Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lucia Day 2012

"The North American continent, and much of South America, were cultivated ecologies, kept in near perfect balance for centuries by the subsistence economics and cultural norms of the American indigenous peoples. "

On December 12, 2012, Gaia Trust awarded the Gaia Award 2012, with a prize of 50,000 Danish kroner, to two global peace and sustainability projects, Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and Gaia Education and their five early organizers. Quoting from the announcement, "Declan Kennedy, Max Lindegger and Albert Bates traveled five continents and created GEN networks in all parts of the world from 1995-2008. They share the prize with the present head of GEN, Kosha Joubert, who just set up an African network, and May East who for 7 years now has been at the head of Gaia Education and facilitated a network in South America. Together they have been important midwifes in giving birth to a new global culture."

Hildur Jackson, at the award ceremony yesterday in Denmark, said, "They get the award on the darkest afternoon, the 12th of Dec 2012, Lucia day. That day the sun starts its return in the northern Hemisphere culminating on the 21st of Dec, the shortest day. The shortest morning is then one week later. We want to acknowledge this major turning of our sun and celebrate the birth of a new culture." What follows are my prepared remarks for that ceremony.

Remarks of Albert Bates
On the occasion of receipt of the Gaia 2012 Award

Thank you for this recognition. I just wish it were more money!

Something Hildur Jackson said in announcing the awards I want to take a moment to speak about. She said,

“Let us think of this as the beginning of a new era—the Gaian Age with the Gaian Calendar, when a new global sustainable culture will be born, a new beginning for humankind. It will be the beginning of a new consciousness, a consciousness of Oneness where we are at one with nature, each other and the cosmos.”

In 19 days I will be 66 years old. I have been hearing talk about the essential oneness of everything since I was a child, going to church every Sunday.

In the early days of the Farm, working out in the hot sun hoeing weeds, we used to say at The Farm, “Work and Body are One; Body and Mind are One; Mind and Buddha are one.”

So I had that in my background and it was an intellectual construct that I accepted. I even had a meditation on occasion where I felt like my mind merged with the universal and it was all One. So you could say that for me it was also a revealed precept.

For the past quarter of my life I have been grappling with the climate issue and I’ve worried about how humans can possibly shift away from tropisms that are deeply embedded in our evolutionary biology, such as our insensitivity to long-term consequences of foolish or vain activities. That search led me deep into the Amazon jungle, to archeological excavations of civilizations going back 8000 years. And in that place I had a new insight about the butterfly effect, because I learned how these ancient peoples, in building their cities, may have added so much carbon to the atmosphere that they created the Maunder Maximum, a period of warming that brought the Moors into Southern Europe.

And centuries later, when they vanished from diseases brought to the New World by the Conquistadors, the amount of carbon drawn out of the atmosphere to create the Amazon Rainforest was so enormous that it may have triggered the Little Ice Age, and given Sweden the means to invade Denmark over frozen ice.

And I was reminded of something I already knew but now came to see as far more profound. That the North American continent, and much of South America, were cultivated ecologies, kept in near perfect balance for centuries by the subsistence economics and cultural norms of the American indigenous peoples.

The forest where I live was once hunted by Cherokee, Creek, Euchee and Osage. They never killed all the deer, only the old ones. If they found three ginseng plants, they would only harvest one. They kept the balance. And the Earth provided them a living. They received an abundance borne of respect.

That was a steady state economy that prevailed over at least half the planet for 50,000 years or more. Each year some fields were burned for the benefit of deer and bison. Each year forests were managed for stand improvement, species diversity and ecological services. The same for the bays, estuaries, lakes and mountains. Millions of people practiced sustainability, ecological restoration, and fundamental ecology, not as some abstract or unique way, but as normal. They were just normal.

Those millions of people achieved a profound balance with the biology of the planet, with Gaia. They created harmonious connection, and it gave them time to pursue deeper self-knowledge, spiritual powers, and a culture of dance, music and poetic discourse. They had no grocery stores but they did not starve. They had no refrigeration, internet or telephones, but they had happy lives, for thousands of years.

It was not always great. Bad stuff happened. But, by and large, they came into balance with Gaia. And Gaia responded, and gave them the Holocene Epoch, a period of profound climate tranquility and productivity. As long as they kept the balance, they could have that.

When Europeans came to the Americas and began to disturb the balance, they were warned by the indigenous elders of terrible consequences, but they ignored these warnings. These warnings have been being given for 500 years and are still being ignored. Offered a choice between heaven and hell, we have chosen hell.

Mother Nature is looking out for our interests, despite all the abuse we give her. Gaia wants to heal the planet. Gaia does that. And Nature will heal us, too, if we let her. She won’t do it if we continue the abusive relationship. We may think we are winning a battle, but Nature is winning. Nature will always win. All we really need to do is to surrender.

Thank you for this moment of sharing, and for all our relations. I love you all.

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