Philosophy: Ecological Restoration sample essay
How can we envision an ecological restoration of both physical environment and philosophical/spiritual thought models?
Overpopulation, overexploitation, and human consumption are all contributing to the downfall of our now extremely misused planet. All organisms are now being exposed to drastic environmental changes, ones that our ancestors have never experienced. The stability of the Earth has been decreasing severely in the past few centuries because of mankind’s impact on overusing and consuming resources. Fundamental for Earth’s ability to function, natural resources across the globe are being destroyed and many contribute to the atmospheric change. A major issue is the lack of awareness of the current problems along with the absence of drive towards maintenance and restoration of the planet. Many humans view Earth as just a place to live, a place where selfishness takes hold, and careless consumption and waste thrives. We must ask ourselves, as a whole, at what point in time did our values of the Earth change? And how did we ever allow ourselves to become selfish, independent, and careless human beings?
Unlike previous ecological and earth spiritualties that promoted and influenced all people to care for the Earth, we now take advantage of our planet for our own needs. Instead of love and protection, greed and exploitation now motivate us. At one point in time, ecological ideologies were a threshold for many beliefs because of the interconnectedness with all beings and the idea that everything is living and necessary for the planet’s survival. Maintaining a healthy balance with the mind, body, spirit, and environment has allowed generations of humans to thrive in our world.
But, somewhere along the evolutional journey of mankind, we have slowly lost these concepts and values. In order to “succeed” we have to make the most money in order to be superior, instead of being happy with what you have. The mentality, especially in Western culture, is that we live to work, not work to live. The drive to be happy lies within work and money, but how many people, especially in the United States can say they are happy with their lives? It is because we lost the connection with the Earth, if we are connected with nature, peace will fulfill our lives.
Reverting to previous mentalities and philosophies is instrumental in our restoration of the Earth. Building a better place to live, both physically and mentally, starts with analyzing past spiritualties and converting to some of their widespread ideas. Loving, respecting, and caring for the world is a concept seen in the practices of Gaia, Shamanism, Dark Green, Buddhist, and Hindu religions. Exemplifying the human connectedness with the environment, while seeing nature as a living being is a tradition that must be restored. The religions and ideologies illustrate peace, awareness, and balance within every relationship, including self.
Adapting to these spiritualties will be beneficial across the globe, it will aid in our survival as well as the planets. Even though these models may seem far off, difficult, and unattainable, we must strive to change because it is vital for our existence.
Presently, a common attitude that has been expressed is that nature is severely flawed, and that there is not much we can do to restore Earth. But, it is mankind’s duty to attempt the change and fix the environment as well as our philosophies behind it. New fields of study have been created like conservation biology and restoration ecology, which practice saving and fixing ecosystems across our biosphere. Movements in scientific fields as well as other environmental programs now strive to restore the Earth back to a plentiful state, with natural resources in tact to enable future generations to live. We must also think deeper about the current state of the Earth, considering all answers to how we got this way. Our future depends on whether or not humans can become mindful of our planet, to see clearly what is wrong and cause no further harm. Through this, we need to restore previous ideologies to help our new route of success. Living simply, awareness, respect, compassion, and love are key components to functioning in what our new world should become.
Tracing the earliest environmental concepts back to the era of Greeks, Romans, and early pagan practices, the earth spiritualty Gaia played a vital role in their customs. Gaia is centered on the understanding that humans are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. It is a broad and open-minded spiritualty, and focuses on humanity’s connection with the Earth. Certain beliefs are that the planet is an ancient, living, and self-regulating system and we must do our part by not affecting such an essential being in our lives. Similarly, Mother Earth, humans, and all beings must have a deep, strong, and balanced relationship. It is illustrated that Gaia itself, is a symbol of peaceful balance between life and time. Ensuring that humans have a duty to protect, care, and respect the Earth because it is what gave us life inexorably.
Envisioning Gaia as a concept used for ecological restoration of the environment and restoration of philosophical and spiritual views is an easy notion, which should be set into place. Since the philosophies of Gaia believe that humans have the ability to maintain Earth’s homeostasis, we should be inspired to embrace what our role should be in the planet. Due to most individuals’ self interest and greed, our actions are continually contributing to the change in the climate. But, in today’s society, if Gaia was a wide spread concept, individuals would have the ability to decide what sort of relationship they would have with the Earth. Taking such initiative to save and respect the planet will attract millions of followers. Gaia spirituality is an ideal change worth striving towards, since we recognize that Earth is a network of interacting components that shape each other, we need to reduce the impacts affecting these elements. Beings and the planet need to co-evolve, and life needs to stabilize the planet in order to survive.
Many other spiritual practices similar to Gaia involve exercises where followers strive to reach a certain state of consciousness that allows them to view the world in a different light. A well-known practice is Shamanism, which exemplifies reaching such a level of consciousness and allowing the practitioner to have access to other worlds. Shamans are guides to humans in our world, leading us through concepts from the spirit world. Since shamans contact both malicious and benevolent spirits, they view the world in a certain way that most humans are unable to. As shamans begin their ritual to other worlds, they enter a trance where they are placed in positions as messengers and healers from the spirits. Within healing, shamans treat the body through fixing the soul and restoring humans back to a healthy balance. Shamans build strong relationships with all animals and living beings in order to help them fully understand nature and its ways.
Many of Shamanistic beliefs are that humans are directly affected with the treatment of the environment, and shamans can teach us about our wrongful actions. They guide us through the spirits to give us answers about our life mishaps and questions. Shamans consume the responsibility to care for all beings in order to better suite our world. Followers of Shamanism practice the importance of what you take from the world, you must give back and give thanks. Traditionally, shaman practices highlight how much they are ecologists of tribal societies. The rituals, trances, and journeys guarantee the relationship between humans and other beings are balanced (Barnhill 200) and remain so.
Approaching a similar system to Shamanism will be a worthwhile effort because of the environmental aspects. They stress the avoidance of overhunting and overexploitation of resources by setting restrictions through their daily lives. Managing resources is tradition we do not do currently, but one we must become accustomed to, along with respect and compassion to restore a balance in the world. Being the world’s third largest religion and one of the oldest, Hinduism has always been a massive threshold for people’s beliefs. More importantly in Hinduism is the fundamental ecological spirituality that attracts so many followers. Both the thought models and motives for the environment are what drive the religion. Promoting peace and a natural demeanor towards all living things is a major theme, but in the foundation there are truly many concepts that are vital. The beauty seen in Hinduism is that the Earth is interconnected, that everything is a complete entity.
Hindu’s terminology for the Earth is a superior factor and if applied it could be beneficial for restoration of the world. Advaita/Monism (Lal 190) implies that everyone and everything is one, there is no division in life, and Brahman (Lal 191) means the principle of the cosmos, that everything has a meaning and structure. Similar to Brahman is Atman (Lal 190), which applies to humans and is the spiritual essence of man. For Hinduism, all beings go through life cycles known as reincarnation or Samsara (Lal 192), and through each life beings strive towards developing into more complex forms. It is ruled through karma, which regulates the cause and effect of how you live and if you will move on to a better form of life. The life energy, Kundalini (Lal 190), represents the awakening of the mind to understand all matters in living. Ultimately, Hindu’s goal for the human’s spirituality is to move from self-centeredness and unenlightened to a self-less and enlightened person. Balance of mind, body, and spirit rules Hinduism, and to reach that many followers live simply in all ways, which benefits their bodies as well as their surroundings.
Hinduism emphasizes sacred geography; their belief is that Earth nurtures humans so we have to give back by protecting and respecting the land. Since Hinduism is most apparent in India, they have adapted the term Bharat-ma, or Mother India, which is a holy site and used for ecological progress. The land in India is sacred, even if it is polluted and destroyed; they still have a deep love for all of the land, which is an important aspect, that most other countries lack. Furthermore, Ahimsa (Lal 190) is the extremity of non-violence and a complete consciousness that all living beings have the right to live and thrive.
Adapting to Hinduism would make a beautiful change to the Earth. Land and water would be treated respectfully, eventually cleansing the atmosphere along with slowing climate change. Although their concepts of Earth are ideal and something we should model our lives after, it may be questioned if it is something even attainable and if we can reverse the effects already done to the Earth and ourselves. The green spirituality of Hinduism can make drastic changes to the current state of the Earth, and would help purify humans to a more balanced and healthy self.
Mindfulness, nonviolence, and self-awareness (Kozak 5) have an influential role on the rising popularity of Buddhism. The primary philosophy of Buddhism is that it is spiritual not religious, it is a way of life, striving to improve the human mind, body, and spirit. As global perspectives change and people attune to having some sort of awareness, masses of humans are becoming more attracted to becoming Buddhist and living such lifestyles. Due to the fact that Buddhism is not an organized religion, but an ideology of leading a moral life, awareness of thoughts and actions, and to develop understanding and wisdom in the search for Enlightenment (Kozak 24) is what fascinates many people. Living is suffering for true Buddhists and once an individual reaches enlightenment, they can be free from the suffering of the world.
