The Valley of Death

Written May 11, 2019, posted June 5, 2020

How can we possibly wrap our minds and hearts around the deep, terrible, violent, enduring, destruction and suffering that our culture has let loose on the planet? How can we take in that the actions of our culture has forever changed the future of the planet by eliminating species from the gene pool, razing forests never to be again, poisoning land and water on a millions-of-years time scale?

Thomas Berry wrote about building emotional capacity in the individual and collective human (my words, maybe his, can’t remember in this moment) to face what must be faced about reality and deal with it. He advocated again and again to be clear about what was real and what was valuable – “reality and value” – a phrase he uses sixteen times throughout The Dream of the Earth. The health of Earth is real and valuable. The maw of destruction is real and valuable to pay attention to. It is valuable because the only way to the Ecozoic is through this Valley of Death in which we all live. It requires extraordinary emotional and social capacity to endure, much less survive or even thrive in, on both the personal level and the social/cultural level.

I am dumbstruck, powerless.


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Breaking the Spell of Misguided Obedience

From the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund e-newsletter
Making History One Year Ago:
Celebrating the Lake Erie Bill of Rights
One year ago today, the residents of Toledo secured a victory for the Rights of Nature Movement in a special election. The first law recognizing the rights of a specific ecosystem to exist, flourish, and thrive – Lake Erie – captivated the world. This voter approved charter amendment is known as the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.
Immediately following the election, an industrialized agricultural corporation filed a lawsuit against the City of Toledo for “trampling” their corporate “rights.” Oral arguments were heard in January of this year, marking another historic moment for the Movement as Rights of Nature was argued for 90 minutes in federal court.
Toledo organizer Markie Miller drafted this letter to Lake Erie the night before the federal hearing. In honor of this moment in history, we share her letter here.

A Letter to Lake Erie from Lake Erie Bill of Rights Petitioner Markie Miller

CELDF Editor’s Note: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund-associated Toledoans for Safe Water organizer Markie Miller has written a powerfully beautiful letter to Lake Erie. Miller has been featured in news media across the world for her work advancing the historic Lake Erie Bill of Rights, the first law in the United States to recognize the rights of a specific ecosystem. That law is currently tied up in U.S. federal court. Today, she shares a meditation on “misguided obedience.” It was written the night before a federal court hearing on the merits of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

Dear Lake Erie,

As I write this, you are dying.

I am searching for the right words – of comfort, inspiration, even acceptance – because all you ever seem to receive is an “I’m sorry.” An apology, no matter how sincere, feels hollow and cold. It will not bring you redemption or peace.

You have sustained me for 30 years through your constant and selfless presence. Yet it was not until you were sick that I fully understood the quality of life you were capable of providing.

I have watched you more closely since that time. I keep my distance, respecting the condition you are in, and observe the decline of your allure from the Toledo shoreline. Your appearance is always calm and subtle, despite your pain. Aggressive waves do not break against your western bays unless encouraged by the wind. Yet, this characterization is misleading. We forget you are not always so tame and soft-spoken – in fact, you can be fierce, powerful, and free.

I caught a glimpse of your sickness in 2014 – but your screams were muffled by our own concerns and fears. I cannot justify any further silence. You undergo endless monitoring and testing, but it’s done with an inherent disregard for your life.

Your “caretakers” claim ownership of you as an excuse to throw money at you in exchange for your services – and silence. Can they really not see that the rhythmic dance of your waves along the shore has grown weary, heavy with the flesh of dead fish, void of the life and recreation that adorns the beaches and open waters of your sisters? I want to say they are ignorant of your pain, but I know better.

How long can I enable this abusive relationship without guilt?

There will be no chance of defending your memory. At your end, we will soon follow. The severity of that situation sits heavy on my shoulders and deep within my gut. I have fought hard for your rights without always realizing how much they reflect my own.

