Our Planet Needs Earthkeepers
More Than Ever

Alberto Villoldo

The recent Special Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spotlights the urgency of immediate largescale action to tackle the alarming risks posed by global warming. This should come as no surprise—for years we’ve all watched the onset of ominous consequences of our thoughtless exploitation and abuse of the pristine planet we were entrusted with.

The shamans I trained with believe that long ago, our planet was a poisonous place for human beings, but Mother Earth buried these toxins in her belly so that the surface became a hospitable green and blue paradise. According to their ancient lore, the conquistadors would someday release these poisons, causing the earth to become a toxic wasteland, and we humans wouldn’t know how to contain these venoms. Nature itself would have to slowly recover her health.

Modern science validates this prediction. Two hundred and fifty million years ago, the earth’s atmosphere primarily consisted of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is very poisonous to humans. Then when green life appeared, the plants converted CO, into oxygen. This caused most of the airborne carbon to became trapped in the vegetation, which ended up in the subsoil and eventually became fossil fuels, buried in the deep strata of the earth.

But then we started extracting fossil fuels from the great storage pits deep within the planet and burning them—releasing poisonous hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. An estimated 18 million acres of forest (roughly the size of Panama) are lost each year. Our oceans are so full of plastic waste that even the fish we eat contain microplastics. Our weather has changed, African droughts have worsened, hurricanes are fiercer, and each year 100 to 1,000 times more species of plants and animals are disappearing from the earth than they did 500 years ago.

We’re well on our way to creating the same environment that made it impossible for most creatures to exist on Earth, yet we’ve done very little to reverse this calamitous situation. 

These actions are the result of masculine theologies that began to overwhelm tradition feminine theologies thousands of years ago. Rather than work with the resources available to them, people began to attack their neighbors in the hope of acquiring more land and wealth. No longer were they willing to settle for enough to sustain them; greed began to predominate.

In religious traditions that embrace a masculine divinity, the divine is seen as a force that resides in the heavens, far away from us. In the West, we have come to believe that to be close to God, we must work hard at our relationship with Him, praying and sacrificing. We feel that we must earn the love and attention of our Creator, Who threw us out of paradise for daring to eat from the tree of knowledge

of good and evil. According to the ancient story, we were supposed to remain like children, so in tasting the fruit that God had forbidden us, we showed our independence, roused His wrath, and doomed ourselves to living a life of hard work and misery, alleviated only by God’s grace.

However, in the more ancient, feminine theologies, we were never expelled from the garden or separated from God. (For example, the Australian Aborigines weren’t kicked out of Eden, and neither were the sub-Saharan Africans or the Native Americans.) Instead, we were given the garden

in order to be its stewards and caretakers.

According to these older beliefs, the divine puts Her life force into the seeds that we plant in the rich, fertile earth. We express that potential, expanding with divinity as we bear the fruit that feeds all of humanity. The Laika, who embrace that old, feminine theology, would say, “We are here not only to grow corn but to grow gods.” In other words, we actually participate with the divine in the co-creation of our universe. We recognize that everything in our world is sacred, including us, and that our job is to foster the fullest expression of that divinity.

Fortunately, there’s a movement to bring back the old feminine ways and values. For instance, many people are rejecting the pyramidlike chain of command that’s central to masculine theologies—the expectation that they must answer to priests, who answer to higher-level priests, who answer to popes, who answer to God.

Many also refuse to subscribe to the belief propagated by scientists that anything that can’t be measured, perceived, and controlled by using the five senses isn’t real or true. They don’t feel they must place their trust in dogma, or other people’s interpretation of the sacred. They’re beginning to look within and to nature for guidance—and they understand the imperative of protecting our endangered natural environment.

Now is the time for each of us to contribute whatever we can to heal and protect our planet. When we took Earthkeeper vows, we agreed to join in the creation of the kind of earth that we want our children’s children to inherit—a world where the rivers are clean, the air is pure, where we live in peace with each other, and where beauty and joy predominate; a planet where the experiment of life can continue in extraordinary and undreamt-of ways.

We can’t leave that up to others.

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