I feel with every fiber of my being that the climate crisis is actually a crisis of human consciousness. It is as much spiritual and emotional as it is physiological  and ecological. 

The same way a mother can hear her baby cry and know instinctively what they need, we too, can observe the irresponsible, disconnected behavior of humanity as a different form of crying and intuit where there is pain asking to be healed. 

And If we are to embark on a journey of collective healing of humankind, it is critical that women and femmes are at the forefront.  Within each of us, transcending gender and biological sex, there exists the energies of the feminine & the masculine. For far too long, we have seen a world dominated by masculine energy in patriarchal systems… and look where it has gotten us. Softness is viewed as weakness. Compassion is an afterthought. And our socioeconomic systems are rooted in GDP. A war time measure focused solely on production, extraction, profit, & the illusion of exponential growth….

In nature, nothing is siloed. Everything is connected in the great web of life. And it seems that we humans have been too distracted by our minds and constructed society to remember that we, too, are part of that ecosystem. 

In addressing both the SDGs and the multivariate dilemmas of our species, we must gently put the whims of the mind to the side and engage with the heart space. Now usually, this sort of discussion is written off as being too esoteric or woo-woo… but these philosophies are far more ancient than the systems we are trying to remedy. 

In matriarchal societies… such as Indigenous communities around the globe, women are the water-carriers and the keepers of heart-centered wisdom. Water is connected to our emotional bodies, to our feelings. The same way that water flows, so too do our feelings and emotions. How a society tends to both water and women are both correlated and telling……

The other night, I was watching the show “Gilded Age” with my Babushka. The episode was about the introduction of electric light & in the episode one of the characters asked something along the lines of “This is an amazing thing, but is it the right thing in the long term?” and the other responded with “We don’t have a choice in the matter, we just go where history takes us.” In my mind, this small exchange so perfectly summed up the crisis we are facing. With each passing year, innovation & layers of human socioeconomic constructed systems have added layers to complexity, like a network of webs. The question becomes… how do we hold the complexity of the world we are in? And how do we move through the intricate web of life & complexity in a way that is not only cognizant of, but anchored in a deeper awareness of how we move through the world?

Our current systems do not account for consciousness. They are far from sustainable and certainly fall short of the sort of radical change and accountability we need. But what if each of us moved through the world with a deeper sense of responsibility and awareness? 

Not just the climate activists or the environmentalists or the humanitarians… all of us.

While yes, the challenges we face today are not suddenly remedied by individuals taking actions… we cannot allow ourselves to be disempowered. Collective action and moreso, a collective sense of responsibility for our Earth and all beings IS the choice we have in the matter. 

So, in a world where the most critical decisions of our time are made by a far too powerful few for the many… how must our systems shift to rise to the occasion? I always like reframing reform as reimagination. Can you imagine a world where civil society is centered and leading decision making processes? If we built our systems from scratch today, what would we create in order to rise to the challenges we are facing? Would we be embroiled in conflict after conflict and crisis upon crisis if “we the people ” made decisions around the globe? Likely not. 

If grandmothers and grandchildren stood hand in hand, working in partnership. If we prioritized networks of mutual care ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. What kind of world would we rebirth?

The climate crisis is as much spiritual and psychosomatic as it is an ecological crisis. after millennia of power struggles and an ethos of domination over nature and one another, where are we hurting? Who are we when we are hurting? What parts of us, collectively, have numbed ourselves out to the pain and suffering of others… both human and non-human? And why? This is at the core of eco-feminism.

Can you identify more native tree species than brand logos? Who are we when our circadian rhythms are disrupted by light? When our nervous systems are dysregulated? When we are consuming food and water that are laden with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides? 

Yet if we take time to listen… to truly tune in to the life teeming around and within us… we can recalibrate and remember who we are when we are in resonance with the natural world of which we are an inextricable part….

In preparation for today, I went to mama ocean and consulted the waters. I grounded myself with my feet in the sand, allowed my breath to match the rhythm of the waves, and simply opened myself up to listen to what was coming through.

In my experience, the greatest keys to my own success have been embodiment of my own beliefs and values (no matter how imperfect), embracing my own multidimensional nature, and the practice of deep listening to the lessons present in all creatures and elements around us.

Rather than conventional career advice, something that has moved me furthest along my journey  is the process of sitting with big questions for months at a time and letting them shape me. … I moved through unpacking layers of my subconscious, deep contemplation of my own purpose in this life, who I want to be, and how I want to show up in the world. 

Inspired by Indigenous Vision Quests, a sacred ceremony from time immemorial, last May, I hiked up to the top of a mountain for 24 hours as the capstone to my period of deep inner reflection. With me, I only brought a hammock, journal, a little bit of water, offerings of sage, tobacco, and cornmeal, and a book of matches.

My greatest teachers that day were the ants, bees, and hawks. The ants, crawling ever so gently across my skin, reminded me of the responsibility & choice we have to walk gently on our Earth. 

The bees reminded me of our power to work in harmony for the greater good of all of creation. They taught me to protect my energy, but share my medicine.

And the hawks showed me the importance of flying above, seeing everything from a bird’s eye view… balanced with being grounded down, intimately part of a local ecosystem.

It’s actually the wisdom of the hawks that led me to work at Rodale Institute. At the time, my work largely concentrated on the bigger picture and more international-facing discourse. I was craving a deep connection to an ecosystem, both social and ecological. I knew I wanted the opportunity to be of service both on a larger scale and at the most local of levels. In my work at Rodale, I am currently focusing on the health of the Delaware River Watershed as well as regenerative health of both people and planet. We’re connecting doctors, professionals from across the healthcare system, and farmers together… because soil health IS human health. …Regeneration, to me, feels like a distinctly feminine, life-giving approach to the climate crisis. Regeneration asks: “What here is asking to be healed?”. 

Advocacy, social and ecological justice work IS healing work. 

And burnout is far too common. I’m sure all of us here have experienced burnout in some capacity. In navigating that, knowing when to rest and regrounding my work in a place of love, rather than scarcity, fear, and anger, has been the most important thing I’ve done to sustain myself while we work together in sustaining the planet. 

Each of us has the power to spark change, to catalyze regeneration where we are. Whether you are a student, environmental advocate, engineer, accountant, program manager, doctor, lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom… NEVER underestimate your power to create a ripple around you. 

Like an ecosystem, we all play a unique role in our social ecosystems. As more of us become conscious of how we move through the world and the responsibility we have to walk gently upon the Earth, there is a ripple effect in the places and spaces we occupy.

Nadine Clopton