Care of the Environment

Since the adoption of the latest care-of-the-environment (COE) goal1 at the 2013 World Conference, there has been a huge increase in COE activities—listening projects, workshops, Sustaining All Life (SAL)2 events, and so on. Many RC leaders have included thinking about COE in their workshops and classes, often focusing on the three parts of the goal: becoming fully aware, ending all oppression, and working on feelings of needing more resource.

Rational Island Publishers has published the second issue of the journal Sustaining All Life and a pamphlet Sustaining All Life: Overcoming the Destructive Policies of the Past. The pamphlet has been translated into thirteen languages. On the RC website you can find articles, photos, and videos about COE and SAL and an outline for leading on COE. Diane Shisk, the Alternate International Reference Person for the RC Communities, has done lots of research and writing to help us become fully aware. Tim Jackins has written great articles to inspire us toward next steps.

Barbara Love, the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People, and Diane Shisk have led two workshops on COE and ending racism. Julian Weissglass, the International Commonality Reference Person for Wide World Change, has led a workshop on COE and ending war. Since 2013 I have led COE workshops in the Netherlands, England, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. There have been COE conferences in the Basque Country and Canada. A European COE conference, near Bonn, Germany, is planned for this July. On most Mondays I lead international Skype groups in which I support RC leaders in building COE work.


I have started to include more work on genocide at the events I lead. I learned more about the genocide of Native peoples at a workshop on Frisian liberation led by Marcie Rendon, the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans, and at gatherings with Basque, Aboriginal, and Maori people. There is wisdom that is on the verge of dying out. Indigenous people are close to giving up hope about their minds being included in lifesaving policies. Distress recordings from genocide, along with the elimination of their cultures, religions, languages, and histories, have left Native people with death and dying in their minds. They, and their allies, discharging on their earliest connection to the land and the loss of their language, culture, and spiritual beliefs will speed up the work on ending all oppression.


People targeted by racism all over the planet have experienced and will experience the harshest effects of environmental damage. Thus work on racism continues to be central to our work on the environment. We can make sure that at any event we lead on the environment we also work on racism.

We white people have to keep working on our racism and isolation and make room in the center for leaders targeted by racism. If we all, people targeted by racism and white people, work together on environmental justice, our awareness will grow, we will build further unity, and ending all oppression will be more within our reach.


More and more women have been talking about male domination in the environmental movement. At a number of RC workshops, men have sat in the back and done mini-sessions with each other while the women have taken up the main space. This has opened doors in fresh directions. Empowering female leadership is a big step forward in the work of caring for the environment.


Young people and young adults need to be visible and leading in COE work. They are the future for human life, and their vision and power are hugely important. In every workshop or class, young people should be asked to share their thinking and play a leading role. At the same time, we adults cannot leave the mess we’ve made for the younger generation to clean up. Each individual is responsible for protecting and restoring the water, air, and land.


The exploitation of poor people has increased everywhere, along with the gap between rich and poor. And poor people, along with people targeted by racism, have experienced and will experience the harshest effects of environmental damage. In RC we have had more workshops on classism. We are getting a better understanding of how all minds need to work together and how the voices of poor people are key to having a real picture of our situation and a fair future for all. The workers in the factories and the cleaners, painters, miners, poor farmers—the people who do the “dirty,” lowest-paid work—know how bad their work is for their health and for nature. But oppression makes them silent. Then the middle class more easily believes the lies about the “good” side of capitalism.

Most of the people who take the profit are bystanders who early in their lives were made to stop thinking for themselves and “think” in oppressive ways. They learned to live in fear and isolation and let go of their natural caring. Emotionally they often have very poor lives. They pay a high price for their “privileges.” But they can discharge on greed and reclaiming their minds and integrity. This will loosen their rigid fearful survival patterns. They can listen to poor and working-class people and reclaim their connection with humans and the earth.


