Can we imagine a new ethic based on emerging ecological and evolutionary understandings of an interconnected and wildly creative planet? That’s the challenge that the Spring Creek Project took on this year, when we called together twenty-five visionaries from the worlds of ecology, philosophy, fiction, social science, forestry, indigenous wisdom, theology, and literature. Under ancient cedars along the Blue River in Oregon, we set about our work: from all the ideas growing in our various fields, to find a common vision of who we are, we human beings, and how we ought to live in a world that is interconnected, resilient, finite, and heartbreakingly beautiful.
What follows is an excerpt of the Blue River Declaration. The full document can be found here.
A truly adaptive civilization will align its ethics with the ways of the Earth. The question for our time is, How might we create a concordance between ecological and moral principles, and thus imagine an ethic that is of, rather than against, the Earth?
Given that life on Earth is interconnected, an ethic of the Earth affirms the need to foster the mutual flourishing of all life and honor our obligations to present and future generations of all beings.
Given that humanity is inescapably dependent on the Earth for gifts both material and spiritual, we humans are called to be grateful and humble. A new ethic calls us to defend and nurture the regenerative potential of the Earth, to return Earth’s generosity with our own healing gifts of mind, body, emotion, and spirit.
Given that the Earth’s resources and resilience are finite, human flourishing depends on embracing a new ethic of self-restraint to replace a destructive ethos of excess. Limitless economic growth as a measure of human well-being is inconsistent with the continuity of life on Earth. It should be replaced by an economics of regeneration.
Given that life on Earth is resilient, humanity can take courage in Earth’s power to heal. We can find guidance in the richness of diverse cultures and ecosystems. Respect and justice are necessary conditions for civilizations that endure. To damage the natural sources of resilience—oceans, atmosphere, soil, biodiversity, cultural diversity—is both foolhardy and an offense against the future.
Given that the Earth is beautiful, it is worthy of respect and reverence—and protection.
An ethic of the Earth thus calls into question current capitalist economic systems, educational systems, food production methods, and systems of land use and ownership. It calls for a re-examination of what it means to be happy, and what it means to be smart. This questioning will release the power and beauty of the human imagination to create more collaborative economies, more mindful ways of living, more deeply felt arts, and more inclusive processes that respect the ways of life of all beings. In this sheltering home, humanity can begin to restore both the natural world and the human spirit.
Kathleen Dean Moore writes about our cultural and ethical connections to the wet, wild world, from Oregon, where she is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University. Her newest books are Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril and Wild Comfort. Photos by Harmony Burright.