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Women Reclaiming Our Physical Power
Teresa Enrico
September 30 or
October 1

My Personal Connection to Care of the Environment

Following a care of the environment workshop led by Wytske Visser (the International Commonality Reference Person for the Care of the Environment), in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, in October 2016, some people shared their thoughts about their personal connection to care of the environment:

The environment is essential to caring for ourselves, our families, and our communities, so it means everything to me.

Europe was the land that first touched my heart, my skin, myself. Then came the people. Reconnecting with my Indigenous family gives me the strength to hold everything important together. My Indigenous Australian great nephew knows who all his people are. Knowing who we are is powerful. As an RCer of mixed heritage and a Sami leader, building my family connections helps me to continue caring for the environment, with Indigenous knowledge, people, and leadership. 

China was an agricultural country. Everything had a god. The sun had a god, the moon had a god, the river had a god, the mountain had a god, the fire had a god. We respected, cherished, and feared nature because we thought that everything in nature was a gift from a higher power. We understood that it was vital to live in harmony with nature. When we planted we prayed, and when we harvested we showed our gratitude and respect. 

According to the Chinese saying tian shi dili renhe, we have to have three elements to achieve anything: tian shi (the climate/weather), dili (the land), and renhe (the unity of the people).

This is my connection to care of the environment, handed to me from my ancestors. 

My personal connection to care of the environment is related to my position in the world as a female. I have always cared for the environment. I have recycled and grown food collectively. I have included young people in these activities and made them aware of our habits of consumption.

My awe of the ocean has inspired many art works—for example, prints that tell the story of the organisms that are the base of our entire food chain. My love for the sea has connected me to ocean conservation organisations and other activities. I walk my local beach weekly, often with friends, while collecting discarded plastic. I participate in a local bi-yearly “clean-up-the-beach” activity. Wytske asked us to think big, to set big goals. One of my goals is to finish a “stop-motion” film story about phytoplankton’s role in keeping the earth clean. 

Age oppression pulls me into survival distress. My main challenge is to end the pull to have more things and money as security.

I love this world. But claiming it as mine, claiming responsibility for my impact on it, is still foreign to me. How can I break through the individualism that has me overly concerned with a better life for myself? How can I stay connected to the environment, to other people? How can “I” become “we”? How can I be one with the world? How do I shift from wanting to get ahead [be materially successful] to wanting to stay with people? How do we move together—perhaps more slowly, but together? How can I see my welfare as connected to the greater good? 

Someone at the workshop said, “I wasn’t trained to be an ally.” I wasn’t trained to be part of something bigger that served all involved. My family organisation served my father. How do I discharge to a way of being that I don’t know, that wasn’t modelled? I can sense that it’s possible. This relaxes my mind and opens my heart. How do I keep choosing this? 

I am connected to all living things. I am connected to the planet and to all the humans who live on it. I can discharge the early desperation that feeds my patterns of greed. I can listen to other dear Co-Counsellors about their early desperation. I can set big goals and speak up in the world. I can keep discharging my white racism and be the completely powerful woman that I am. I can be fully female and put women first. Everything I do is connected to the care of the environment. 

When I was a little boy, I was completely connected to my environment. I played outdoors. I watched the dust motes dancing in the sunlight. I explored the air, the trees, the dirt, and the snow. That was my native way of being. There was little distance between the environment and me.

Then my well-meaning parents, grandparents, and other caregivers, who lived in a capitalist society, showed me their disconnection from the environment in characteristic fashion. That gave me a set of hurts from which I have since struggled to heal. They have disconnected me from my caring and, more so, made it difficult for me to act powerfully when I do remember my caring.

I am part of the environment. I am an environment. Healing the hurts means caring for my own environment! 

As a working-class leader, I was not surprised that the lunchtime table of activists was made up of seventeen middle-class or owning-class people and four raised-poor or working-class people. This balance needs to change.

Wytske gave working-class and raised-poor people the direction, “Be big, and set big goals.” So my personal goal right now is to lead raised-poor and working-class people to take their rightful place in caring for the environment, including in activism. Raised-poor and working-class people are brilliant and can see what needs to happen to set the world right.

As a child growing up, I lived close to acres and acres of bushland. From an early age my siblings and I explored the bush at every opportunity. On school holidays in summer I spent days wandering and discovering. I would lie under trees and look at the clouds and sky for hours. I would follow creeks and streams to see where they went and watch birds, lizards, and insects. I would climb trees and pick flowers. I had freedom to wander in beautiful places and to feel part of the environment I was surrounded by. I loved it deeply and treasure those times.

The past: being raised on a farm amongst nature and animals. Now the future: being able to love nature, animals, and humans together.

The natural environment is so beautiful it keeps me in touch with benign reality. I grow hardy plants that can manage the hot, dry summers here in South Australia. My garden also has Australian native plants, as well as fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. I have two chickens that lay eggs. Our street has beautiful trees, and there are parks, playgrounds, and other community meeting places in our neighbourhood.

I grew up in outback Australia in a dry desert landscape. I could enjoy the luscious apricots, figs, and mandarins. Spending time playing or lazing around in a sandy creek-bed lined with gum trees and listening to the crows was my idea of heaven.

I am lucky to live in an environment that constantly reminds me that I am alive and connected to the natural world.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology, so I have a good understanding of ecology and the interrelatedness of living organisms and non-living matter. I am also an artist and have a passionate outlook on the beauty of natural environments. Science and art are a great grounding for caring about the environment. I am frustrated by the short-term, isolated so-called sustainable actions like tree planting, species re-introductions, and so on, which are often connected with commercial interests. I want to connect people to a deeper understanding of the relationship between all things. 

