Sunday, March 27, 2016

Seven Principles and Practices of Engaged Ecology

by Rhonda Fabian
The response to Engaged Ecology: Seven Practices to Restore Our Harmony with Nature, in the current edition of Kosmos Journal, has been truly heartening. These basic, nourishing daily practices are derived and synthesized from several key sources: The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, Janine Benyus’ Nine Basic Principles of Biomimicry, the Deep Ecology Principles of Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss, and other respected teachings. Kosmos has received numerous requests to share just the seven principles and practices, and here they are.

Seven Principles and Practices of Engaged Ecology

Principle 1 – Nature’s brilliant design is all-pervasive.
Practice – Cultivating awareness of Nature
Trusting that truth is found in Life, we strive to develop awareness by spending time observing and contemplating Nature. This can be as simple as working in a garden or meditating on a single flower. We can seek deep natural experiences without traveling to exotic locations. Even at work, we can quietly observe life within and around us. Drinking a glass of water with deep awareness or basking in the warm sun for a few minutes with gratitude are simple ways to remember our most primal connections.

Our breath is Life’s precious gift. Bringing our awareness to our own quiet breathing while sitting without distraction for even a few breaths is one way to come home to our true Nature. We can practice this any time to be refreshed and restored.
Remembering that Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years, we begin the work of transforming our fear and healing our consciousness. We find that we can be happy simply because we are alive and supported by the Earth.
Principle 2 – Nature adapts and self-regulates.
Practice – Being open to learning and change
Aware that Nature continuously adjusts to changing conditions, we are committed to seeking ways to educate ourselves in order to adjust our behaviors that cause damage to people and planet. We know we will not be able to change anything without changing ourselves first. We can learn new ways by seeking formal and informal education about the natural world around us: the names of trees and birds in our area, the quality of our watershed, where our food and the products we purchase come from.
By practicing openness in our views, we benefit from the wisdom of others. In Nature, embracing diversity results in greater resilience. We will seek and value a diversity of views, paying special attention to the voice of the marginalized, including indigenous people. We may have strong views about what we think others should do, yet greater insight is revealed through the practice of careful listening and deep thinking. Accumulating facts is not wisdom. What we think we know is subject to change and no one has all the answers.
Principle 3 – Nature expresses innate potential.
Practice – Developing empathy for all forms of life
All life has value in itself, and this value is not dependent on usefulness to humans. Aware that life is a vast web of interconnections, we will work to change our view that humans are superior to other forms of life on Earth and protect diversity.
All living things are engaged in the process of unfolding their innate potential. We vow to recognize and encourage the potential of all beings, from the smallest multicellular life-forms, to people, ecosystems, and the Earth as a whole. We will not support acts that kill or destroy life, in our thinking or in our actions and way of life. We will examine the impact we have on non-human animals and make an effort to reduce their suffering. Industrial farming, animal testing, the use of animals for public entertainment, and hunting endangered animals all cause great suffering.
We will practice looking deeply at the foods, clothing, and other products we consume and choose not to purchase or use them if they ‘contain’ the unnecessary suffering of people or animals. We can choose local and hand-made goods, Fair Trade and humane products, and simply live with less. By working closely with others, we will continually seek ways to protect the lives of people, plants and animals, minerals, ecosystems, and watersheds.
Principle 4 – Nature regenerates and nurtures new life.
Practice – Cherishing and nurturing the young
Nature reproduces itself: the tender leaf, rosebud, the baby bird, tiny fish. Each new life, anywhere, at any scale, is Nature’s freshest gift of innocence and purity, fully deserving the most basic right—to live. Aware that a baby’s first breath ushers in new hope for the world, we vow to cherish, protect, and nurture new life.
Knowing the seeds we plant in young minds will be the fruit our society reaps, we are committed to looking at all the ways children are affected by their environment. We will work to reexamine the purpose and goals of the educational system, understand the effects of excessive exposure to television, computer games, the Internet, and poisons in our food and in our water. We will work to support the concerns of mothers and children worldwide.