Similar to Hinduism, Buddhism also believes in reincarnation, in their version the soul is always migrating into other worlds and death is nothing to fear because it determines what world you go into in the next life. The practice of Buddhism requires three things from man; self-mastery, self-analysis, and the cultivation of empathy (Kozak 262). Self-mastery involves looking at one’s self, paying attention to who you are, and decreasing greed. Self-analysis contains minimizing resources including needs and wants, and practices restraint in all aspects of life. The cultivation of empathy implies that one must have understanding towards all beings and if done, they will become gentle, patient, and calm, which will contribute to their enlightenment goal. Empathy among humans, animals, plants, and all organisms entails dissolving fear and to question what is right and wrong. Buddhism teaches worship and respect for the environment, emphasizing the fluidity of nature and life.
Buddhism is a tradition that offers help to our world that is experiencing rapid and destructive change (Lancaster 3). If Buddhism was taught and practiced across the globe, people would understand the importance of nature and how it plays a vital role in our lives. Nature and all of its resources are being depleted at an astounding rate, and the practice of the Buddha would influence the globe to respect and restore our environment. If practiced, corporations and governments would no longer strive to make the most money and have the most influence, because quality not quantity matters in our environment and globally we would understand that concept.
Recently, a radically growing religion across the globe is the Dark Green Religion, which holds their beliefs in nature, spirituality and our futures. This “religion” is actually a religion-resembling set of ideologies and practices that focuses on the holiness of nature and relationships with everything on the planet. Primarily, their belief is that nature is sacred with an intrinsic value, meaning that it should be demanded respect and care. Similar to most earth spiritualties, the relationship with human, and non-humans is highlighted, along with the consciousness of the connections of all life on the planet. Dark Green religions are common in all environmentalist movements, especially the surfing culture and all nature-based spiritualties. A common theme is the acceptance of perspectival thinking- where there is no truth, no objectivity, and no absolute value.
Accepting perspectival thinking would give all humans the power to understand the affects we are having on our planet. We would always be searching for the deeper meaning of things and questioning what is the right way to live. This theory can be seen predated before Christianity, and it used to focus on seeing and interpreting nature in a respectful and beautiful way. The attitude is that humans, other organisms, and Earth are one unity with a greater power in control.
Before long, Christianity covered up these beliefs and hid the real meaning of life. But as culture changes once again, we can see how these set of beliefs are making their way to the forefront of the environmental movement. Promoting that nature has the ability to have rights and the expectation that people have to uphold these rights would ensure respect to ripple throughout the world. By following these rights, nature would be allowed to restore itself, and ecosystems could be balanced once again. The balance of nature would continually benefit humans through ecosystem services of the land.
Restoring old philosophical and spiritual thought models may seem impossible, but since new philosophies have arisen in past years that mirror older values and beliefs, they are attracting numerous amounts of followers. A growing philosophy that is not only a belief system but also a set of actions, also known as praxis, is Eco-philosophy also known as Deep Ecology. This praxis presents the idea that humans are not the center of all things, but simply a part of all things. Two major focuses of Deep Ecology are self-realization and ecocentrism (Scarce 31). The realization of self emphasizes the consciousness of an individual’s perception must be extended beyond their own aspects of life and must include the environment in their life. Ecocentrism is the basis that everything involved with nature possesses intrinsic worth and value. Deep Ecology’s ideas are based off of old philosophies beliefs, common themes in Deep Ecology reflect Buddhism, Hinduism, Dark Green religions, and Gaia.
Harmony with nature, nature having intrinsic worth, living simply with small material needs, minimal consumption, and awareness that supplies on earth are limited all oppose modern day Western beliefs, but come from a religious and community based background (Scarce 37). Those who follow Deep Ecology are also known as radical environmentalists, they have a strong bond between themselves and the environment that spurs their actions; they are always tied back to the Earth. The realization that humans are mere aspects, on the same level as plants, animals, and bugs, is something that could change our world. A change in an individual requires a change in the culture so other citizens can follow suit. A massive shift of lifestyle is needed to make the difference, living simply and practically through gardening, awareness of choices, and being selfless are what is vital for success in humanity.
Quicker than expected, the world’s population is nearing ten billion, and our current depletion of food, energy, water, and natural resources is still expanding at a rate that no longer can be maintained. Overcoming these issues will be an extremely difficult task because governments, corporations, and everything between have ignorance about their own greed. Ignorance, greed, and hatred are toxic for the world, and they highlight how our state of the Earth became so detrimental. Awareness to the reality of the situation is questionable; mankind needs to have courage to alter our ways. Social change will always occur, but government and corporate leaders have to have the bravery of leading the world cleanly and with complete mindfulness. When talking about environmental restoration and preservation, the Dalai Lama once said, “Ultimately, the decision must come from the human heart. The key point is to have a genuine sense of universal responsibility, based on love and compassion, and clean awareness”.
Nature is at the very heart of our being and spirituality, it is our duty to prevent further destruction. If we continue to live as we have been without thinking of the future, we will continue to destroy natural resources, emit greenhouse gases, and climate change will then be inevitable. Climate change means a drastic shift in sea water levels because of ice caps melting, and millions of people will be forced out of their homes because coastal cities will be destroyed. Oceans will warm; natural disasters will take place such as droughts, floods, and heat waves, they will destroy our agriculture and homes and will hinder mankind’s ability to thrive.
Control and safety from danger and destructiveness is what humanity strives to create in our culture. Even though control may be helpful for humans to flourish, we are wasting precious opportunities to become closer to nature and all that it has to offer. Studying and introducing ourselves back into the environment will be beneficial for the entire planet. Humans have altered the balance of the planet; to restore prior thought models involves the practice of no longer picturing ourselves as the center of the universe but seeing all inhabitants of the universe and the necessary role they play in our lives.
It is natural for one person to believe that they cannot make a difference in the world, but belief, hope, determination, and courage will alter the planet. The process of restoring the physical world will be a step-by-step process, not one person can save the entire Earth, but they can give their full energy to help certain causes. Restoration of the environment and spiritual thought models intertwine. If it takes a person to have a bad experience to spur them towards changing their lifestyle and beliefs, then that is what must happen.
Being submissive, listening to authorities and government leaders causes our world to be full of non-believers; humans do not trust their feelings and intuition (Scarce 34). Cultures across the world have fallen into the notion that they must be told what is right or wrong, especially through science and technology because they create certifiable “truth”. Banishing this manifestation will allow people to once again search for knowledge and answers. That is the beauty behind philosophy, everyone searches for knowledge and truth but there may never be real and certain truths. Accepting this idea will allow mankind to realize that nature is too complex to ever be completely and fully understood, so we should respect all that it is.
To change our current ecological status both physically and spiritually, many steps must be taken. Most importantly, personal and community based engagement must be taken in the environment. Compassion, interdependence, and inter-being with the world will provide a philosophic platform (Storhoff and Whalen-Bridge 113) that will radiate across the globe and improve our spiritual beings. Western hemisphere ideologies must be radically different. Currently, our ethics and cultural perceptions that influence our actions of modes of thinking (Lancaster 9) are affecting our ways of living.
The perception that people who are good, moral, ethical, and worthy are supposed to give help to the poor and oppressed, instead of aiding all classes as well as the environment. In other words, in our communities, we now aid to the “needy and unworthy” but in reality, we should be more focused on the global community. Nature is not separate from us, so it is what we should be aiding. Nature is the fundamental existential context of our lives, and we have a responsibility to aid and participate in it as a community (Barnhill 188), just as we would to the needy. Cultural transmission is the key to restoring our ecology; we need to form a new society within the shell of our current one. Instead of being centered on industry and technology, we need to focus on the physical and spiritual self-being of the world.
Ideally, a world formed around Buddhist and Hindu traditions would benefit all beings, but during the cultivation of societies, humanity lost those ideals. Primarily, the first step to restoration would be individual change; each person would need to alter their lifestyles and values based off of certain ecological and earth spiritualties. If this were to happen, the transformation of individuals would affect their families, then to communities, to culture, and eventually global change. It may not be an immediate, imminent change, but slowly the acceptance, respect, and love for nature would spread to everyone in the world.
Having a total integrated life style with the environment would allow awareness of self-interdependence with the globe, and how our actions affect all beings. Deep ecological awareness is an ideology that in a resolute ecocentric view, we would be able to reorganize our societies around the laws of nature (Lal 193). Ecological consciousness comes from the heart, not the head (Scarce 31), we need to become compassionate to everyone and everything. Adapting to earth religions would allow our values of the earth to change, because it compromises all life and the entire environment to be one entity that we all belong to in a single community. If we cannot adapt to a single religion or spirituality, we may only need to adapt to single expressions and practices of these ideologies, which will support the change of our ethical norms and values in the postmodern era.
Barnhill, David Landis. Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Grounds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.
Kozak, Arnold. The Everything Buddhism Book. 2nd ed. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 2011.
Lal, Vinay. Hinduism and ecology: the intersection of earth, sky, and water. Cambridge, MA: Distributed by Harvard University Press for the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, 2000.
Lancaster, Lewis. Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions :, 1997.
Lovelock, James. Healing Gaia: practical medicine for the planet. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.
Scarce, Rik. Eco-Warriors: Understanding the Radical Environmental Movement. Chicago: Noble Press, 1990.
Storhoff, Gary, and John Whalen-Bridge. American Buddhism as a way of life. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. Print.
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