This article first appeared in our World Environment Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 02 June 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Until last week I might have called myself an environmentalist. That was before I met Vandana Shiva and Satish Kumar.
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the new Earth Issue of Meditation Magazine, and Vandana was one of the last interviews on our docket. I’d heard people describe her as a fiery, passionate ‘environmentalist’, and also a deeply spiritual human being.
Naturally, one of the first questions I asked Vandana was: do your spirituality and environmentalism go hand in hand? Her answer surprised me, then delighted me, then forever changed the way I think about ‘environmentalism’.
We are soil beings
‘I’ve never used the word environmentalism’, Vandana said. ‘When people introduce me as an ‘environmentalist’, I say ‘I’m not that!’ Because ‘environment’ is that which surrounds you. I’m not talking about that which surrounds you. I’m talking about that which gives you life.’
In five sentences, Vandana Shiva reframed what it means to be a protector and steward of Mother Earth.
It’s not about protecting something outside of ourselves; it’s not about some noble quest, or feeling proud of ourselves for ‘doing the right thing’. It’s about realising our deep, existential connection with our mother and, indeed, with ourselves.
Satish Kumar, the founder of Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine, expanded on this realisation soon after we got off our call with Vandana.
‘Human beings think that they are separate from nature – that they are separate from the Earth’, Satish said; ‘but that is not the case.’
‘The word ‘human’ comes from ‘humus’, and ‘humus’ means soil’, Satish continued. ‘Human beings are literally soil beings. We are made of the Earth. The word ‘nature’ comes from Latin, and means ‘birth.’ ‘Natal’ and ‘nature’ come from the same origin. We ARE nature. Our nationality is nature. ‘Nation’ and ‘native’ also come from ‘natal’. If you are a native of New York, it means you were born in New York. Natal, nation, native – all these words come from the same root. We are born, so we are nature. How can we say we are separate from nature? It’s a complete misunderstanding.’