Learning from Nature
Like strands woven together into a basket, life on Earth is made possible through a dynamic interaction of relationships weaving together. No one part can be understood by separating it from the whole. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Gaia’s holistic approach to our work is guided by understanding that we humans are an inextricable part of this dynamic web of life.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
At this time of the ‘Great Unravelling’ – a term used by systems thinker and activist, Joanna Macy – we believe our task is to create conditions for the web of life to weave back together in order to turn the tide.
Gaia’s theory of change is guided by the principle of Emergence – understanding that diverse, interconnected relationships are the key organising principles that make life on our living planet possible. Emergence recognises the complex, often invisible ways that living systems interact, adapt and grow in diversity, and shows us how we can participate in creating the conditions for transformation in human societies.
Emergence theorist Margaret Wheatley explains: “Despite current ads and slogans the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationship form amongst people who discover they share common cause and vision of what’s possible. When separate local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly, surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale.”
This inspires us to create condition for connection and reconnection at all levels – from family to community, across communities and social movements, and from local to global – and to be flexible, responsive and open to how transformational processes may unfold, as we accompany them. It recognises the agency of living processes, life forms and energies interacting with the human world.
This approach is a conscious antidote to the dominant assumptions of human supremacy, linear progress, hierarchy and endless growth. It challenges the hubristic idea that human’s reductive reasoning can find solutions to the multiple crises this logic has created. As we see it, this logic is precisely the one from which we need to liberate our thinking.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Creating the conditions for transformation in practice
Working at the grassroots: Real, transformational change begins far away from the centres of power. We work with indigenous and traditional communities and partners in long term ‘affectionate alliances’ based on trust, process and respect, accompanying them to revive, transfer and enhance their indigenous knowledge and seed varieties in order to safeguard diversity for generations to come; reconnect with their ancestral lands and sacred natural sites and regain confidence in their customary laws and governance systems; and stand up for their rights to protect land, water and livelihoods in the face of threats from mining and other extractivist industries.
Connecting and learning across scales: We connect communities and partners through peer-to-peer exchanges across countries, regions and continents; provide participatory ‘trainings for transformation’ and materials that dig deep into the root causes of our crises; connect communities and partners with wider coalitions and social movements which catalyse deeper, wider transformation based on the realities experienced by communities.
Opening spaces in the dominant system: We focus on establishing legal precedents and policies that open spaces for a different logic at multiple levels – recognising the Earth as the primary source of law. We do this through working with communities, partners and allies advocating for the recognition of indigenous rights, advancing cases for the rights of Nature, promoting the recognition of sacred natural sites and territories as ‘no go’ areas for mining, and securing the rights of rural farmers and women as custodians of seed and food sovereignty. We provide legal advice and advocacy support to communities, partners and movements catalysing transformative change.
At the root of our approach
This work is rooted in recognising that human made laws and governance should be derived from the laws that govern life, as indigenous systems demonstrate. This requires a shift from an anthropocentric to an Earth-centred world view and legal principles.
Weaving together a web of experiences, people and places to foster the emergence of viable, regenerative alternatives to the dominant industrial system, has been our commitment for the last 30 years.
This work to foster the emergence of a renewed Earth-centred mode of being human has never been more critical. We face multiple planetary crises from climate change to mass species extinction to diminishing fresh water and growing social inequality. We must work together to ensure that our children inherit a healthy planet and humane societies.
Since time immemorial, the sacred territory of the Sierra Nevada has been the foundation of our culture. It contains the laws and the symbols that determine our way of thinking and our identity. We should all comply with these norms and laws to safeguard the Universe.
The ancestral custodianship of the territory is based on knowledge about everything that lives in our territory. In other words, Nature teaches us how to live in harmony. She is an open book where we learn about her stories and about her past. This is what our children and the children of future generations will learn.
This same knowledge allows us to remember the role of our ancestors, the real meaning of each individual and our mission as humans, responsible for caring for the planet. All Life on our planet is threatened when this sense of responsibility is abandoned.”
Mama Jacinto, Kogi Indian of the Sierra Nevada