The Gaia Foundation’s story starts in the mid eighties at a time of growing concern and re-evaluation of ‘development’, of the relationship between the global North and South, and the industralisation of Life through insatiable economic growth.
Gaia, which was founded by Liz Hosken and Edward Posey, together with visionary and radical associates and initiatives who were already doing critical work with local communities, and who sought allies to amplify their impact.
Gaia joined forces with them, providing both practical and advisory support where possible and connecting them with like-minded others. Together we embarked on a lifelong journey building ‘affectionate alliances’ across our global network. Gaia House became a hub in north London, helping these emerging change-makers and grassroots movements to gain recognition and support, and to promote their work internationally. Many of them have been celebrated for inspiring the next generation of ecologically rooted activists.
At the start of the new millennium, Gaia was introduced to a philosophy of law called Earth Jurisprudence by cultural historian Thomas Berry. He, like us, was inspired by the cosmologies and cultural practices of indigenous peoples who see life from an Earth-centred, rather than a human-centred (anthropocentric) perspective. Earth Jurisprudence recognises Nature as the primary source of law. It asserts that all elements of the Earth – rivers, trees and wildlife – have inherent rights.
Representing a paradigm shift away from current legal thought, that places humans at the centre, Earth Jurisprudence recognises that we cannot hope to enjoy our own wellbeing if we don’t protect the wellbeing of Earth and other species. If we wish to enjoy our human right to water, we must first realise water’s right not to be polluted, privatized or exhausted, else there will be no fresh water, and all ecosystems and species who rely upon the water will suffer, including humans.
The principles of Earth Jurisprudence have become central to Gaia’s work with communities, helping us to secure legal recognition of customary laws which are derived from the laws of the Earth and protect critical threatened ecosystems and sacred natural sites & territories from the Colombian Amazon to South Africa, Ethiopia, Benin and Kenya. Over the last two decades Gaia developed a series of transformative inter-cultural exchanges between the Amazon and Africa, and within Africa, in order to nurture an Earth Jurisprudence movement dedicated to addressing the root causes of our planetary crises.
Gaia’s story has pivoted around grassroots communities and the land and territories that they have stood up to defend. Through connecting committed and passionate communities, inspiring social movements have emerged around the world, from peasant farmers asserting their seed and food sovereignty in the face of industrial agriculture, to mining affected communities standing in solidarity with one another to say Yes to Life, No to Mining!
Communities are central to Gaia’s story because it is through dialogues with knowledgeable elders – both men and women – and sacred sites custodians that much of our work is rooted. Dialogues are transformative, re-opening inter-generational exchanges where relationships were fracturing, and enabling the revival of indigenous seed varieties thought to be lost, and restoring Earth-centred customary laws and governance systems to regenerate sacred lands. Through simple yet powerful ‘talking tools’ such as eco-cultural maps and calendars, communities can rebuild confidence and cohesion, and determine their own paths into the future.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
We live in a time of multiple, complex crises. There are no easy answers. Working to uphold the health and diversity of our living planet is always rewarding, but we think you’ll agree it can sometimes feel like swimming against the stream. And yet like salmon we leap, and more often than you might expect, we make it. We invite you to make the next leap with us by making a donation of any size. Thank you for your solidarity.