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Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unlivable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialized society. It is clear that we need to take action for change before it is too late.
Our word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means "house." As we move into the twenty-first century, it is the work of all human beings to attend to the health of both our "inner" and "outer" houses: the inner house of our selves, the limitless world within, and the outer house of the world in which we live our daily lives. Many people in contemporary society feel little or no connection between these two worlds, a state that the indigenous, land-based peoples of the earth, whose cultures reach back thousands of years, would find not only sad but incomprehensible. in Voices of the First Day, Robert Lawlor quotes an aboriginal tribal elder saying, "They say we have been here for 60,000 years, but it is much longer. We have been here since the time before time began. We have come directly out of the Dreamtime of the Creative Ancestors. We have lived and kept the earth as it was on the First Day." And it is to native peoples that we can now look for guidance on how to care for the earth as if it were its first day. Their universal, ancient wisdoms can help restore balance within our own nature, and assist in rebalancing the needs of the natural environment.
We live in an age that is calling for a "new world order." our current world order actually consists of four worlds: (1) the highly industrialized First World countries, suchas the United States and the nations of Western Europe, (2) the Second World socialist block nations; (3) the developing countries of the Third World, such as Brazil or Thailand; and (4) the Fourth World, which George Manuel of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples describes in the Gaia Atlas of First Peoples (Burger) as the "name given to indigenous peoples descended from a country's aboriginal population and who today are completely or partly deprived of the right to their own territory and riches. The peoples of the Fourth World have only limited influence or none at all in the national state to which they belong." The differences between these worlds can be stated very simply: The First, Second, and Third Worlds believe that "the land belongs to the people"; the Fourth World believes that "the people belong to the land." A new world order can be created once all four worlds create a bridge that is truly healing. Perhaps this bridge can be the interface where these four worlds meet in joining together to heal and restore Mother Earth.
For the people of the first three worlds, understanding and accepting the belief of the Fourth World is the first and most crucial step in creating a truly new and healing "new world order." This may seem impossible, but it is not. The interface between the worlds is not rigid and impenetrable. As noted psychologist William Bridges explains,Interface means "where the surface of one thing meets the surface of another. It is less like a dividing line and more like a permeable membrane, and the action at the interface is the interplay, the communication, the mutual influence that goes on between societies ... that are side by side. The interface is where the vital relationships are established that are necessary for survival in a world of increasing interdependency."
BECOMING CHANGE MASTERS
For many people the ideals of the Industrial Revolution toward more progress, more development, and greater wealthno longer seem relevant, yet we have trouble letting them go. But if we are to survive in the twenty-first century, we must reconsider our priorities.
in Dreaming the Dark, Starhawk reminds us, "Directed energy causes change. To have integrity, we must recognize that our choices bring consequences, and that we cannot escape responsibility for the consequences, not because they are imposed by some external authority, but because they are inherent in the choices themselves." Indigenous and Eastern cultures have long recognized that the only constant is change, and that the principle of interdependence is essential for survival. Among tribal peoples medicine men and women, chiefs, shamans, teachers, and seers are the change masters," a term Rosabeth Moss Kanter introduced in her 1985 book The Change Masters. The shamanic traditions, practiced by agrarian and indigenous peoples the world over, remind us that for centuries human beings have used the wisdom of nature and ritual to support change and life transitions rather than to ignore or deny life processes, as we so often do.
Our society, like many other Western societies, is alienated from its mythological roots. In the Introduction to Arnold Van Gennep's Rites of Passage, Salon Kimbala suggests that "one dimension of mental illness may arise because an increasing number of individuals are forced to accomplish their traditions alone with private symbols." This alienation process may be alleviated by relearning the ways of our ancestors. David Feinstein, in an article in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, reminds us that renewal requires a return to the basic source from which all personal and cultural myths are ultimately forged: the human psyche.
No matter what world we live in now, we are all people of the earth, connected to one another by our mutual humanity. When we listen to land-based peoples, we are listening to our oldest selves. Indigenous cultures support change and healing, transition and rites of passage, through mythic structures and through the incorporation into daily life of art, science, music, ritual, and drama. Every culture in the world has singing, dancing, and storytelling, and these are practices to which we all have access. We also have access to the four inner archetypes, or blueprints for human behavior, which are present in the mythic structure of societies the world over.