Spiritual Ecology: Challenges of Today


There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.”

–Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

In 1981 we learned from the Australian Elizabeth Tuchman Matthews that the world as we knew it would be totally lost by about the year 2050 if we did not immediately begin efforts to decrease drastically our output of toxins into the environment and other practices that were destroying the balanced eco-systems maintained by Nature for thousands of years. In 2013 David Suzuki stated that environmentalism had failed; I interpreted that to mean that we the people who create the institutions of the world, had failed to implement policies that would work toward the changes such as Tuchman Matthews was suggesting.

We have been called environmentalists, tree huggers, radicals, nature lovers, and probably a lot of other things. Earth muffins is one I heard recently; I like that, as it reminds me of mushrooms, which fascinate me. I find these labels positive. “Radical” means to be rooted, like a tree, incidentally. Hugging is great, Nature is worthy of our love. Even civil disobedience has somehow acquired a negative connotation, though without it we should not have gained certain rights..

It has been shown that Gaia is a living breathing entity (for those who needed to know), which exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, maintains climate systems, brings life into being and re-uses matter in different forms. She builds mountains, she destroys, she changes. Obviously we would not exist but for Her. In our times it has become more and more apparent that many of our systems cannot be separated out: if we are to preserve Earth for some kind of future for life as we’ve known it, we need to look at the burning of oil and gas along with war, rampant capitalism, materialism, pesticides, fertilizers, and mining and many industries—together, and look at their outcomes.

That some governments have been strung along by multi-nationals is harsh enough, but that so many are still called “democratic” is a problem. Now in 2014 we learn (from OXFAM) that the 85 wealthiest people in the world hold a monetary value equal to that held by the poorest 3.5 billion people, or one half the population of the world. At the same time, in twenty countries taxes to the rich have failed to rise. This is where rampant capitalism has taken us. Looking at this from the viewpoint of Ziraat, I think, shows extreme violation of the rights of persons, of cultures, and of all living beings and many aspects of Earth Herself.

It must be seen as one whole now: rape of the planet, terribly unequal distri-

bution of wealth, hegemony of corporations, big agriculture, nuclear power, gas fracking, disregard for rights of indigenous peoples, child soldiers, war, famine, starvation, displacement of peoples, genocide, tar sands, and more. In the US there are roughly 4000 nuclear bombs sitting, getting old, waiting to be sent off to explode, yet the biggest danger is they can be set off where they are. We still have nuclear power plants around the world, and some built on fault lines, even after the disasters of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. We seem determined to ravage the Mother Earth which has sustained us for all of our long aeons here…a kind of species induced Matricide/suicide.

A young Canadian, Rob Stewart, has produced an excellent film, Revolution, which he hopes can start changing the world. In it he points out that if current fishing and polluting practices continue, all life in the oceans will end around 2048. CO2 is killing the seas. Our human species has produced dead zones in the oceans; the BP spill a few years back has caused a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as big as the state of Connecticut. In such actions we kill Life; we kill the sustenance of Life, and lose touch with our own be-ing and aliveness. In 1958 Charles Keeling measured the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and it stood at 315 parts per million. In 2013 it had risen to 400 ppm. One estimate puts the current rate of species extinction at 3 per hour, or 504 per week, about 6,550 in three months. By the end of this century about one half of all species may be gone, most or all humans with them.

In his book Mankind in Amnesia, the 20th Century psychiatrist and inter-disciplinarian Immanuel Velikovsky writes of our unconscious urge to destruction as a species. He links this to deep unconscious memories of cataclysmic Earth events in the past which not only brought terror and destruction through celestial battles, fire, flood, plagues and starvation, but more than once the near decimation of human and other life. Velikovsky shows how we keep re-creating versions of these traumatic events, and how in order to change these patterns we must realize these causes of our fears and begin to act with conscious purpose. Otherwise, he thought, we are doomed to destroy ourselves.

Ziraat can have relation to all aspects of life and to all our activity in the world, whether it be recycling, fish farming, gas and oil extraction, politics, peace-building, poverty, science, the hiding of truth. It relates to equality, Wall Street—all of all. One can use the term “Eco Feminism,” though to me “Feminism” implies the “eco-.” To me Feminism means in part, the honoring of our belonging to Nature, and the sacred duty to Life, which includes the rights of all peoples, and also all life on our planet. Here I shall use the term Ziraat instead, and if Ziraat be in part a bridge, it can be the bridge between us and the Nature out of which we came, and to whom we owe our lives to preserve.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”–Arundhati Roy

Most all of our ancestors had, as their birthright, enough oxygen, the had pure water, clean air, workable soil without poisonous additives. They did not grapple with overpopulation. The food they ate was without added chemicals: it was all organic. Why do we not have these things as our birthright? Simply because industry, huge corporations, multi-nationals have usurped these rights. This is true not only in capitalist economies. Vandana Shiva, in India is one great champion of our right to free, clean water, to land, and to grow plants from our own seeds—not GMO or corporate-produced seed. Not bottled or costly or contaminated water. There are many organizations working to end the terrible tyranny of corporate powers which have a hold on food production, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and many others. Boycotting these giants in some cases can be problematic, especially by people who do not have financial resources to buy elsewhere.

Vandana Shiva points out that the profit-motive of industrial approaches to agriculture is actually contributing to malnutrition, the depletion of viable soil, to increases in disease, lack of access to nutrition, and to the lack of work affecting millions of women and peasants around the world. She shows that agriculture traditionally has been mostly in the hands of women (who of course had their own seeds) who over the centuries have become expert farmers and have not depleted the soil—producing higher yields and more nutritious food than Big Agriculture is able to do. And she shows how small farming is able to feed all people, not just those with money. Food, nutritious organic food, is a natural right.

In much of our industrialized world in the last eighty years or so the medical establishment has also usurped what traditionally had been a huge territory of the work of women. It has always been women’s practice to learn healing techniques, to learn about herbs and remedies, and to keep supplied with the tools of the trade to use with their families, friends, and neighbors. Now much of the medical community takes a superior attitude to practices shown through the centuries to have great benefit. And in many countries where “healthcare” is provided, it does not cover most traditional methods, even though this would be less costly.

In the US 46.5 million people are living in poverty. The 400 wealthiest people in the US have more money than the combined wealth of the 150 million poorest. The top 100 CEO’s of 2013 made between $18,755,923 and $96,160,695. In 2010 the US spent $682 billion on the military and arms; this is more than that spent by all other countries combined. This is where capitalism and the idea of military “security” and military economics has led us. And the rift between rich and poor keeps widening. As the population bursts, it would now take four planet Earths to sustain all peoples at the level of those in Europe, Japan, North America and like societies! Helena Norberg-Hodge, the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, has written on how globalization actually has fostered population growth.

There are many co-operatives and campaigns for buying locally. There are car co-ops, housing co-ops, credit unions. Some cities offer bicycles for use of residents. There are groups educating about the pollution and violations of human rights by mining companies; big banks invest in these companies. It is possible, as people become more aware, that larger boycotting efforts will be made. And an alternative would be to adopt a legal charter of rights for Gaia as well as life on this planet—then many businesses would be found in violation of basic human (plant, animal, sea, air) rights. Highly self-sustaining eco-villages can offer people healthy alternatives to the chaotic eenvironments many experience now.

In the past 238 years in the U.S. For the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence has been forgotten, it seems. On July 4th, 1776, the United States Congress adopted this Declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson. From paragraph 2:

We hold that…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;…But, when a long train of abuses and ursurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them [people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

These words can be seen to defend democracy, and although Jefferson did not forsee the hegemony of the military industrial complex, the stock market, and the alliance between corporations and elected government officials, we can see that his intent was to protect a society from such eventualities. In some nations with large populations, a great percentage of people do not bother to vote; to make the needed changes one change will probably have to be to recruit masses of voters.

It is likely that with the “free” trade agreements made by many industrialized countries, democracy really can no longer have play. For instance, certain environmental strictures put in place by a nation could find that country in a position to be sued by a trade partner, depending on the prior agreement. In a democracy we have the right to elect a socialist government over a capitalistic one, but trade agreements then would have to be torn up, no doubt with a price in the millions of dollars. In a democratic locality, province or country people would have the freedom to ban genetically modified foods—it will be interesting to see how we do that in North America.

Any practices and policies and means that contribute to lowering oxygen levels, increasing carcinogens, depleting forests, acidifying oceans and melting glaciers at an astounding rate, need to be defined as contributing to the insured loss of life on planet Earth, including the human species. As the oceans lose salt, they will be able to store less Co2. Plankton is being depleted, which also takes up CO2. Phytoplankton is the foundation of all life in the ocean. And with increasing acidification no sea life will be able to build skeletons. Shells cannot grow, as CO2 removes carbonates. Today we have 100 ppm more CO2 in the oceans than 150 years ago. Now in 2014 we learn that one hundred sixty billion tons of ice each year are melting in Antarctica: twice the amount of four years ago.

There are not so many roads to take on the path to rectify the situation we are in: one is the road of education (as done so well in the film Revolution), another is the road to end the power of corporations and governments to make decisions that continue the destruction. Another is to promote co-operatives and credit unions and the boycotting of plastics, chemical fertilizers, multinationals and their products. This can go along with creating products and jobs that involve sustainable solutions. Vandana Shiva points out that the big businesses of soy, corn and canola—and the GMO production of these and others, is destroying the biodiversity that has given this planet such productivity. And in the case of soy, this can also come with hormone imbalances to humans consuming it.

There seems to be a huge reluctance to rectifying the crisis we are currently in. Is this denial? Is it just too hard to come to a place where all the countries come together and decide this is the ultimate problem to solve? Is it that the rich and the holders of power actually hold so much control and that their most important goal is to keep raping the Earth without a care for the next seven generations and more?

Two great North American sufi teachers come to mind. Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti, Samuel Lewis, spent a lot of energy working toward conversion of sea water into fresh water. And his friend Samcher Bryn Beorse worked on the project of gleaning solar energy from the sea. Samcher’s main concern was the preservation of human life. Many organizations are dedicated to providing alternatives to the destructive practices that have led to the current situation. Among others, Helena Norberg-Hodge in her book Ancient Futures: Lessons From Ladakh for a Globalizing World, points to the ways that well intentioned efforts can end up making conditions worse in situations where bio-diversity, and the social and ecological strengths of a society are overlooked.

There is the question of sustainability; the question of population increase; the matter of species decimation at unimaginable rates. There is the situation of alienation so intense that these issues are not faced. Deforestation has contributed to loss of oxygen as well as of productive soil, and loss of species. We can look at these and related issues as one reality facing our species. This way perhaps it can seem less daunting. Children, young people who are inheriting this destabilized world have enthusiasm and energy to tackle the challenges. We need to join them, encourage them, as Rob Stewart has in his campaign to save the sharks. Perhaps one day we actually can have the rights of bio-diversity and cultural diversity adopted by the United Nations.

If we are to create a sustainable Nature/Life exchange, then we may have to aid people in convincing themselves to reject GMO products, which means insisting that they be identified (while they exist), for we cannot reject what we cannot identify. We can reject Wall Street, we can reject banks, stop buying things wrapped in plastic, stop eating toxic foods and using products containing chemicals that are a threat to life. We can make an effort to research natural healing methods rather than going first to pharmaceuticals. Education is paramount, or we cannot bring public attention to these matters. We can demand non-gas-powered vehicles and adequate public transportation. We can insist that cities and towns foster neighborhood organic gardens. It is even possible that we can end the huge disparity between rich and poor: if someone is rich, then certainly someone is in poverty. Why do we allow this? If we make sure we have democratic societies we can change things. We can voluntarily reduce population—in theory this would be one of the easier changes to make.

