In her book Dare to be Great, which was updated and released one year after her death, Polly Higgins talks about the power of story and self-authorising your life. “Only you choose to cede your own self-authority to others, and only you can choose to take it back”, she writes. Polly knew the power of framing the narrative, and how this influences the outcome in terms of how we treat ourselves and the Earth. View the Earth as a thing, and it simply becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold without care for the consequences. But view the Earth as a living being and we embrace its intrinsic value, the very sacredness of life. Care replaces commodity and we shift from “I own” to “we owe a duty of care”, writes Polly.
I agree with her that there is great power in defining your experiences on your own terms and being the author of your life story, rather than being ‘colonized’ by other peoples’ stories about you or about your place in the Earth community. The dominant narrative of the industrial growth society which positions us as “owners” above the natural world is alienating and confusing to many who experience the non-human natural world as alive, vibrant, infused with meaning and life force. The worldview that the non-human natural world is inanimate and lacks an ‘inside’ can also cut us off from experiencing our wider circles of being and ecological selves. It’s hard to believe in your own agency as a change maker when your experience of belonging to the Earth community and ability to access the collective intelligence that abounds there is undermined by the disempowering narrative of the homo economicus.
If this is true, is it not an act of empowerment and liberation to discard the industrial growth narrative of ownership and domination and create space for a narrative about our place in the Earth community that is nourishing and heart-felt? Is that not our birthright, as children of Mother Earth? If we self-authorize our relationship with the Earth, we can better discern which economic and political narratives about our place on the Earth ring true to us, and connect to our ecological calling – our unique part to play in restoring the harm done to the Earth community.
A tool that can help in emancipating from the industrial grown narrative is to write down your green life story: the story of your embodied connection to the Earth. I received this method from Elly Verrijt, a missionary sister, Earth worker and pioneer in Spiritual Ecology. Guided by questions, you return to early childhood experiences of connection and interaction with the Earth, but also look at patterns of alienation that caused ecological woundedness and possible ‘unfinished Earth business’.
I like to share a few of the guiding questions here to give a taste of the process of self-authorising your place in the Earth Community:
- From what water, soil have you come? What do you recognize in your soul about the landscape where you grew up? What is happening now in your landscape of origin and how do you feel about that?
- What are your early experiences of Earth connectedness?
- Have you lost the intimacy of Earth connectedness of your childhood? How? Why?
- Look at crisis times in your life. Has The Earth helped you to get through it or was it a source of more alienation?
- What steps in Earth connectedness have you not yet taken in your life? What is your ‘unfinished business’ from the perspective of the Earth?
If you resonate with the idea of self-authorising your place in the Earth Community by writing down your green life story, I would very much like to hear from you. I’m planning to do the process myself, and we could explore this process together and see which narratives emerge! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
FEMKE WIJDEKOP is a lawyer, mother, lover of the Earth. She studied international and constitutional law at the Free University in Amsterdam and worked as a researcher in these fields at the University of Amsterdam. After watching Polly Higgins TED Talk in 2013 and meeting J. Kim Wright, she knew she had found her tribe in the Integrative Law Movement. She is an expert at the United Nations Harmony with Nature-network, volunteered with Polly Higgins to make Ecocide the fifth crime against peace and worked as the spokesperson and legal counsel for IUCN NL’s project Defending Environmental Defenders. She is also a member of the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics. Her writings focus on ecocide and the emerging ecocentrism in law, restorative approaches to environmental conflicts, interviews with environmental justice advocates and the protection of environmental defenders. Read more here.