Embrace Your Ecological Self

Foster a new relationship with the Earth and other life by connecting with your ecological self and overcoming anthropocentrism.


| December 2014



Rainforest deforestation

Finding your ecological self means transitioning from, "I am protecting the rainforest" to "I am part of the rainforest protecting myself."

Photo by Fotolia/Richard Carey

Coming Back to Life (New Society Publishers, 2014), by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, shows how grief, anger and fear are healthy responses to threats to life, and when honored can free us from paralysis or panic, through the practice of the Work that Reconnects. In the following excerpt from Chapter 3, “The Basic Miracle: Our True Power and Nature,” Macy and Brown address the importance of embracing your ecological self and being interdependent with other Earthly life.

Something inside me has reached to the place
Where the world is breathing.

— Kabir

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one
directly, affects all indirectly.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The view of reality emerging now is breathtakingly new to those of us who have been shaped by the Industrial Growth Society. Supported by postmodern science and ancient spiritual traditions, it brings a fresh understanding of our relationship to the world and of powers within us for its healing. Liberating us from constricted notions of who we are and what we need, it brings us home to our true nature — in league with the stars and trees of our thrumming universe. This view is basic to the Great Turning and fundamental to the work this book presents.

We people shaped by western civilization have struggled to master the natural world around us. We have studied the Earth and the cosmos, determined to discover the essential building blocks of life. We have acted as if we could know and control the world. We came to think of ourselves as made of better stuff than the animals and plants and rocks and water around us. Our technologies have amplified disastrously the ecological and social effects of that kind of thinking. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson commented on this:

If you put God outside and set him vis-a-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. As you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against … other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables.