Being Lead to Braiding Sweetgrass

How many times do you have to be led to something before you understand it is good for you? Apparently for me it is five.

A number of years ago my friend Karen raved about Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The publisher quotes author Elizabeth Gilbert calling it “A hymn of love to the world.” So of course I immediately bought it. I read a few pages, but then something else commanded my attention and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust ever since.

Last Sunday at a picnic Dawn mentioned that she and Loren really liked the book. Note to self, I have that book still, somewhere.

Then on Tuesday on a video conference call for members of The Order of the Sacred Earth community, of which I am one, I mentioned that I felt lost. Not necessarily speaking directly to me, not one but two members mentioned how Braiding Sweetgrass was salve for their souls. Light goes on in my head.

Let’s count. So that makes Karen, Dawn, Loren, and two OSE folks. Five.

Guess what I’m reading? Yup, Braiding Sweetgrass. It is beautiful.

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Joanna Macy on Her 90th Birthday

Happy Birthday to our Ecozoic Elder on her 90th Birthday!

A lovely tribute from the Gaia Foundation.

Gaia’s Director, Liz Hosken, celebrates the 90th birthday of one of Gaia’s great elders; educator and Earth defender Joanna Macy. She reflects on how Joanna’s ‘Work that Reconnects’ is helping inspire a new generation of movement leaders and activists for  Earth Jurisprudence across Africa.

I first met Joanna in the late 1980s at a workshop on Deep Ecology in the UK. I was astounded.  Within a few hours people from all walks of life, who did not know each other and would not call themselves environmentalists, were sharing their pain for the Earth, for other species, for special places, for the barren world they feared their children would inherit.

What was her magic, I wondered? How did she find the route into people’s guarded hearts so quickly? Through her artful honing of questions and exercises, Joanna took us to the core of our common human experience. Her great gift is to help us remember we are one species, one human family in the web of life, participating in an awe-inspiring, living planet, through whom we are deeply en-souled.

Keep reading the tribute here.

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Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace – NYT

Fishing nets and ropes are a frequent hazard for olive ridley sea turtles, seen on a beach in India’s Kerala state in January. A new 1,500-page report by the United Nations is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe.CreditCreditSoren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

New York Times

By Brad Plumer

WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in.

As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

The report is not the first to paint a grim portrait of Earth’s ecosystems. But it goes further by detailing how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.

continue reading here….

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Gaia Foundation is Hiring – Earth Jurisprudence and Seed Sovereignty

View this job post in the Gaia Foundation browser.

The Gaia Foundation website.

Dear Friends,

We’re excited to share two opportunities to join the Gaia Team and support our work on Earth Jurisprudence and Seed and Food Sovereignty. If you are passionate about Rights of Nature and working in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, we are looking for an Earth Jurisprudence Coordinator to help support the growing African Movement for Earth-centred living and governance.

Applications close this Sunday 28th April. 

If you are UK-based and want to help build a better food system, we are recruiting a manager for Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty Programme, which aims to increase the amount and diversity of agroecological seed grown in the UK and Ireland.

The closing date for applications is 1st May.

Further details and links are shared below. Please spread the word and good luck to anyone planning to apply!

Warm wishes, 
Rowan, on behalf of the Gaia Team

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The Universe in Verse – Livestream

The Universe in Verse 2019—our ( annual celebration of science through poetry, hosted by Maria Popova—returns with a very special edition: This year’s show, benefiting Pioneer Works’ endeavor to build New York’s first-ever public observatory, celebrates the 100th anniversary of Sir Arthur Eddington’s historic eclipse expedition to Africa, which confirmed relativity and catapulted Einstein into celebrity.

Live stream link here on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, 7-9pm, EDT

Watch previous years of Universe in Verse, 2017 & 2018, here (scroll down page to find them).

Tickets sold out.

Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Please consider making an additional donation based on your financial ability and your willingness to help build a dome of possibility for future Eddingtons and Einsteins.

UPDATE: Because we must abide by the laws of physics, we cannot accommodate more bodies in our finite physical space. But the event will be livestreamed.

“Dear Mother, joyous news today,” Einstein wrote upon receiving word of the results, which revolutionized our understanding of the universe and shaped the course of modern physics.

The scientific triumph was also a heartening, humane moment—just after the close of World War I, a pacifist English Quaker, who had refused to be drafted in the war at the risk of being jailed for treason, and a German Jew united humanity under the same sky, under the deepest truths of the universe. An invitation to perspective in the largest sense.

Join us for an evening of poems and stories about eclipses, relativity, spacetime, and Einstein’s legacy, featuring readings by musicians David Byrne, Regina Spektor, Amanda Palmer, Emily Wells, and Josh Groban, astrophysicists Janna Levin and Natalie Batalha, poets Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson, actor Natascha McElhone, theoretical cosmologist and jazz saxophonist Stephon Alexander, comedian Chuck Nice, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and On Being host Krista Tippett, with some thrilling surprises in wait.

After the show, the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York will host telescopic stargazing in the garden.

