Developing an Ecomind to Save the Planet

August 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

But as we rethink the premises underlying this worldview, we move to a different place altogether—a place where we experience ourselves and our species embedded in nature. We discover, for example, that not only do we exist in a habitat, we are a habitat. In our mouths alone live more than seven hundred species of bacteria, pioneering biologist E. O. Wilson informs us. And thankfully so, as they help fend off pathogens. In fact, Wilson reports, “most of the cells in our bodies are not human but bacterial.”

With an ecomind, we move from “fixing something” outside ourselves to re-aligning our relationships within our ecological home.

A Liberating Jolt

Of course, I’ll understand if you have big doubts about whether we humans are capable of remaking our mental frames, especially since they often lie beneath our conscious awareness. So, as a reminder of our capacity to shift perspective and its consequences, I invite you right now to try a little experiment.

Lift one hand in front of your face, palm toward you, and let your fingers part slightly to allow a bit of space between them. Focus close in, just on your palm and fingers. When I do this, I see mostly my hand, and that’s it. Now, ask me to observe the room without moving my hand, head, or eyes. Suddenly, I realize I can. Even with my hand in front of my face, I can see the entire room by merely shifting my focus, if I choose.

Similarly, we as a species may be able to shift our focus and choose a new context for viewing our world. We can see the environmental catastrophe within a vastly bigger “room”—one that connects us with all around us.

But is such dramatic change possible?

I believe we’re capable of gigantic shifts of perception, including some very sudden ones. Even as I write in early 2011, Westerners’ long-held perception of Middle Eastern autocrats being in firm control shattered in a matter of weeks. But what really allows us to believe in the possibility of remaking core assumptions is, of course, our own direct experience.

Sometimes it takes a huge jolt. When I was twenty-six, newspaper headlines and world hunger experts everywhere were showering us with the scary news: Human numbers were hitting the limits of the earth’s capacity to feed us. Massive famine was around the corner.

Were they right? I had to know. So I began contrasting these pronouncements with the data I was digging up. And soon I sat in shock: What? Scarcity isn’t the cause of hunger? It seemed impossible to believe, but yes, food was then, and still is, abundant. Redrawing that piece of my mental map led to new questions and more shifts of perception.

Today, I believe the majority of us are experiencing psychic dislocation, or what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, that unsettling feeling that one’s world just doesn’t fit together anymore. Perhaps never in human history have such waves of shock, threat, and hope—from global climate disruption to financial collapse to democratic revolutions—arrived simultaneously for so many. So my hunch is that if there were ever a moment in which big, society-wide change might be possible, this is it.

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