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Why I’m not an ‘environmentalist’

By Kevin Ellerton, founder of Meditation Magazine
Kevin Ellerton, founder of Meditation Magazine

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.’

Conversations like these remind me why I founded Meditation Magazine: to have deep conversations with beautiful meditators, to dive deep into the nature of reality, to expand my consciousness, to place a megaphone at the mouth of wisdom and to help spread meditative insight, presence and awe to all corners of the Earth.

Exploring oneness

When Satish pointed out that the word for ‘human’ in Latin is the same as the word for ‘soil’, I remembered that the same is true in ancient Hebrew. In the Hebrew Bible, Adam was the first man – literally formed from the dust of the Earth.

In Hebrew, the word for ‘human’ is ‘adam’; it comes from the word ‘adamah’ which means Earth, or soil. All ancient cultures knew this fundamental truth that we modern humans struggle to remember: we are not living within the environment; we are the environment. We do not exist upon the Earth, surrounded by plants and animals and other ‘natural things’.

We are Earth, we are animals, we are natural things. We are nature, just as much as the wildest deer, the prettiest flower, the most majestic forest.

The human species is not separated from other life forms by some magical barrier of specialness. We all evolved from the same single-celled organisms, deep in the primordial sea – and before that as the inorganic matter of the seas and the stars.

We’ve lived in forests, with the squirrels and the ‘shrooms. We’ve lived in savannahs, with the lions and the whispering grass. We’ve lived in caves, with dust and rocks and bats.

Exploring oneness

Now our cities grow like mountains and forests – or anthills and termite mounds – upon the Earth. Streams of cars pulse, propelled and slowed by lights of green and red, through avenues and streets – lifeblood flowing through metropolitan veins.

We are all one planet. We are all one universe. This fundamental oneness with the Earth is what The Earth Issue of Meditation Magazine is all about.

In the next issue we’ll focus on oneness with the universe. In past issues we explored the concepts of gurus, health and female empowerment. In future issues we will look at aspects of meditation and oneness through themes like humanity, happiness, love, psychology and more.

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