Watch 2017 & 2018 events here (scroll down page to find them).

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Discoveries Made Upon Re-Reading Thomas Berry’s Later Books

This is a re-post from The Ecozoic Review, April 2019, a publication of the Center for Ecozoic Studies in Chapel Hill, NC.

The essay by Herman Greene is called “The Long View: Thomas Berry’s Instruction on the Reform of Religion, Law, and Culture in His Later Books” (Evening Thoughts, The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth, The Sacred Universe) and can be read here in full.

I share the essay with you because of my experience while reading it: Herman’s synthesis activated new rooms of understanding and expanded awareness in my heart/mind/soul/psyche for what Thomas was trying to express and the way forward that he was pointing, the same way a first reading of Thomas can open you up and blow your mind. There are many quotes from Thomas but Herman’s voice adds important insights. He writes:

These later books, I had thought, were a recapitulation of those ideas, with the exception of the part on Earth jurisprudence. I hadn’t given these later books much attention.

I have a different view of them now. They do largely concern ideas covered in the earlier books, but they do so in a substantially different way. The later books are not just afterthoughts, an archive of additional materials of Berry. They were and are needed for the completion of his work. They are passionate appeals to the religious and legal communities, indeed to all of us, to take action with specific instruction on what they and we are to do. I felt like Berry said in these books, “This is what I meant. You must understand what I’m writing here and do what I say here or the Great Work will fail!”

Continue reading here (scroll down to begin the essay on page 4).


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Notre-Dame de Paris and A Place Deeper than Words

by Sheri Ritchlin, PhD

Flames and smoke rise from the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photograph: Thierry Mallet/AP

Yesterday several people interviewed by the media said they were surprised by their own response to the news that Notre Dame was on fire. They burst into tears (as I did). They were not French. They were not religious.

In a world filled with inflamed rhetoric like a huge bowl of ire, this was an event that took us to a place deeper than words. It was like 9/11 or in my lifetime, the news of Kennedy’s assassination. How important this is to remind us that we are beings who have such places below words, who are made of an unconscious fabric that connects us, not only with people throughout the planet in the present time, but to a thousand years of history in the past, and long before that.

Caught as we are in the tangled mesh of political, philosophical and theological concepts–none of which can be universally “agreed” upon–as Allysyn Kiplinger says, we should consider what this moment is saying. (Read her blog post from yesterday about Notre-Dame here.) The day before Notre Dame burned, a headline in New Scientist above a photo of one of last year’s massive forest fires, read “BBC climate doc adviser: Earth is sending us really powerful messages.” The documentary, Climate Change – The Facts, will be presented by David Attenborough. Perhaps the flames of Notre Dame, on the Monday of Holy Week, are sending us a message too.

Last night on the PBS Newshour, the images of destruction from Paris were followed by the images of a US town’s destruction from a tornado. The woman who had seen her home ripped from its foundations had no words for that either.

During the immediate aftermath of 9/11 Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was summoned to voice a collective international mourning. When the original performance ended, Beethoven had to be turned around to see the cheering audience. He was completely deaf. It seemed appropriate, though not intentional, that the Newshour ended with Yoyo Ma playing Bach on both sides of the Mexican Border; music going to those deeper places where walls cannot exist.

Humans are described as being separated from the animals by our intelligence, our capacity for reflection and the power of language. Artificial intelligence is advancing with lightning speed and is predicted to equal or even surpass us in those powers. Ironically, what will distinguish us from artificial intelligence is the immediacy of our sentience, which we share with other creatures, and the ground of sympathy with all creation that makes us receptive to the messages of Earth and History, which remind us of who we are. Let us hope that this human is the “programmer.”

In the photo below, note the expression on the face of the little boy (right) as his mother, Sarah Anzick, is about to rebury the remains of a child unearthed on their property after his original burial 12,600 years ago. DNA revealed that his family were the ancestors of 80% of all native groups in North and South America. Around them are members of tribes from Washington, Oregon and Montana. This is 175 miles from my home.

Shared humanness. Deeper than words.

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Overthrow Our Life-Denying System

From The Guardian, April 16, 2019

Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse

by George Monbiot

The last paragraph:

“Today, Extinction Rebellion takes to streets around the world in defence of our life-support systems. Through daring, disruptive, nonviolent action, it forces our environmental predicament on to the political agenda. Who are these people? Another “they”, who might rescue us from our follies? The success of this mobilisation depends on us. It will reach the critical threshold only if enough of us cast aside denial and despair, and join this exuberant, proliferating movement. The time for excuses is over. The struggle to overthrow our life-denying system has begun.”

Full article:

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Notre-Dame de Paris Self-Immolates to Save the West from Itself

There is a long history in many religious and ethical systems of sacrifice, self-sacrifice, self-immolation, martyring one’s self to take a stand, make a point.

I sense Notre-Dame de Paris self-immolated today in order to serve as a metaphor to bring the western world together, to remind us of our historical journey these last 859 years, and to assist us as we move forward to become a loving Earth community.

One friend wrote that buildings do not self-immolate. I’m not so sure.

