for that
experience.  And no matter how far I pull myself back from it,
there's that tendency to do it so it's really best if it's done
without a leader or with so many leaders that no one can actually
pin it on anyone.
     The amazing thing is that any time we make this gesture
     towards the Earth, the Earth always responds to us, because
     it's in her nature to do so.  The Earth is incredibly
     powerful and the Earth is full of miracles.  The Earth hears
     us, the Earth hears us and responds.  If we want to dig up
     the Earth and turn it into a long wire to carry our messages,
     she says, "Yes."  If we have this hard root that we break our
     teeth on and we want to turn it into a big fat carrot, she
     says, "Yes."  "he says "Yes" to every question that we ask
     and it's just that we're so stupid in the questions that
     we're asking at the moment - we're not asking the right
     questions.  Because of our arrogance and this
     anthropocentricism and human-centeredness, all we see is the
     miracle inside ourselves and we refuse to see the miracle in
     that dirt that's capable of transforming itself into juicy
     carrots and bits of wire and anything else that we want.
     When we see this, we see also the utter generosity of the
     Earth giving us everything we ask for and, to the extent that
     we can extend our identity beyond the merely human and
     experience ourselves as part of the Earth, to that extent we
     can share in, partake of, express that miraculous

RD:  When you think about this it almost seems like the human
species is a kind of parasitic virus.  Are you tempted to work for
the annihilation of the human in order to preserve the Earth?

JS:  Well, I would have no problem with it in the sense that the
humans have only been around for about five million years or so,
as far as we can judge.  The Earth has been around for four
thousand million years and if you had to choose between losing the
leaf or losing the tree on which it grows, well you'd have to let
go of the leaf, even if you were part of that leaf yourself, which
in this case I am.   But it's too theoretical a question because
it's not a choice that we have.  First of all, every attempt to
destroy humans destroys everything else as well, and secondly
we're now in the amazing position where the amounts of radioactive
waste that exist on the Earth are such that suicide isn't an
option for us anymore.  If we were to disappear, whether by
suicide or by some other way, then all of that radioactive waste
would get loose.  We now have no choice but to be the guardians of
that radioactive waste for the next 250,000 years and that's all
there is to it.  It may be that we're going to disappear, and it
may be that all complex life is going to disappear from Earth, but
to get rid of the humans isn't an alternative.

RD:  Yeah.  Although 250,000 years is [snap] like that within the

JS:  Oh, that's true.

RD:  And then it would start again.

JS:  Well, something would start again, but the romantic notion
that if we could get rid of the humans everything would be
perfect, well I don't see that.

RD:  Not immediately anyway.

JS:  Yeah.

RD:  What are the fundamental premises and values of contemporary
civilization that are wrong, that are defeating this purpose at
the moment?  Which ones would you go after first?

JS:  Well, I think that the first one is that chauvinism which
sees human beings as being at the center of everything.  It's the
same spirit that had astronomers being executed a few centuries
ago for refusing to acknowledge that the earth was the center of
the universe, and it's that idea that we are special - well, of
course weUre special - but that we are more special than anything
else.  So that seems to me to be the fundamental error.  But it's
like we don't really feel superior.  What we feel is, we feel
inferior, we feel invalid and therefore we puff ourselves up in
this way.  When we let go of that we see that our role for the
future of the Earth is far less important than the role of, say,
the decomposing bacteria.  It's easy to imagine the Earth going on
without us, but without the decomposing bacteria it's hard to see
how anything could happen.  And so once we let go of that and see
that we are just a plain member of the biota, nothing special,
then we can see that everything is incredibly special, including
us.  Do you know?  And then there can be real pride, but it's not
a pride of superiority, of pushing against other things or making
other things be low in order to be high.  It's just to realize how
high everything is.

RD:  Right...  Do you experience integrity in your game?  Like you
travel by jets, and so on.  How do you deal with the lack of
integrity in the system?

JS:  Well, first of all I feel like the change that we're praying
for is not a change that I ever claim to have undergone or to be
demonstrating in my life.  I try as hard as I can to have that
integrity, but as you say, I traveled by plane to be here today
and I use all of this fuel.  And the only thing that helps me in
this is a metaphor from an archetypal cowboy movie from my
childhood.  All the cowboys were asleep and the fire's gone out
and the clouds come over and there's a bolt of lightening and all
the cattle start stampeding towards the cliff.  The cowboys jump
on their horses and they don't ride in the opposite direction,
they ride straight towards the cliff, and they ride even faster
than the cattle.  Now their aim is not to go over the cliff, but
they realize that it's only by keeping pace with the whole thing
that they're going to be in a position to lean on that herd and
turn them around before they reach the edge.  So I use a computer
and I know the chips were cleaned using CFCUs, but there is no
harmless way to live these days, really.  Or if there is, way out
in the woods somewhere, it seems pretty irrelevant to me.  I'm
prepared to get my hands dirty with sawmills and airplanes and
anything at all, but I'm also, I believe, prepared to let go of
them like that as soon as...  They'll wither away after the
revolution, that's all I can say.


                     Biography of Ram Dass   

Ram  Dass, while he has an Eastern name, is much a Westerner.  As Richard Alpert, he received his Ph.D in psychology from  Stanford 
University and taught at Harvard, Stanford and the University  of California.   In  the  1960's  he  was  active  in  research   on 
consciousness  with Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts  and others.   In 1967 he continued this study in India, where he  was 
given  the  name Ram Dass by his guru, Neem Karoli  Baba.   Since that  time,  through books, tapes, and lectures and with  a  rare 
combination  of warmth, candor and humour he has  contributed  to the  integration  of Eastern spiritual  philosophy  into  western 

Ram Dass has authored a number of books on spiritual topics:  "Be Here Now", "The Only Dance There Is", "Grist For The  Mill",(with 
Stephen Levine), "Journey of Awakening", "Miracle of Love",  and, most  recently, "How Can I Help?",(with Paul Gorman).   "Be  Here 
Now"  has  sold nearly a million copies, and served widely  as  a spiritual guide during the 1970's.  "How Can I Help?",  published 
by  Alfred  Knopf in 1985, has sold over 150 000  copies  and  is widely  used  in medical and nursing schools, schools  of  social 
work, volunteer agencies, and hospices. 

In  1973  Ram  Dass founded the  Hanuman  Foundation,  which  has nurtured projects designed to increase spiritual consciousness in 
the west, including work with prisoners and the dying.  Ram  Dass is a co-founder, board member and former chairperson of the  Seva 
Foundation,  a non-profit organization dedicated  to  manifesting compassionate  action  to  alleviate  suffering  in  ther   world 
community. Seva is currently supporting programmes to help reduce blindness   in  India  and  Nepal,  to  restore  farm   life   to 
impoverished villagers in Guatemala, to assist in primary  health care  for  native  Americans  and  to  work  with  the   homeless 
population in the United States.

Ram Dass lectures and teaches about using service to others as a spiritual  path.  He trains AIDS volunteers and works  personally 
with  the  terminally ill.  He also provides  training  for  high school students involved in ecological and social issues.  He  is 
currently  co-authoring  a  book with Mirabai Bush  on  the  very topics  that will be the focus of "Reaching Out".  This book,  to 
be  published by a division of Random House in 1991, will  serve, along  with  "How  Can I Help?", as a  companion  volume  to  the 
television series. 

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