There are many things that are important in the world. Playwrights are important and tailors are important. Operas are important and notes on refrigerators are important. Running a corporation or serving in public office is important and serving on a church committee or being a teacher’s aide is important.
Sometimes there are niches to be filled and that gives the niche-fillers importance. For example, the leaders of Black Lives Matter have filled such a niche and they are important. We believe there is a niche to be filled called “love-of-life.” Filling this ecozoic niche involves sentipensar (thinking-feeling) from the Earth. It involves bottom up thinking. It involves retracing our history through time to what is fundamental. Early people learned from the Earth and learned to live in harmony with it. Earth was the great teacher, the great wisdom. For example, we learn from Earth to only ask for what we need.
One becomes an ecozoan when one experiences this overwhelming feeling that he or she is embedded in Earth community and that it is beautiful. One literally falls in love with life in all of its diversity and amazing forms. Earth loses its national borders and highway maps and emerges as bioregions and cultures shaped by place. We know this by experience. We also know it by science. Bruno Latour wrote that science is the new aesthetic because it sensitizes us to life. It exposes us to the grandeur of existence in a new way.
We feel ourselves being rushed back into time, into early humans, the early Earth, and even beyond to planets and stars and galaxies. We feel ourselves propelled into the future in part because we know the fragility of life. We are shocked to discover that the history we have been taught is a lie, and we begin to re-tell our geostory and re-pair.
As we carry out a conversation on
we may yearn for global solutions and strategies to bring about change. This is in part because we have accepted what is real, what is realistic, and what is possible. We must accept, however, that perhaps within this current framework of what is real and what is possible, there are no sufficient solutions or strategies. Perhaps, however, there are other ecozoic reals that are real and other ecozoic possibles that are possible.
Now I am writing to the privileged, like me, of the West: We may feel there is little in our Western history or experience to draw on. Nonetheless, we must find in our past the voices to guide us—Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, the romantics, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Amish, Whitehead, King, Eiseley, Berry, Macy, and others (who would you name?)—our ancestral wisdom of living well and combine it, albeit awkwardly, with the modern skills we will need to bring about an ecozoic future. We may also learn from trees, plants, and animals, rivers, lakes, seas, and the land who are also part of our ancestral wisdom. With care, and avoiding cultural appropriation, we may also learn from native people.
This inner work is different from, though not unrelated to, such practical tasks as building a new energy grid and restoring ecosystem. This living into an ecozoic way of knowing, doing, and being is important. Ecozoic communities and conversations that allow this to happen are important, they do not need to be practical. They are simply necessary.
This immense journey inward and outward is our part in pluriversal politics. (See the article in this issue on “Pluriversal Politics.”) It is our differentiation. It will be different in each community and conversation. Other reals and possibles will seep into us. The ecozoic will emerge like seeds from the dark ground.
We should always ask of ourselves, “What difference does this make?” and abandon useless work. Faith in the ecozoic will enable us to see the importance of ecozoic journeys and the communities and conversations that sustain them.