Discovering Humans’ Role in Nature Through Relationship with this Land

Approved by the Emerald Earth Land Council
March 2013

At Emerald Earth Sanctuary we are called upon to “heal the relationship between people and nature.” This is no small task, and one we approach with reverence and humility. We are exploring, through our discussions, our meditations, our studies and our actions, how to progressively weave ourselves into the integral role that humans have played in the healthy functioning of the planetary ecosystem. We’re excited to offer our work and what we learn as a contribution and model for an emerging shift in consciousness that accepts humans as a keystone species in the environment as opposed to a destructive force to be excluded. We propose that, in order to restore healthy functioning in our ecosystem, humans can and must learn to listen to the land, and to rediscover our role as a part of nature, re-introducing the ecological functions that humans historically performed. These functions included – at appropriate times and places – prayer, ritual and song, burning, pruning, harvesting, digging, and hunting. Clearly, we can’t recreate the ecosystem or cultural practices of native Californians. Any adoption of native land management or gathering practices will have to take into account the social, technological, and ecological realities of our time.

In addition, we see that other more intensive human work may be helpful in the short term to help stabilize and support a severely damaged ecosystem and reverse global climate change. This work may include in-stream restoration efforts, intensive rotational grazing, the cutting/thinning of trees, clearing of brush, and other wildlife management efforts. There are many foresters,
environmentalists, and native peoples whose efforts in these areas inform our work and help us begin to understand what would benefit this land, to hear what our ecosystem is “asking for.” One sign that we are on the right path will be when our actions both meet our needs and serve the health of the ecosystem. We already experience this when we thin crowded trees and get firewood or lumber, or when we harvest native foods in a manner that actually supports further propagation of that species. The more we derive our food, shelter, implements and livelihood directly from our local ecosystem, the more we become united with our ecosystem and the greater is our capacity to communicate with it. There is a growing network of practitioners of this approach (Holistic Resource Management, Food Forestry, Natural Building, Permaculture, etc.) that we can learn from and contribute to.

We will plan our efforts thoughtfully, and begin with pilot projects with clear intention and ritual. Our projects will be continuously adjusted as we carefully observe how the earth responds to our touch. What we learn about engaging with the land within this mindset and the systems we refine and document accordingly will be extremely valuable information for future generations of EE residents and the rest of society. Given that the ecosystem is infinitely more complicated than we can possibly comprehend, our exploration of the divine mystery is ultimately a spiritual journey. Whatever we do on the land is a sacred act, and we strive to be reverent at all times. We recognize that the songs, ritual and even the language of the people indigenous to this land grew out of and were a function of this ecosystem. Our deepest wish is to begin to reclaim that depth of relationship for our children’s children’s children.