The Earth Precepts
by Pepper Trail
Every major religious and philosophical system has a set of commandments, injunctions, or precepts that codifies the core beliefs of the moral person. Most familiar in the West are the Judeo-Christian “Ten Commandments,” or Decalogue. Islam has a very similar list of injunctions in the Qur’an. Buddhism’s Ten Grave Precepts embody many of the same principles. In every case, these are a set of instructions on how to live with our fellow human beings in harmony: they are social precepts.
Today, humanity is awakening to the realization that our relationship with the Earth is equally in need of guidance. This planet, our home, is a biosphere, sometimes called Gaia: the Earth and all its physical, chemical, and biological systems that support life. We know of no other such pool of life in the limitless lifeless void. Until very recently, humanity took this greatest of all gifts for granted. But now, due to advances in scientific understanding and to the simple observation of cause and effect, we can no longer ignore or deny the damage that our activities are causing to the Earth.
If we are to survive as a species in a harmonious relationship with the Earth, 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.