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Deep Ecology

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Joanna's essay on the Council of All Beings, July 2002

The Council Of All Beings

taken from Coming Back to Life

The Council of All Beings is a communal ritual in which participants step aside from their human identity and speak on behalf of another life-form. A simple structure for spontaneous expression, it aims to heighten awareness of our interdependence in the living body of Earth, and to strengthen our commitment to defend it. The ritual serves to help us acknowledge and give voice to the suffering of our world. It also serves, in equal measure, to help us experience the beauty and power of our interconnectedness with all life.

HISTORY
The form originated in Australia in early 1985, when I was on a workshop tour bringing group practices to sustain social and environmental activists. One day after a weekend workshop, John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Center, took me to one of the last vestiges of his continent's primordial forests, saved from the timber companies by blockades mounted by John and other local protesters. On that excursion John and I discovered that we shared a passionate interest in deep ecology and the writings of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess about the "ecological self." As Buddhists, we both resonated with these concepts, finding them close to the Buddha's core teaching on the interdependence of all life. John expressed the wish that my workshops include a "deep ecological" group experience to directly challenge the anthropocentrism of industrial society.

So together, that day, we invented the Council of All Beings. It was introduced shortly afterwards, in the course of the weeklong training that culminated my workshop tour. At a camp north of Sydney, on huge flat rocks by a waterfall, some forty people took part. And soon they were taking the ritual back with them to their local communities.

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In Concert: Related Movements

In Concert: Related Movements

Other movements of thought emerging in our time, namely ecofeminism, ecojustice, and ecopsychology, share premises with deep ecology. Although they are sometimes set at odds with deep ecology, they share its recognition of the interdependence of all life forms, and much of its critique of the Industrial Growth Society. Many activists and thinkers identify with more than one of these overlapping movements, each of which brings distinctive concerns and perspectives.

Ecofeminism

Obvious parallels exist between the ways that entrenched power structures treat nature and the ways they treat women. Ecofeminism emerged in the 1970s, as scholars, writers, and organizers illumined these parallels and explored their common cultural roots. Many incisive voices argue that the war against nature waged by the Industrial Growth Society arises from more ancient patterns of domination. They question deep ecologists' focus on anthropocentrism as the source of our pathology, and challenge them to discern the androcentricism (patriarchy) which under-lies it. Their insights help us recognize the mindset bred by centuries of male rule—the dualism and objectification, the divorce of mind from body, of logic from experience; and they offer more holistic ways of knowing. Defender of the redwoods, the late Judy Ban was an ecofemi-fist who personified the deepest values of the movement. Despite assaults that shortened her life, she persisted in her commitment to non-violence, her compassionate concern for the loggers' future, and her penetrating analysis of the corporate forces destroying their livelihood and the land itself.

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