As a little boy, I played underneath a strong, tall tree that whispered to me in the slightest breeze. When the flowers fell, my floor was all purple-bluey softness. Below the birds and the flowers were what we called “Butchy Boys” and “Daddy Long Leg” spiders, along with all kinds of energetic ants. I learnt about the scale of things in the peaceful spaces between my tree and my ants. I was not the smallest creature or the biggest. And I was alive just like the other interesting characters around me.

 My connection with the environment is from growing up on a farm and spending a lot of time on it. All of it was connected with me and teeming with life and totally benign, unconcerned, and inclusive. I tasted and touched and interacted with everything I could. I walked all through the bush, often by myself; swam in the creeks; ran in the rain; smelled and heard all the scents and sounds of the changing seasons.

“Life’s longing for itself” is a lived thing, experienced with all our senses, and we belong in it. If we want to have all of ourselves, our actions have to preserve all the interrelationships and honour all life.

 I was born into an urban environment at the edge of a large city. The weather was mostly cold and wet, so we spent a lot of time indoors. However, one of my fondest memories is of bonfire night, or “Guy Fawkes night” as we knew it locally. Each family in our block of flats [apartments] donated an item, usually made from timber, that could be added to the collection.

Throughout the day this collection grew quite tall. At nightfall I was allowed to go outside with my family and watch the bonfire being lit. I had to hold on to someone’s hand. I wasn’t allowed to throw firecrackers into the fire, though I could use it to light a sparkler. I remember drawing pictures in the air with my sparkly new toy. I can still feel the warmth on my face and see the smiles and giggles of those who were standing around the enormous burning mass out in the courtyard behind where my family lived. I still like gazing into flames and sharing food, drink, and time with others. A smile is on my face now!

 I am part of the beautiful created world. Caring for this good world means caring for myself. Caring for my good self means caring for the world.

 Internalised oppression has silenced us and made us think that we’ve not done much—nothing really important anyway. How often do we, and the rest of the world, forget that when great ripples are made, the little rocks that caused them sink quietly into the bottom, never to be identified or acknowledged?

Wytske reminded us that we should stop thinking that we’re not doing enough. We must not belittle our contributions. I do not consider myself an activist, but my daughters are and I must have had something to do with that [must have played some part in that]. I do not put things on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, but I have a worm farm at home, despite my early hurts about creepy crawlies [creatures that creep and crawl].

I want to thank Wytske for showing me that one can say an important message forcefully yet in a gentle and kind way. That’s what we women are good at.

 Stop oil drilling in the Bight [the Great Australian Bight, a large open bay off the central and western southern coastline of Australia]. BP [a multinational oil and gas company] has stopped, but keep vigilant that they don’t apply again.

 My highlight of the workshop was finally having a leader for whom English was not her first language. Language liberation was addressed at the beginning of the workshop and stayed a high priority throughout.

Language liberation is a practical part of ending white racism. If we want to care for the environment with People of the Global Majority and Indigenous people, we will have to make language liberation a priority. Addressing language liberation at this workshop also made it possible for me to connect with my early years of activism in Germany.

I love this world! There is only one world! We will set things right no matter what! Thank you, Wytske. 

 When I think of caring for the environment, I first think of connections to and relationships with people. After all, it’s people (us) who use and are therefore responsible for the environment—our environment.

The amount of resource we use often depends on how hurt we are. Therefore, it makes sense to help the people close to us discharge, so we can all think more clearly about how we use, live in, and relate to our environment. For me, that means enjoying my garden. It means growing shrubs—Australian natives that attract birds, bees, and butterflies. It means tending and planting herbs, citrus trees, vegetables, vines, and creepers and setting up a bird-feed tray. I can share all of this with family, friends, and neighbours. We’re planning to set up a community garden in the coming months. Maybe we’ll get to feed and nurture some of those who don’t have enough food and nutrition.

 I love this earth. I love where I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I love caring for everyone and everything. I love my family. I love my friends. All of this is my personal connection with care of the environment. It makes so much sense to care for me, too. Otherwise I won’t be available or able to care for anyone or anything else or achieve all my big goals.

 The environment dominates my thinking. My passion for it connects me with other humans. It provides common ground. It gives me purpose and excites me. My proudest achievements as a human being have come from my environmental activism. It is such a privilege to work on something that is bigger than I am.

I am choosing to work with groups, for connection and protection and to have fun. We need to have fun when working on sustainability, climate change, or any other environmental issue.

My mother believed in the power of people to make a difference, to tackle problems. I love the phrase “think globally, and act locally.” I keep informed about national and international environmental issues and then find ways to apply what I learn locally. I love to support others to find ways to be environmental activists, spokespeople, agents of change. 

I am glad my parents taught me about capitalism, Marxism, and oppression. I have extended what I learned to plants and animals. We cannot have sustainability and a capitalist system.

Re-evaluation Counselling has broken my isolation and given me connections. I now know it is not all up to me [my job] to save the world. What a relief to realize that it is a shared responsibility and to encourage discharge so that others can be environmental activists.

 When I was growing up, the ocean I swam in was a haven full of beauty and wonder. I would swim and paddle all day, enjoying the freedom and the connection to benign reality. It filled my heart and soul. My love of the sea continues. I want it to thrive. Also, my timidity and lack of knowledge have dissipated, and I am ready for action and contemplating my next steps.

When Tim Jackins invited us to keep an endangered animal in our minds, I developed my interest in the lives and treatment of chickens (though they’re not endangered). I have raised them, incubated them, and grappled with the killing of roosters (they don’t quite fit snuggly into our food chain). My humanity has been challenged, and I’ve had opportunities for discharge and re-evaluations.

John McKiernan

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Reprinted from the newsletter of the Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, RC Community

(Present Time 189, October 2017)

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