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Sacred political ecology

Sacred Political Ecology is an open-ended and collaborative action inquiry into the cultural transformations necessary to bring into being an inclusive, equitable, caring and sustainable society. It is inspired by the Sacred Ecology1 of indigenous environmental knowledge, the Political Ecology2 of opposition to the global extractive economy, and the Sacred Activism3 of grassroots action to imagine and create workable alternatives.

Evan Eisenberg’s book The Ecology of Eden4 introduces the term Earth Jazz as a metaphor for indigenous environmental relationships. Just as a jazz improvisation is grounded in the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic structure of whatever song the band is playing, indigenous societies have learnt to integrate their activities with the structures and dynamics of nature. My own research on Human Ecology in indigenous Amazonia has revealed this to be a complex interplay of rational, normative and impulsive modes of understanding nature and making decisions about environmental management. This epistemic flexibility is a necessary precondition for successfully navigating social-ecological complexity in ways that reconcile short-term productive needs with long-term protection and enhancement of the ecological resource base.

Influences from Rastafarianism, new age movements and the DIY counterculture led me to grow up familiar with the term Babylon as a metaphor for the political, cultural and material domination of extractive capitalism. Following Anne Wilson Schaef5, I see Babylon as a form of societal addiction to a form of instrumental rationality and its application to the pursuit of endless economic growth, supported by consumerism as the dominant form of social interaction. Its remorseless expansion from Western Europe through the successive impositions by ruling elites of colonialism, development, sustainable development and neoliberalism has ravaged the ecological and cultural richness of the world and been the cause of untold death, misery and suffering. This is not an incidental side-effect of the political-economic system, it is its inherent nature, and can not be overcome from within the addicted system itself. Arresting and reversing this trajectory and initiating ecological, social and cultural renewal requires nothing less than complete transformation to entirely different ways of understanding, being and acting in the world.

My own term Earth Punk refers to the new ways of understanding and acting being created by myriad initiatives, networks and movements who are creating new, self-organised forms of socio-economic organisation that foreground social and ecological responsibility. These Regenerative Cultures6 must of necessity transcend Babylon’s cultural limitations in order to heal themselves of its destructive impulses. Many draw inspiration from, and some forge alliances with, indigenous societies who have managed to retain a large measure of economic and cultural autonomy. The central idea of Earth Punk is that all are converging on multi-levelled understandings of the environment parallel to those that enable indigenous societies to address complex resource management issues.

Sacred Political Ecology is a theoretical, experiential and empirical inquiry into the diverse forms of Earth Punk that are emerging worldwide: their nature, implications, and prospects as a source of transformative global change. Its theoretical development is taking place on The Earth Punk Chronicles blog, which welcomes proposals for collaborative pieces. Shamanic Political Ecology is an experiential training for social and environmental activists wishing to employ shamanic tools and perspectives in their work. It can be combined with advanced permaculture training through the Permaculture Diploma programme for those wishing to follow a bespoke programme in Shamanic Permaculture.

1 Berkes
2 Biersback
3 The Hope; also see McIntosh Spiritual Activism
5 When Society Becomes an Addict
6 Wahl 2016