The Future’s Green

We are indebted to GreenSpirit for allowing us to publish these reviews from its latest newsletter. There is much more to be found on its website https://www.greenspirit.org.uk/

 

 

Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centred Sustainable Practices

by Dana O’Driscoll

Reviewed by Piers Warren

Red Feather (2021)

ISBN 978-0764361531

There is much to like about this unusual mix of permaculture ethics and techniques, Druid wisdom, pagan celebrations and sustainable ways of living. The author, Dana O’Driscoll, is experienced in all these fields as she serves as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, is a certified permaculture designer and teacher and has run a number of smallholdings (homesteads) in America.

The focus of the book could be summed up as tips and techniques for living a more sustainable and ethically sound life, with frequent references to the permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares. All this is presented in the framework of the eight festivals of the year celebrated by pagans, Druids and many others all over the world: Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane and so on, with a chapter dedicated to each.

Although the sustainable practices covered in a particular chapter may not necessarily be related to that time of the year, it’s an intriguing way of presenting the ideas without the overload of trying to do everything at once. Some of the suggestions may involve quite a few lifestyle changes and so the fact that the reader will have approximately six weeks to work on these until the next festival comes along gives time and space to address them properly. The book can be read through gradually, over the year, or in one go (as I did) but then referring back to the practices as the eight festivals are celebrated.

There is an interesting correlation between the three permaculture ethics already mentioned, and the Druid method of using triads – presenting three wise thoughts together. For example, the chapter covering the Spring Equinox, concentrates on spring cleaning and disposing of the disposable mindset, and the triad (three paths toward sacred action) for this is: 1. Reducing consumption and waste, 2. Repurposing resources, and 3. Living more simply and fully. These notions are then explored in great detail including many practical actions that can be taken at home. Most of these actions will result in a lower carbon footprint as well as a life that will be better for the self, for others and for the Earth in numerous ways. This could include anything from making compost to decluttering to reducing household waste. Each chapter ends with a few pages of exercises and rituals – practical exercises based on the chapter’s contents.

Other topics covered include the home (heating, cooking, water use etc), food and nourishment (local, seasonal, sustainable), landscapes and gardens (community gardening, transforming lawns into productive areas etc), and Earth ambassadorship (community living, sharing knowledge, transportation etc). It is particularly impressive how practical this book is in an accessible way – peppered with simple actions the reader can take that the author has clearly researched and tried herself.

The word ‘sacred’ is used liberally throughout this book and of course it has many definitions, my favourite being pertaining to anything that deserves veneration or deep respect. That is certainly true of all the suggestions in this book. Even trying a percentage of the practical actions covered will improve life for yourself and the planet. This is not a one-off read but to come back to time and time again for a reminder on how to hone your life through sacred actions for the good of all. In a time when life on Planet Earth is in peril due to our over-consumption, it is long overdue that we all take responsibility for our actions, and thinking of them in terms of sacred actions, with the help of this book, is a great approach.

 

The Climate Emergency and Green Spirituality Activism

by Chris Philpott

Reviewed by Chris Holmes

Independently published, 2021 

ISBN: ‎979-8481224206

My motive in writing this book is to add the spiritual dimension to the debate about climate change. This is done by highlighting teachings from different spiritual traditions on how we should treat the Earth. In his inspiring introduction Chris Philpott sets out clearly the book’s intention and its structure.

It is divided into four parts; Part 1, the longest, focuses on the problems we face with the climate emergency in terms of extreme weather, food and water shortages, biodiversity loss and the effect on health. It shows how we have strayed from the wisdom which was – and is – available in our faith traditions.

Part 2 looks at what we can do in response to the emergency, i.e. how to be a green spiritual activist. Some familiar ground is covered with regard to the choices we can make in our behaviour, but then there are two really interesting chapters on protest movements and non-governmental organisations. Here Chris relates many of his personal experiences in activism and his own extraordinary breadth of activity which continues into his seventies.

Part 3 presents the future under two scenarios: where we manage to keep global warming to below 2C (the ‘optimistic’ case we can just about live with), and where we allow it to go over 2C which would be catastrophic. Despite the despair we may feel at the end of Part 3, Part 4 shows that there is hope and that a vital ingredient is the spiritual dimension. Here, as throughout, Chris serves up a heady mix of quotations (including the pagan and shamanic) showing the breadth and depth of wisdom available to us.

To embrace all of the faith traditions is no mean feat and Chris’s approach of using quotes from sacred books and significant individuals  means that we get exposure to much that we may be unfamiliar with and get a sense of how each of the faiths  relates to nature. Inevitably some problematic areas are left out – my own Christian faith has a very mixed history with regard to the Earth, though things have, thank goodness, shifted dramatically over recent decades. One other result of using quotations is that one realises just how male-dominated these faith traditions have been – though things are surely changing, albeit not fast enough.

In summary, this book gives an analysis of how we have reached our present plight, a clear statement of practical actions we can take, and (unlike many similar books) a powerful invitation to explore the wisdom inherent in our faith traditions. The possibility of exploration is facilitated by an abundance of references; I think I could spend several months working through the YouTube references alone.

The last page of the book is an encouragement to list one’s personal pledges to help avoid climate catastrophe; an excellent way to conclude and one which I completed – appropriately – on 1 January 1.

 

There are more book reviews on the Green Spirit website: https://www.greenspirit.org.uk/bookreviews

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Kitty Parsons

Kitty knows that she will always be an incomer, but this is to be her sixth summers. The wet and grey days of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire, but she is always grateful for the golden light of spring and summer. Her love of the sea sustains her even through the darkest of days and she can often be found at high tide bobbing about in Fishguard harbour at high tide, often with seals in attendance. When not freezing in water she is usually at her computer. She says" Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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