We are committed to protecting children from sexual and military exploitation and other forms of physical abuse, anywhere in the world. We will create opportunities and encourage children to participate in activities outside in Nature. If our community is unsafe, we will work with other families to create places for children to play and be happy. We are committed to teaching children the proper way to treat and take care of pets, how to grow a flower, and how to relax and be peaceful. As adults, we will make decisions and plans that take into account the needs of children in our community, not just in the present, but also for generations to come.
Principle 5 – Nature is efficient.
Practice – Limiting consumption and waste
Aware that Nature uses only what it needs, we too will make a diligent effort to consume only the energy we need and to reduce waste. We are determined not to waste the Earth’s precious resources while millions are hungry and lack the basic necessities of life. We will use and value renewable resources whenever possible and make every effort to reuse or recycle plastics, metals, and paper. We are committed to making our homes as energy efficient as we can and using natural means to make ourselves comfortable.
We will consume in a way that promotes health and wellbeing in our bodies and consciousness. By eliminating our use of disposable plastic items, avoiding excessive packaging, and using less paper, we can reduce our personal waste stream right away. Moving from place to place, we will use biking, walking, public transportation, and ride-sharing when it is feasible.
We commit to using seasonal foods that are produced locally when possible, and work to make sure our communities have access to healthy fresh food and safe public water supplies. We will nourish the collective body of our community and the Earth by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
Principle 6 – Nature functions cooperatively.
Practice – Thriving as a community
By looking at Nature, we can learn ways that plants, animals, and other living things think and act cooperatively. It is not possible for one person or one business to act cooperatively or be sustainable. Sustainability is a community practice. The quality of relationships in any living community is determined by its collective ability to survive and thrive. We will practice coming together with groups of neighbors and friends to collectively seek ways to make our communities more healthy and resilient. We will focus on slow, small solutions, using local resources and responses whenever possible.
By training ourselves in the practice of deep listening and positive speech, we will arrive at shared understanding in our community. Together, our excesses as a community can be curbed from within as we develop collective actions to reduce consumption and waste.
Together, we should take a clear stand against actions that harm our community and planet, even when doing so may make difficulties for us or threaten our safety. We can set limits, for example, on carbon consumption, and use limits as a means to strengthen community and sharing. We can learn from Nature to creatively use and respond to the changes taking place in our community and in the world.
Principle 7 – Nature is a system of systems.
Practice – Participating as citizens of the Earth
We are woven into the fabric of all Life and our actions have consequences. Aware of the violence and injustice done to our environment and societies, we are committed to using our time on Earth for efforts that benefit people and planet. We will do our best to select a livelihood that does not contribute to harming others. Aware of economic, political, and social systems around the world, and our interrelationship with these systems, we are determined to be responsible consumers and citizens of the Earth. We will make an effort to invest in and purchase from companies that preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the world.
We will look deeply at the collective psychological origins of the ecological crisis and the related crises of war and social injustice. By examining how ethnocentrism has manifested in our science, philosophy, and economics, we will work to resist the drive for globalization of Western culture, and oppose trade policies that lead to the devastation of both human culture and Nature. We will keep those who suffer from war, famine and poverty in our consciousness and contemplate our interconnection to help us decide how we, our community, and our country can help.
Thích Nhất Hạnh and the practice of mindfulness:
Benyus, J.M. A biomimicry primer:
Earth Holder Reading list:
Goleman, D., Bennett, L., & Barlow, Z. (2012). Ecoliterate: How educators are cultivating emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. CA: Jossey-Bass Center for Ecoliteracy:
Harding, S. What is deep ecology? Retrieved from:
Vaughan-Lee, L. (2013). Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
Edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee; The Golden Sufi Center, July 1, 2013
Weber, A. (2015). Healing ecology | finding the human in nature, chapter one: Towards a ‘Poetic Ecology.’ Kosmos Journal, Spring | Summer, 31-37

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