At a recent event concerning rurality, France’s former Head of State Nicolas Sarkozy spoke about agroecology. He described this practice as “an obsession for the destruction of our agricultural power.” More than trying to challenge Sarkozy’s beliefs (who by the way may run for the next presidential election), I find it worthwhile to analyze the vision of the world embodied by these thoughts that seems so opposed to the movement towards a more ecological and humane society.
The denigration towards agroecology reveals an ideology where humankind positions itself as detached from nature. In this view of the world, the ego is loud and strong: human beings seem to dominate the planet and to command the animal, vegetable and mineral realm. At a personal level, each individual experiences an isolation from the whole — there is an “I” that is fundamentally distant from the other “Is” and from the environment (and perhaps from a god up there too). In this world of separation, humans voraciously take from nature and solutions such as GMOs, biotechs and shale gas seem like a “logical” evolution for our species.
When ecology is in the agenda, it usually makes the cut as a new trendy opportunity to generate “responsible” economic growth and get wealthier. The debate also focuses on how to bring down CO2 emissions and its false solutions (such as those presented by lobbyists during the COP21 event last December): the development of nuclear energy, of first generation biodiesel, of fracking activities, of huge hydraulic dams… Exploiting the environment seems normal and humans just have to be careful not to destroy it completely if they want to keep using it long term.
Our utilitarian instrumentalization of nature is born out of a reductive vision of the self. This short-sighted vision leads us to narrow down our environmental problems to the issue of global warming and carbon emission reduction only. And this uninformed arrogant robotic way of understanding is at the core of our ecological crisis (of all our crises actually).
The root problem is based on a profound lack of knowledge of the question”who am I?”. The mainstream understanding of our identity, of our relationship with nature, of our place on this planet, is wrong. The mountains, the rivers, the forests, the “I” and what not are filled with the same presence. Deep within ourselves, ecology and spirituality are directly related: Consciousness is everywhere, constantly in and around us. The Divine is not separate from us, and neither is the phenomena we usually call “external”.
This vision may seem eccentric but it’s definitely not new; it has existed for thousands of years and is described by several religions, moral codes and schools of thoughts as the Absolute Reality. The ideology that tells us we exist as isolated individuals has to be dropped so we can open ourselves to a greater existence where there is only Oneness; this will have a strong impact on our lives and will lead to freedom, serenity and inner happiness. As the Dalai Lama said: “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
This sense of unity will help us improve the way we practice activism, that is, going beyond the old idea of “us” against “them”, “those who understand” versus “those who are wrong”; these beliefs only serve to perpetuate fights and a sense of division which is contradictory to the notion of Oneness. To build the society we dream of, we must work with a higher level of consciousness and continually keep the ultimate reality in mind. In this new way of approaching activism, we must start by expressing compassion and empathy for those who have been unconsciously trapped by the ego force, the I-fabrication.
When defending a cause, we sometimes depict certain people or organization as our adversaries, but let us not forget that they are only representations of the evil so “attacking” these protagonists will only strengthen that same evil, that is, the sense of separation. Rational arguments and debates to convince those with different views may also prove limited and frustrating as we will struggle at persuading “them” to change when they are not personally concerned by a problem. Even if we win some fights, other similar problems will arise with the same root cause: the ego-centric view of the world. So the real, long-term solution, is that everyone must first be convinced, through physical or emotional experiences, that “I” and “nature” are in fact the same Consciousness which manifests itself in different forms. The expected change will then take place naturally as the new vision of the world will make the old thought patterns collapse effortlessly.
This is why it’s imperative that we work at raising awareness and educating all generations about who we really are and what our connection with the whole is. This task means engaging in introspection and self-inquiry that will take us to redefine what life and our priorities are. This quest will probably mean a better use of valuable spiritual tools from Eastern traditions such as yoga and meditation. Schools of thoughts based on non-duality such as Advaita Vendenta, the Buddhist message about interconnection and animist philosophies can lead the way.
Let’s also keep spending joyful moments in community, where together we engage in activities where the ego isn’t welcome. These simple moments full of authentic interaction give everyone the opportunity to be in humanhood and forget the conditioning that society has unconsciously imposed on us. It’s important to emphasize that we should still surround ourselves with those whose views differ, to understand the context, problems and circumstances that prevent them from embracing a new perception of life; our generous and spontaneous presence can help break apart the foundations of some of their beliefs.
To increase our impact, it is essential that we keep a vigilant eye on the decisions we make and understand that we shouldn’t directly or indirectly strengthen the story of separation. It is therefore better to move our energy toward activities that help humanity to feel more connected: we can favor solutions that are designed to take care of nature and support meaningful causes. Some examples include but are not limited to choosing products from permaculture activities over those coming from intensive agriculture, local economies over global markets, short circuits over mass retail, appropriate technologies over energy-intensive solutions, cooperatives or associations over for-profit institutions, participatory democracy over centralization of power, the universal basic income over the monopoly of wage labor, diversity of complementary currencies over exclusivity of a debt-based system, degrowth over unlimited economic development…
This activism will motivate us to constantly know our social and environmental impact, to understand the solutions we use and/or promote better: How are they produced? What is the intention behind? Who funds them? How are they being distributed? Are they reinforcing an unhealthy system based on power, status and influence? Can we replace them with alternatives based on sharing and cooperation, where participants together work in a way that is transparent and altruistic? By seeking answers, we will put more meaning in our lives and feel connected to a vast movement for change that is spreading on all five continents. This will help us feel our innate interconnection with the whole, which will strengthen a greater sense of achievement. Looking for useless outside experiences and sensations will then become meaningless because we will feel naturally fulfilled.
Our (r)evolution can only truly start when we go beyond the notion of the separate self.