We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.
The 1st June 2019 marks the 10 year anniversary of cultural historian, ‘geologian’ and much-loved Gaia elder Thomas Berry’s passing.
An elder possessed of a rare far-sightedness about the past, present and future of human-kind, Thomas and his writings have been a huge inspiration for Gaia.
In the midst of the anthropocene, he named and identified routes towards the most urgent transformation we are called to realise today- the shift from a human-centred to an Earth-centred cosmovision that Thomas called Earth Jurisprudence.
To mark Thomas’s anniversary and to celebrate the deep and transformational legacy he has left us, we asked leading lights in the worlds of law, activism, academia, forestry and emerging African Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners to share their tributes to Thomas.
Their powerful words reveal the profound impact Thomas’s work continues to have, from Africa to the Amazon rainforest. They are proof of what Thomas told us, many years ago:
The present is not a time for desperation, but for hopeful activity.
Tributes to Thomas
All beings have rights. Based on this fundamental idea, Father Thomas forwarded his very powerful expression “Earth is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” This is the core of Earth Jurisprudence.
-Mellesse Damtie (PhD), Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Addis Abbaba. Author of the first doctorate thesis on Earth Jurisprudence.
One reads so many books in a lifetime, gathering some bits of inspiration and knowledge here and there. Somehow Thomas Berry seems to have done something entirely different. His book ‘The Great Work’ especially has provided a conceptual and spiritual framework within which all of my questions as an ardent but humble human member of the earth community are able to find answers. He has enabled me to examine the world critically, but without letting go of the mystery, and the wonder, that is an essential component of life on Earth. His thoughts and words inspire me every day.
-Roger Chennels, human rights lawyer and EJ Course Facilitator, South Africa.
Thomas Berry has been a vital inspiration for me and my work. His book ‘The Great Work: Our Way into the Future’, which critiques the underpinning governance structures and systems of industrial society, inspired my colleagues and I to create the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). AELA’s core themes of work, and all our programs, are a direct response to Thomas’s call to carry out the Great Work.
-Michelle Maloney, Australian Earth Laws Alliance, Australia.
Many years ago I came across Thomas Berry saying “The Universe is not a collection of objects but a collaboration of subjects”. At that time I had difficulties taking it fully in. However I found it beautiful and it opened me for taking in an increasing amount of information about actual collaboration between plants, between trees and between trees and insects. A collaboration including all parts of the forest in my home community, Earth and the Universe, which brings me to Thomas Berry again saying “laws originate where existence originates” and the work that followed to establish Rights of Nature and the rights for local communities to defend the nature we like, adore and worship.
– Anders Tivell, forester and educator, Sweden.
In the early 1980s I became the Superintendent of Social Services on Baffin Island in the Canadian High Arctic… but my approach with fancy management contexts wasn’t working. When I visited communities the elders would get up and say “Learn from the land”. It was a mantra that kept appearing in all the communities. I respected what they said but I thought it was irrelevant and off topic. I was discouraged and about to leave my job. Then, one day. I picked up one of Thomas’ books and read the words: “The universe is the only text without a context.” I could immediately see the connection between what the elders were saying and what Thomas said about the universe as a context. It changed my life. I worked for almost three decades with the Inuit and Dene indigenous communities. The focus of my work has been to create a bridge between the teaching of the elders and Thomas’ New Cosmology and apply it to my effort to create a community climate change culture in local communities.
-Mike Bell, community development expert, Canada.
Thomas Berry-companion, friend, teacher, prophet. Now 10 years since he passed, I think he is more important than ever and that the movement connected with his work will grow stronger than ever. We will face such ecological and social challenges in the coming years. Thomas is the indispensable guide to what is important and what is needed for a viable future. He gave us a connection with a nurturing Earth and taught us how a multiform human community can unite with spiritual depth to meet the challenges ahead.
-Herman Greene, Centre for Ecozoic Studies, USA.
“Thomas Berry connected the two themes of Earth and Community so very closely, showing us that whatever we do in our own locales, and however we behave, our actions, whether positive or negative, impact upon others around us, whether the ‘other’ is human or not. This idea connects the local with the global so very strongly too.”
-Guy Fisher, Teacher and former Gaia Team member
Thomas Berry remains a loving inspiration to move us to protect the integrity of Earth as a primary source and extension of our own individual lifes! Since Thomas Berry’s passing, we have evolved into a global and instantly connected human web. Let’s take this as an opportunity to commit internationally to Earth Jurisprudence.
– Lara Lutzenberger, Gaia Advisor and Director of Fundação Gaia, Brazil
At Gaia, we have been working for over two decades to help realise the transition Thomas envisaged, from the destruction of the Anthropo/Capitalo-cene, to an ‘Ecozoic Era’in which we live in mutually-enhancing harmony with Nature.
This way of living in right-relation with the planet is what Thomas called Earth Jurisprudence.
Over the coming week we will be demystifying Earth jurisprudence for new audiences at this critical time. Help us do that by: