Looking Back, Looking Forward

Linda Sheehan in ‘Earth Day Revisited: Building A Body Of Earth Law For The Next Forty Years’ [ewl, 236-248] writes that ‘lessons from the past will shed light on our missteps, and help us illuminate a new path’.

She faults current law, based on anthropomorphic assumptions, for failing to protect the natural world. ‘History shows, however, that assumptions can change. As has been the case with science and ethics in recent years, the law can evolve’.

For example, Sheehan traces the origins of American water law (which became increasingly anthropomorphic) to California jurisprudence as it was originally under aboriginals (when property rights were anathema), then when the Spanish invaded in the 1700s, and finally during the frenzy of the Gold Rush of 1849.

Beforehand, Sheehan writes, European natural science became anthropomorphic starting in the 16th century, culminating in the mechanistic view of reality of Newton et al. However, 20th century revelations in physics and reformulations in ethics developed holistic, biocentric approaches in ecology, systems theory, and even Ecuador’s constitution. In California, it is recognized that anthropomorphic water use presents huge ethical and legal issues. But how do we come up with earth-centred laws rather than human-centred laws?

Sheehan’s ‘Recipe For Earth Law: fold in ecosystems; clarify relationships; avoid climate microwave.’ The challenge before us, she writes, ‘is to take up and expand these nascent efforts and rework our legal system to reflect mounting scientific awareness of our integrated relationships with the natural world, and our corresponding responsibility to nurture those relationships.’

In 2050, she hopes to see ‘a system of Earth law that recognises the equal, inherent rights of all Earth’s community members to struggle, thrive and evolve together’, and ‘a deeply felt awareness in the hearts and minds of all individuals, an awareness that guides how we live our lives and make our daily choices.’

But how do you get there from here, I wonder? Here’s a map, for anthropomorphicism blocks the way seeming everywhere. Rather than save the Earth, we have to humbly let the Earth save us.

I’m suddenly very tired. Usually I have lots of stamina. Maybe I should listen to my body. I wonder what it’s trying to tell me? ‘Slow down, you fool’ maybe. Maybe I’ve reached some impasse, some limit. Dunno if it’s personal, or cultural, or species-specific, or…. I dunno if it’s temporary or permanent. Some days are like that. Uniform grey.

Best go back to bed, for sleep refreshes. But faith sustains. The human condition is one of paradox, humour, and change. This tiredness too shall pass (change), and beneath the seeming duality (paradox) is the reality of this universe’s unity; you gotta laugh (humour) at our limits–laugh or bog down and cry. Pain–what happens to you–is mandatory but suffering–how you respond–is optional. You need serenity to handle pain, but courage to handle suffering, and wisdom to know the difference.

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