I am sorry. I promise this sorrow is fleeting – it has served me as a moment of rest. I understand your desire to be seen as stoic and brave. Damsel in distress does not suit you – a quality you have passed on to those you sustain. I likely will not weep for your loss. If that day comes, I will be too exhausted from this fight to shed tears of sorrow.

In your revival, we will find life; in your death, we will find only blame. Blame for our misguided obedience and trust in a system of law that upholds injustice, legalizes your abuse, and has ensnared us with a false illusion of representation.

Today I feel burdened with knowledge, but tomorrow I will feel empowered by truth.

I will always fight for your survival, never your memory.

With devotion,


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The Tempestry Project – Visualizing Climate Data in Tapestries

The Tempestry Project – Visualizing climate data that is accurate, personal, tangible, beautiful.

[Editor’s Note: I especially like this project because, at it’s base, it is a folk art response to our world: it is hand made, requires one set of hands with knitting needles and yarn, accessible to all, requires only basic human skills and tools, and is “zero-tech” (“zero-tech”, as in, requires no electricity, no grid,  no global-military-industrial-extractive-culture-economy to support and express it.)]

One of the ongoing problems inherent in discussions about climate change is the vast scale of the conversation. The Tempestry Project’s goal is to scale this down into something that is accurate, tangible, relatable, and beautiful.

The Tempestry Project blends fiber art with temperature data to create a bridge between global climate and our own personal experiences through knitted or crocheted temperature tapestries, or “Tempestries.” Each Tempestry represents the daily high temperature for a given year and location, January at the bottom and December at the top (think bar graphs!), all using the same yarn colors and temperature ranges (see below for details).

A single Tempestry can be a beautiful commemoration of an important life event — a birthday, a wedding, or even (as in the case of one participant) a family’s immigration date. A collection of Tempestries showing different years for a single location creates a powerful visual representation of changing temperatures over time.

As more and more people create Tempestries, both individually and in geographic collections, a mosaic of our climate history is beginning to emerge. The more people get involved — through knitting, crocheting, discussing, sharing — the richer, the more beautiful, and the more undeniable this mosaic becomes.

Temperature data comes from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and is available to the public at Please note, the data is not always complete and sometimes has to be supplemented with data from, or from nearby weather stations.

We’ve assigned specific colors from KnitPicks’ Wool of the Andes Worsted to represent specific temperature ranges in 5-degree increments from less than -30°F to more than 121°F. Using the same universal yarns and colors creates a visual comparison between years and places, and KnitPicks is affordable and accessible. The full list of colors and corresponding temperature ranges is included in the project guidelines in each Tempestry Kit. This information is also available for free here in our Files.


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Deep adaptation: Getting Real about the Climate Apocalypse from Extinction Rebellion

A deep and thoughtful conversation. Listen and let it all wash over you. 1:14:57.

Overton window was new to me. Did you catch it?

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Passing of Margaret Berry, Thomas Berry’s sister

We announce with sadness, the passing of Margaret Berry, sister of and aid to Thomas Berry, on August 13, 2019. She was a saint and now joins the heavenly cloud of witnesses.

A  Memorial Mass will be celebrated by Rev. James Duong, Pastor at Saint Benedict’s Catholic Church in downtown Greensboro, 109 W. Smith Street, Greensboro, 27401 at 12:15 pm on Wednesday, August 28. Those who wish to attend the rosary with the congregation please be seated by 11:45am. Parking is available in the Hanes-Lineberry Funeral Home lot across the street. Interment of ashes will follow in Forest Lawn Cemetery, 3901 Forest Lawn Drive. After the internment, the family will receive visitors in the Event Center at WellSpring Retirement Community at 4100 Well Spring Dr, Greensboro, NC 27410.

