All of the world’s religions and philosophies have developed sets of commandments or precepts that distill the core beliefs of the moral person. The Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments are the most familiar of these to most of us. Islam has a similar list of injunctions in the Qur’an. Buddhism’s Ten Grave Precepts embody many of the same principles. All of these summarize instructions on how to live with our fellow human beings in harmony: they are social precepts.
We stand today at a critical moment for humanity. If we are to survive as a species on a healthy planet, we must recognize that our environmental relationships require equal moral and practical attention as our social relationships. We need a set of Earth precepts as simple, universal, and powerful as the social precepts that have guided our social relations for so long.
The place where we all live is a biosphere, sometimes called Gaia, after the Mother Earth of Greek mythology. This biosphere is our planet Earth and all its physical, chemical, and biological systems. Until very recently, humanity lived in a state of untroubled ignorance with regard to the environment. We acted as it was in our nature to act, seeking short-term gratifications, which we gave names such as power, progress, profit, and growth. We had no consciousness of the consequences of our actions upon the biosphere.
Today, thanks to scientific advances and to the simple observation of cause and effect, we can no longer ignore our ecological impact on the Earth. We can no longer dump untreated sewage and imagine it will just wash away. We can no longer harvest all the fish that we want and imagine that there will always be more. We can no longer burn fossil fuels and imagine that the world’s climate will be unaffected.
Awakening is a slow and difficult process. But the time has come for us all to accept that Gaia’s ecological paradise is lost, and to take responsibility for creating a more healthy relationship with the Earth.
So, what are the fundamental precepts for our relationship with the Earth? As with the social precepts, there are certainly many different ways to capture the same truths. Here is one offering of a series of ten Earth precepts:
☼ Honor the Earth, upon which all life depends
☼ Consider the consequences of all environmental actions over at least 100 years
☼ Do not destabilize the Earth’s atmospheric or aquatic systems
☼ Do not depend upon energy sources that cannot be replaced
☼ Do not remove living resources, including soil, trees, and marine life, faster than they can replace themselves
☼ Preserve the world’s biological diversity: all the Earth’s species and ecosystems
☼ Exploitation of the Earth must be accompanied by restoration of the Earth
☼ Do not have more than two children
☼ Do not assert ownership over species or their genetic codes; they are not ours to claim
☼ Corporations and governments share the same environmental responsibilities as individuals; they must not be allowed to damage the Earth
Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring each of these precepts in turn. My hope is to start discussions within our region about how we can intelligently and compassionately exercise the responsibility for the Earth that, like it or not, we unquestionably have.
Until then, this is Pepper Trail, wishing you a wonderful day on this most wonderful Earth.