Geneen, a friend in Utah, wrote, “Our Lady ignites our attention and pondering of the mysteries [of life], and [with] unexpected, public devotions and grief.”

On the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019 Our Lady huffed and puffed and burst herself into flames just minutes after closing when the last of her visitors had safely left for the day. She made sure everyone was safely out of the building. It reminds me a bit of what Thomas Berry said about the World Trade Center in New York City. If it were ever destroyed he hoped it would happen on a Sunday morning when no one was in the buildings. Always keep the people safe.

Art historian Lord Kenneth Clark opened his 1969 book and accompanying documentary “Civilisation” in front of Notre-Dame de Paris asking “What is civilisation?” (pg. 1). He believed that Notre-Dame de Paris represented it in some ineffable way.

My friend Siddika just called to share her sadness about the cathedral’s fire. She felt it was a metaphor for the fact that western civilization is on fire, destroying itself. That is true, of course. Later she added,

I had a further thought about the Western Civilization on fire motif. The towers, essential  to Notre Dame, remain. They are the moral foundations of the West, the true distilled wisdom of the earth’s great Western religions: love; do unto others as you would have them do unto you; be merciful; care for the stranger and the vulnerable; feed the hungry; care for the sick; forgive (even enemies). From these towers of ethics we will have to rebuild our world if we are to survive as a race worthy of the name Homo sapiens rather than be consumed by the fires of climate change, hatred, and war.

And speaking of hatred and war, maybe it is no accident that the color of our current president’s hair is the color of fire, and that we say about him what we said to kids on the elementary school playground, “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!”

Resurrection by Brian Sebastian Swimme, the son of Brian Thomas Swimme

Brian Thomas Swimme framed the fire as the mystery of death in this post in the Journey of the Universe newsletter entitled “Resurrection”:

The world watched in horror as some of history’s most beautiful works of religious art became flame, then smoke, then atmosphere. Stunned to our bones, again, by the mystery of death.

Only in the rarest places, including the poetry of our most profound mystics as well as the ravings of our saddest lunatics, is death admired. Our fear reveals our intense love of our fragile lives. Even pyramids fail as bargaining chips.

Though the universe has been creating itself for fourteen billion years, only recently has any Earthling pulled back the blanket of time to contemplate the whole. We are astounded to discover the ways the universe thrives on death. Ninety-nine percent of all the species Life has concocted have gone extinct.

We do not have words for the fire that destroyed Notre Dame forever. We shiver when we hear St Francis call holy the burning firebrand pressed to his eye. Or the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin discovering, at the front of war, the Cosmic Christ. But they force us to wonder. Does the universe have the creativity to turn our dread into astonishment as something new, something erotic, something death-defying comes forth?

I just talked to another friend about the fire in Paris. She is not someone prone to the metaphysical so for me her words carry extra weight. She said that upon hearing of the fire she glimpsed a vision, a mythical image, of a phoenix rising from the ashes of the cathedral. Perhaps western civilization reborn?

Here is an illustration from the past to give hope and direction for the future. It’s by Jean Fouquet from about 1450 and depicts the cathedral of Notre-Dame, already nearly 300 years old, with the rest of Paris in the background. It is proof that there once was wild nature on the banks of the Seine. May it be so, again, under the graceful guidance of Our Lady for Our Earth.

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Thomas Berry’s Brother

This arrived in an email this morning and I thought it was important enough to share it with you. Jim Berry and Thomas Berry might be seen as co-articulators of the ideas that have come to be associated with Thomas Berry. Jim Berry was a power-house in his own right – a strong clear voice for Earth.

Jim Berry

“Humans belong to the Earth and to Earth’s life system; are part of it and have the clear obligation to honor the Earth and to behave in such a way as to demonstrate that honor. You are urged to love your country, but your love of the land, of the trees and the animals and the life-giving photosynthetic process is about a million times more important than nationalistic love of political and economic and social entity doing a whole lot of bad things. ” ~ James Fant Berry

We of (the) Center for Ecozoic Societies will remember Jim for his work through the Center for Reflection on the Second Law. From March 1980 through June 1998, Jim sent out letters, which he called circulars, every month, 181 in all. Being only two pages long these were avidly read. He wrote about human-Earth relations and the teachings of his brother, Thomas Berry. People said he could explain Thomas better than Thomas could. Copies of his 181 circulars are available here and may be read and distributed freely under a Creative Commons  Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Jim nourished many environmentalists, young and old, through annual retreats at Camp New Hope outside Chapel Hill, NC.  The subjects were always the same–we need to care for Earth. Many outstanding people spoke, lively workshops were held, and there was always a campfire in celebration of ancestors.

Perhaps nothing captures Jim better than the way he would stand up in public meetings and with his booming voice preface his remarks by saying “I SPEAK FOR THE EARTH!”

Jim Berry in front of The Red Oak at his brother Thomas Berry’s Riverdale Center in Bronx, New York


We celebrate the life of James Fant Berry.

His work, his kindness, and his passion for Earth lives on.

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