Here follows her obituary from

Holding a St. John’s University Ph.D. in nineteenth-century English literature and a University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral degree in South Asian Studies, Berry taught college and university for 40 years. Her publications include: The Chinese Classic Novels: An Annotated Bibliography of Chiefly English-Language Studies (1988, 2011), named by American Library Association’s Choice among the year’s best reference works; Pegasus Over Asia: Ventures in East-West Literary Analysis (1980, 2011); and Mulk Raj Anand, the Man and the Novelist (1971). In addition to numerous published articles in professional journals, Berry has written two unpublished novels, The Tennis Club and Amaranthine Weed. The University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Berry several grants including the Ford, Fulbright, Danforth, and NDEA awards during her lifetime

Besides traveling to Europe, Berry visited South America, Australia, China, Japan, and India. Offices included presidency of both the College English Association of Ohio and the John Carroll University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and long service as National Coordinator of Affiliates of the College English Association. After her 1993 retirement, Berry returned to her native Greensboro, where she served as liaison for Harvard University’s Archives for Environmental Science and Public Policy as it acquired the papers of her brother, geologian, cultural historian, and author Thomas [W] Berry. In addition, she became the matriarch of the family with her annual Berry Patch which included the names and addresses of the extended Berry family. For her 100th birthday, nearly 150 family members paid tribute to her caring for each and everyone.

Surviving Dr. Berry is her brother, Thomas Gabriel (Stephanie Eddy); sisters-in-law, Jerry Berry of Charlotte, Rosemary Berry of Greensboro, and nieces and nephews too numerous to name here.

Besides her parents, Elizabeth and William Nathan Berry, Sr., founders of Berico Fuels, she was preceded in death by brothers, Jack (Jessie), Frank, MD (Polly ), Jim (Mary Elizabeth), Joe (Jean), Benedict, Steve; sisters, Merse (Sr. Mary Elizabeth, Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul), Katherine (Richard Fuller), Ann Louise (Sr. Zoe` Marie of Maryknoll Missioners), Teresa Kelleher (Leo “Boots”) and sister-in-law, Ginny Berry.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Thomas Berry Foundation, c/o Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, Yale University or to Green Mountain Monastery, Greensboro, VT c\o Sr. Gail Worcelo.

Hanes Lineberry North Elm Chapel is assisting the Berry family with arrangements. Online condolences may be shared at

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Nothing Lowly in the Universe: An Integral Approach to the Ecological Crisis – book

Crundale Press, United States, 2019.

The world is facing an existential crisis.

Looming climate breakdown and ecological collapse could lead to the “sixth extinction” event in Earth’s history, this time by our own hand, and the massive loss of human life and of many other life-forms with which we share the earth. How did we get here, and how can we transform our ways of thinking and living to avoid catastrophe? And what really sustains us?

In a wide-ranging and comprehensive analysis, based on decades of experience as an environmental research scientist, activist and Quaker, Jennie M. Ratcliffe explores the interconnected scientific, technological, economic, religious and psychological causes of our predicament and shows how the ecological crisis is, at its heart, a spiritual and moral crisis.

Drawing primarily on Quaker testimonies, on Gandhian, Buddhist, and other wisdom traditions, and the work of Thomas Berry, Arne Naess, E.F. Schumacher and others, she explores the underlying principles by which we–particularly those of us in the wealthiest countries–can radically transform our ways of life. The principles of integrity, reciprocity, nonviolence, simplicity, and equality, rooted in a realization of the unity and interdependence of, and love for, the whole earth community, are the foundation of an integral deep ecology, deep economy, and deep peace.

Far from being utopian, they can and are being translated into spiritually-grounded practices around the world, offering transformational paths to the long-term sustainability of a more just and peaceable world for the commonwealth of life and the emergence of a new Ecozoic era.

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I’m always interested in how language opens up a new reality, a new view on an old reality.

Not a sexy new word, not a new word, but it gets at it in a clear, simple way: compatibility.

If we simply make human culture compatible with ecology we’d be almost there.


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Evolutionary Cosmology and the Journey of the Universe: A Conversation with Brian Swimme

A Pachamama Alliance Conversation

 Pachamama Alliance • 30 May 2019

The global Pachamama Alliance community came together on May 29, 2019 with Brian Swimme—Professor of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness and Director of the Center for the Story of the Universe at the California Institute of Integral Studies—to discuss the story of the universe.