In the practice of Ziraat some of us use movements and words to honor the elements when doing the elemental breaths. For Earth: hands palms down toward Earth, feeling the vibration. “O all-productive Mother Earth, I humbly offer my homage to thee.” Gaia has been poisoned, her forests stripped, her lands mined to leave deadly toxins. For Water: hands moving down with fingers moving like rippling water. “O all-purifying Water, I willingly offer my homage to thee.” Water has been contaminated, the seas are dying, much-needed water is wasted in huge industrial enterprises. For Fire: arms crossed at wrists with hands like flames. “O all-consuming Fire, I wholeheartedly offer my homage to thee.” Fire has gone out of balance to scorch Earth with the loss of ozone and the rape of forests. At the same time, more solar energy reaches Earth each day than all energy used in a day. For Air: hands, arms swaying back and forth. “O all-pervading Air, I gladly offer my homage to thee.” Air has lost vital oxygen, has been terribly polluted. For ether: turning very slowly with hands, arms barely moving. This takes us to a very slow pace—away from unthinking hustle and bustle. “O ether, essence of all, I passively offer my homage to thee.” With our consciousness, in Ziraat, of our being as part of Gaia, and our life as Her life, we can become a forefront of the creation of re-balancing, of an effort to bring Earth back to the Life-sustaining organism She has been. While we are in this Life, in our bodies, connecting with the sacred elements and sacred Life, we are conscious of the great miracle and mystery; we thus become dedicated to healing and sustaining this life force.

The fact that one does not need to be a sufi murid to be initiated in Ziraat means that like the Dances of Universal Peace it has the potential to reach far, to people who want to heal our species, our planet. Ziraat can be our inner guide in these challenging times. The Guidance is there, and it is for us to accept it. We are powerful—more powerful than huge institutions, than dictatorships, than the unhealthy plans of conniving minds. Because we can access the Power of Allah, of Quan Yin, Great Spirit, and with open hearts help other hearts to open. For in reality, what is the mess confronting us but one created by alienation from our own Nature? Those of us here now live in a time of the worst crisis our species has brought to Gaia. In India Prakriti refers to the living force which supports Life—the creative process, the feminine principle from which all life arises. With Ziraat we choose to honor Prakriti; and in these times, all must make a choice.

Khabira Candace Holt

March, 2014


4 thoughts on “Spiritual Ecology: Challenges of Today

    1. Well, I do think about Big Agriculture a lot, in fact, we had a dairy here in BC which was having workers BEAT cows, thinking that would increase milk production. It was absolutely sickening. Having raised goats and bees and chickens in my farming days, you bring up an issue that is very important, and when I mention Vandana Shiva Big Ag is always in the back of my mind, as she is like the antidote to it.


  1. hi khabira,

    glad to have been sent your article on ziraat by my friend maitreya stevens.
    i am curious as to what your thoughts on ziraat and eco-spirituality are beyond just the elemental salutes? have you had thoughts about more linkages between planet and ziraat?

    i deeply appreciate your commentary and whole heartedly agree. one of the problems is that for many people this seems like a daunting and insurmountable task to confront all these different huge power-control issues especially with regards to democracy and corporate agendas…going off the grid seems to be one option, but isolating in many ways.

    would love to hear your thoughts.
    wishing healing for the earth –

    akbar chris miller


    1. Akbar, Thank you so much. For me Ziraat encompasses our relationship with all creation, the closest part being Earth, which has brought us forth. Yes, it does all seem insurmountable, and that totally overwhelmed me for a period; then I got to a point where, realizing the outcome may not be what I’d like, I just focused on living in Truth and being of service as well as I can. I truly think that world peace must come first, if we are to turn things around, as the challenges facing us demand that regions and nations cooperate. I think that the human species must do a lot of healing to achieve peace. It is the power of love, of heart, and realization of what Life is and who (HU) we are that maybe can turn the way the winds blow. –Khabira


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