Because my first language is Frisian, all who have attended workshops I’ve led have been confronted with language liberation. Many who haven’t been accustomed to interpretation have liked the slower pace. They’ve been able to absorb more of the theory. Discharging on reclaiming the language of their ancestors has been a step toward reclaiming their early roots. It has become clear that working on language accelerates the reclaiming of our strength, power, and connection.


Sustaining All Life (SAL) has sent delegations to the last two United Nations climate talks—COP21 in Paris, France, and COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco—and it now has NGO (non-governmental organization) status with the United Nations. The tools of RC are becoming known in the world of environmental activism. In 2017 SAL will send delegates to COP23 in Bonn, Germany, and in 2018 a team will go to COP24 in Poland.

Activists have been interested in what we in RC have to offer. Their work often feels scary, frustrating, and discouraging, but a sense of urgency can make them neglect or suppress these feelings. When they’ve experienced being listened to, many of them have found it irresistible. They’ve kept coming back, over and over again, to SAL workshops, caucuses, forums, and classes. And they haven’t backed away when they’ve learned about how feelings can block flexible thinking and action. They’ve been motivated to try RC, to help themselves and their organizations become more successful.


When we find out what climate change can do to life on earth, undischarged feelings can put us in a grim, urgent, pushy spot. To be honest, this is not very attractive. It is also not very effective. It scares people and may push them into numbness, which can make us feel even more urgent.

When we started our RC work on care of the environment, most of us who attended COE workshops were very active environmentalists and we worked on urgency at every workshop. After a number of years we saw how we needed to work on where we had given up on people early in our lives and reclaim being close to family and friends. Wanting to convince others is usually about the session we needed back then—and that we still need, many times.

At this moment, when many more RCers are becoming COE leaders, we need to put working on urgency on our agenda again. The world needs us confident, hopeful, loving, patient, relaxed, and pleased with all that is benign and all that we do. It needs us well rested and like a rock in the storm. All other feelings can help us have the best sessions ever.


At workshops I have talked about four truths that can contradict feelings of being alone, numb, bad, or wrong—or better than or superior:

Everything in our universe is connected to everything. This means that we are connected to everything. Being aware of this is key for the survival of many species, including our own. Destroying even one species can lead to the destruction of a whole ecosystem, including disasters like floods, expanding deserts, and more extinction—for example, the dying of swarms of bees.

Everything alive is valuable and important. Each of us is as valuable as everyone else; we each matter as much as every human does. And all of life is precious; it should not be exploited, misused, or treated as something only for making profit.

No one is alone. Divisions and putting one human above another lead to confusions about not belonging, not being wanted or welcome. And in our early years we humans were forced to give up on humanness and connection, so we often feel alone. We have to decide to reclaim our connectedness. We are not alone—we never are.

Longing for more leads to isolation and suffering. Most of us have frozen longings to be appreciated, noticed, and wanted. Because of this we are vulnerable to consuming more than we rationally need. We accept the lies of the oppressive society and spend a big part of our lives working to achieve more status and a higher income. The cost is the loss of important parts of our humanness and the destruction of a lot of life on planet earth. Each unique person is a miracle, like all of life. Working on greed and giving up irrational needs is essential to integrity and real happiness.


The destructive, irrational functioning of our society is damaging to everyone. As Co-Counselors we can discharge on racism, genocide, classism, and all the oppressions as we decide to care for the environment. We can take the current opportunity to work together to end environmental degradation as a step toward fundamentally changing oppressive policies.

Here is a quote from Harvey Jackins:

“The natural attitude of humans toward the land, the sea, and the air and toward all other living things is one of respect, love, and a deep concern for the existence and welfare of each part of the web of life into which we are born. It is a deep hurt to have one’s inborn sense of his or her relationship with nature denied or distorted by the culture he or she is born into.”

Wytske Visser

International Commonality Reference Person for the Care of the Environment

Ljouwert, Fryslân, the Netherlands

(Present Time 188, July 2017)

1 That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.

Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.

The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.

2 Sustaining All Life (SAL) is a project of the RC Communities in which Co-Counselors bring what we’ve learned in RC to people outside of RC who are working or wanting to work to stop climate change and the degradation of the environment.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00