Evolutionary cosmology refers to a way of seeing and relating to the universe as an ongoing story, and is part of Brian’s work that draws together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, and biology with humanistic insights concerning the nature of the universe.

He spoke of our Milky Way galaxy as a creative system that can regenerate itself through the creation of new stars, and offered that seeing how “the universe is the most spectacularly creative realm we know of” allows the dynamics of creativity to come alive in our own lives.

As he said, “the perspective we take determines how we understand the world,” and evolutionary cosmology points to a process “giving birth to a new form of human being, which includes a new form of human consciousness.”

Global Commons member Elly Lessin asked a great question about how to relate to the story of the universe in the face of possibly catastrophic effects from global warming (42:00 in the recording), and Brian’s answer highlighted why he is such a valued ally of Pachamama Alliance.

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Gaia Foundation eNewsletter – A New Story: Restoring Our Relationship with Earth

Gaia Foundation’s latest eNewsletter can be seen at this link:

The Stories from this eNewsletter:

  • New and Ancient: Stories for the Earth – De-mystifying Earth Jurisprudence In this interactive story, we tell the story of Earth Jurisprudence in video, images and words. We explore how ‘EJ’ can play a vital role in rooting the new story we need deep in the Earth’s laws, following the example of Indigenous Peoples from Colombia to Finland.
  • Africa’s movement for Earth Jurisprudence – Meet inspiring African community leaders working as ‘barefoot lawyers’. They are accompanying Indigenous and traditional communities across the continent who are reviving their Earth-centred knowledge, practices and goverance systems to protect their ancestral lands.  
  • Rooting Rebellion in Nature – Liz Hosken, reflects on the life and legacy of philosopher and ‘geologian’ Thomas Berry, and why his central idea- Earth Jurisprudence- can be a guiding light for emerging movements rebelling for the Earth at a time of crisis.
  • Thomas Berry: A biography – Our friends Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology have produced a wonderful new biography charting the life and thought of visionary eco-philosopher and Gaia elder Thomas Berry. We recommend it to everyone!
  • Expanding our circles of compassion – In 1950 Albert Einstein wrote a powerful letter that, we think, connects with and conveys both the deep message at the heart of many Indigenous Stories of Origin and the root understandings of the new stories we need now.

Gaia Foundation’s latest eNewsletter can be seen at this link:

The Gaia Foundation is passionate about regenerating bio-cultural diversity and restoring a respectful relationship with the Earth. Find out more at

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Trust and the Natural World

by Allysyn Kiplinger and The Fig Tree in the back yard

There was a time when humans could trust the natural world to take care of them.

They could trust the seasons to be hot, warm, cool, cold. To signal when to move to warmer or cooler grounds, wetter or drier.

They could trust that drinking water from a living body of sweet water (river, lake, stream, brook, creek, pool, the palm of a leaf) would quench thirst and keep them healthy.

They could trust that salmon would return so they could eat.

The “outer” natural world activated a robust “inner” world of the human.

But that is not universally so anymore.

I see why my human ancestors may have become autistic, deaf, to the natural world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Water poisoned by corporations. Food poisoned by out-of-touch leaders. Seasons altered by the human desire for convenience. Trust was broken by the cultural establishments entrusted to keep them safe and vital.

Was that trust broken when my great grandfather drank bad water on a business trip and died of Typhus at the age of 46 in 1909?

Multiply that by millions. By billions.

A slow turn, a slow dependent co-arising of distrust – courtesy of the military-industrial-commercial-chemical-life-killing culture of the Western world – wedged itself between the inherent, natural, evolutionary trust that humans have for Earth and Earth itself.

If you and your people get sick and die from having ordinary interactions with the natural world, how do you create a culture of trust with nature?

In these times our historical mission is to alter our culture so that we may universally trust again and re-encounter, rediscover our genetic trust of Earth.

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