Perhaps the greatest crisis facing the whole of humankind is environmental. Ever since the publishing of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in the early 1960’s, public attention across the world has been drawn to the dangers of pesticides, pollution, hazardous and nuclear waste, the degradation of ecosystems and the accelerated rate of species extinction. The scientific community is virtually unanimous in declaring that global warming is occurring, and that the cause lies at the feet of the industrialized nations. The consequences for global climate change are not known for certain, but what is certain is that the poorer nations will be the most hurt by whatever changes may occur. At this juncture, the connection between environmental concerns and social justice concerns becomes transparent.
The environmental crisis can be understood to be a deeply cultural crisis. Human alienation and disconnection from the natural world has resulted in the exploitation and destruction of large sections of the natural world, and the extinction of many species of plants and animals. Much of this alienation has occurred as a direct result of the rise of industrial cultures, and the concurrent development of such cultural systems as education, politics, scientific exploration, and psychology. These systems work together to form the social infrastructure of industrialism. Industrialism reconfigures and replaces the natural world as the accepted basis for all life. It does this by defining human subjectivity as being separate and distinct from the natural world—in fact, making “human” and “nature” separate, even opposing categories. Industrialism reduces the individual into an entity divorced from the “outside world” and reduces the world to a pile of “raw materials” to be consumed and manipulated by the autonomous individual.
In his book, Nature and Psyche: Radical Environmentalism and the Politics of Subjectivity, David Kidner critiques the culture of industrialism and argues for a reconfiguration of selfhood as integrated within nature. What is needed is an integrative structure. That integrative structure is culture. Kidner proposes the development of a culture that structurally re-integrates human beings back into the natural world. This environmentally re-integrative culture would take heed of the interplay between consciousness and unconsciousness, and would recognize the symbolic resonance between the natural world and the forms and feelings which make up the unconscious.
But how is such an environmentally integrated culture to be created? Various environmental movements such as Deep Ecology, Ecopsychology, Social Ecology and Ecofeminism all approach the issue form various angles, and each supplies clues and tentative solutions. In addition, gatherings of concerned scientists, religious leaders and other professionals have voiced concern about the environment and human society. The recent conferences and publication series concerning the religions of the world and ecology is one example of how scholars and religious practitioners are addressing the relationship between spirituality, religious practice and living as part of a natural world.
The work of ConSpiritu is to create such an environmentally integrated culture. Some of its collaborations will bring together scientists, artists, performers, social justice activists, environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, religious leaders and other persons who are actively involved in creating cultural alternatives to develop the cultural forms and processes that can serve to re-integrate humans into the natural world. ConSpiritu will also sponsor environmentally based performances that will bring performers into natural landscapes to develop performance pieces telling the stories of those landscapes. In addition, many of ConSpiritu’s collaborations will occur in settings that will put the participants in direct contact with the natural world. When ConSpiritu moves into its residential phase, it will design its physical layout so as to harmonize with the local ecology, be energy efficient and non-polluting, and raise its own produce as much as possible.
What the ConSpiritu logo represents: The four interlocked circles symbolize the four intersecting concerns of ConSpiritu – * Earth * Spirit * Arts * Justice
Woven together, the circles symbolize the breathing together and collaboration of those who come together on behalf of the transformation of the world.