Tag: <span>Earth</span>

Thomas Berry Rapprochement of Cultures.

Thomas Berry: A World Citizen’s Ecological Vision

Featured Image . Königssee, Schönau am Königssee, Germany. Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash.

“ As we enter the 21st century, we observe a wide-spread awakening to the wonder of the Earth.  This we can observe in the writing of naturalists and environmental organizations dedicated to preserving the integrity of the planet. The human venture depends absolutely on this quality of awe and reverence and joy in the Earth.  As soon as we isolate ourselves from these currents of life; and from the profound mood that these engender within us; then our basic life-satisfactions are diminished.” (1)

The Great Work.

                   The restoration of reverence and joy for life within Nature is what Thomas Berry; a cultural historian, calls “the Great Work.  “History is governed by those over-arching movements; that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe. 

Creating such a movement might be called the Great Work of a people…The Great Work now; as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner… The deepest cause of the present devastation; is found in a mode of consciousness that has established a radical discontinuity between the human and other modes of being and the bestowal of all rights on the humans. 

Reverend Thomas Berry, American Catholic priest and “ecotheologian”. By Caroline Webb, http://caroline-webb.com/, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The other-than-human.

The other-than-human modes of being are seen as having no rights.  They have reality and value only through their use by the human.  In this context, the other-than-human becomes totally vulnerable to exploitation by the human, an attitude that is shared by all four of the fundamental establishments that control the human realm : governments, corporations, universities, and religions – the political, economic, intellectual, and religious establishments.  All four are committed consciously or unconsciously to a radical discontinuity between the human and the non-human.

                   In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other-than-human.  In this community each being has its own role to fulfil, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity.  Every being has its own voice. 

Every being declares itself to the entire universe;  and it’s enters into communion with other beings.  This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.”

Community of Life on Earth.

         Today, humanity is challenged to discover – or rediscover – this single integrated community of life on Earth in terms of ideas, images, myths, rituals, and practices that are meaningful to people today. 

Berry, who has written on the religions of India and on Buddhism and Chinese culture, is well aware that in earlier times, there have been teachings which stressed the kinship of all life.  In The Great Work, he quotes many examples from the Native Americans who had a strong sense of living within Nature, a sense of place, and the need for sympathy toward animal and plant life. 

Berry’s book The Great Work.

However, he knows that the shift from a human-centered to an earth-centered norm of reality and value cannot be done just by a return to past teachings and insights.  As he writes “One of the most essential roles of the ecologist is to create the language in which a true sense of reality, of value, and of progress can be communicated to our society.”  One of the useful aspects of Berry’s book The Great Work is a well-annotated bibliography which gives a good overview of different writers and approaches on the subject – even those authors with whom Berry disagrees.

     Berry highlights greed and loss of sensitivity as reasons for ecological destruction.  “The profoundly degraded ecological situation of the present reveals a deadening or paralysis of some parts of human intelligence and also a suppression of human sensitivities.” 

However Berry is hopeful that concern for the environment must become the central organizing principle of civilization.  “There is now developing a profound mystique of the natural world; we now experience the deep mysteries of existence through the wonders of the world about us.”

                   Berry writes well and has a broad vision.  The Great Work; it is a book; that one shares with others to widen the circle of those; active to develop an ecologically-based world view such as that of the Association of World Citizens.


1) Thomas Berry. The Great Work. Our Way into the Future

                             (New York: Bell Tower, 1999)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Mother Earth Education of World Citizenships.

The Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with…

Photo by Ben Tarver on Unsplash

Basaseachi Waterfall, Cuauhtémoc City, Mexico.

International Mother Earth Day on 22 April each year was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009.  Its aim is to promote living in harmony with Nature and to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations.  The concept of living in harmony with Nature was seen by the U.N. delegates as a way “to improve the ethical basis of the relationship between humankind and our planet.” It is the biosphere we all belong to which is becoming the common heritage of mankind which we must defend.

Mother Earth

The term “Mother Earth” is an expression used in different cultures to symbolize the inseparable bonds between humans and Nature. Pachamama is the term used in the Andean cultures of South America. The Earth and the ecosystem is our home. We need to care for it as a mother is supposed to care for her children and the children to show love and gratitude in return. However, we know from all the folk tales of the evil stepmother as well as the records of psychoanalytic sessions that mother-children relations are not always relations of love, care and gratitude. Thus to really live in harmony with Nature requires deep shifts in values and attitudes, not just “sustainable development” projects.

The United Nations.

The United Nations began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm and has continued with the 1992 Rio Declaration followed by the Rio plus 20 conference 20 years later.  However the concept of living in harmony with Nature is relatively new as a U.N. political concept. Yet it is likely to be increasingly a theme for both governmental policy making and individual action.

As Rodney Collin wrote in a letter “It is
extraordinary how the key-word of harmony occurs everywhere now, comes
intuitively to everyone’s lips when they wish to express  what they hope for.  But I feel that we have hardly yet begun to
study its real meaning. Harmony is not an emotion, an effect.  It is a whole elaborate science, which for
some reason has only been fully developed in the realm of sound.  Science, psychology and even religion are
barely touching it as yet.”  (1)

Resolutions in the U.N. General Assembly can give a sense of direction. They indicate that certain ideas and concepts are ready to be discussed at the level of governments. However, a resolution is not yet a program of action or even a detailed framework for discussion. “Living in harmony with Nature” is at that stage on the world agenda. As Citizens of the World, we strive to develop an integrated program of action.


1) His letters have been assembled after his death by
his wife into a book:

Collin. The Theory of Conscious Harmony 
(Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1958)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens