Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Needs the Healing?

UNTAMED is a year-long, living exhibition at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town that combines art, plants, poetry, sustainable architecture and a solar panel.  It's a poignant, pressing statement designed provoke individual consciousness about our relationships to Nature.

The spiraling, solar-powered, naturally-lit pavilion has been designed by Enrico Daffonchio.  The living wall comprised of re-fashioned plastic cold-drink bottles filled with indigenous ground covers was planted by the Kirstenbosch horticulturalists.

The sculptures are by Dylan Lewis, renowned for his animal works in bronze.  Here he explores humanity's balance with Nature in a way that evokes a lost wildness, and a lost serenity.  The words are by Ian McCallum, poet and psychiatrist, wilderness guide and psychological analyist probably best known for his book, Ecological Intelligence.  

I rushed through UNTAMED - after an appropriately wild toddler who loved running the spiral and would not be tamed by the conventions of viewing an exhibition.  But despite this, words by Ian McCallum jumped out at me: "We need to stop speaking about the Earth being in need of healing.  The Earth does not need healing.  We do."

Because I feel so urgent about giving Nature the chance for the restoration and renewal of wildness, I often think, speak and write in terms of us 'healing the Earth'.  So I really enjoyed the challenge of this statement.  It's not a new idea but it is certainly has value in being revived.  Mr McCallum's view is that we are pathological in our relationship to Nature.  He echoes American monk, 'Earth scholar' and Deep Ecology advocate Thomas Berry who described humanity in relation to Nature as being autistic for centuries.

What they, and many other sustainable living activists, are saying is that we won't get sustainability right without addressing the fundamental problems in the way we see and relate to Nature.  While we exist in a paradigm that disregards and attempts to dominate Nature; while we find the most value in Nature in terms of what we can extract from it, instead of learn about it; we will remain in opposition to the force that gives us life - eco-illiterate, pathological, unresponsive - doomed.  The challenge of awakening to respect,  love, appreciation, even reverence for Life - ours and all others, is an individual one.