A Millennium Challenge:
UNITED NATIONS PAINTS A GRIM GLOBAL PICTURE:
Time is running out for natural systems, report warns; new threat
On Planet Earth four billion
years ago Nature became an intelligent, self-organizing, community
process that supports life sustaining relationships. Left undisturbed,
the web of life creates an optimum of life, diversity and balance
without producing garbage or contemporary society's destructive
abusiveness to people and places.
Although we are part of nature,
contemporary society has taught us to think and relate separated
from the process by which the web of life works. Our unbalanced
thinking is uncontrollably deteriorating Earth and its people.
A newly researched nature connected
thinking process brings people into conscious sensory contact
with nature. It enables an individual to psychologically become
sensitive to the web of life found in natural areas and people.
It helps a person think and relate in balance, like nature works.
the Web of Life:
Words for the Next Thousand Years
Michael J. Cohen ©1997
1997 PROCEEDINGS of the International Conference of the North
American Association for Environmental Education, Vancouver,
We are part of nature, the
balanced, ancient, web of life that communicates within itself
through non-verbal attractions. Our nature separated society
trains us to live, on average, less than .000022% of our lives
in conscious contact with the web.
This estrangement tears our
psyche from its nurturing origins in the web.
To dispel the pain this incurs,
our psyche removes from our awareness our hurt, inherent 53 natural
sense way of knowing life's balanced guidelines and rewards.
Our injured senses become subconscious. To reduce the sensory
void and sadness this creates, too often we crave and psychologically
bond to destructive gratifications. We want; we become greedy
for when we want there is never enough.
Through newly researched sensory
nature activities, the Organic Psychology of the Natural Systems
Thinking Process helps us genuinely, safely, reconnect our mentality
with the web of life. It enables us to replace our destructive
bonds with constructive passions and responsible attitudes. Balanced
personal, social and environmental relationships result.
"Oh, what a catastrophe,
what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal
feeling. This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding
at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and
stars. Love has become a grinning mockery because, poor blossom,
we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life and expected
it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table."
- D. H. Lawrence
"By thoughtfully learning
how to become conscious of 53 hidden natural senses we reattach
our ability to love to its roots in nature. This restores love
to its fullness and heals our bleeding."
- Michael J. Cohen
The unbalanced way we learn
to think in our nature conquering culture produces personal,
social and environmental abusiveness along with war. Although
we despise these evils, they don't readily change for, subconsciously,
we have psychologically bonded to the ideas and values that produce
them. Without appropriately addressing these destructive bonds
we and Earth remain dangerously unbalanced.
Biologically and psychologically
we are part of nature and vice versa. However, we learn to live
in physical and mental disconnection from nature and its balanced
ways. This severance from our inherent fulfillments in nature
produces a void in our psyche. It triggers cravings that we must
gratify artificially, no matter their ruinous effects.
Our artificial fulfillments
often color and distort our thinking while they provide emotional
and monetary rewards that fuel our economy. Unthoughtful development,
consumerism and disorders result. Despite excellent evidence
to the contrary, very few of us think that we can satisfy our
cravings by thoughtfully reconnecting to nature. Such denial
is typical of addiction.
We have become so bewildered
(wilderness separated) that we try to resolve our problems using
the same nature disconnected thinking that produces them. The
good news is that a social invention has been researched that
breaks this psychological vicious circle.
Experts accurately portray
nature and the web of life by gathering a group of people in
a circle. Each person is asked to represent some part of nature,
a bird, soil, water, etc. A large ball of string then demonstrates
the interconnecting relationships between things in nature. For
example the bird eats insects so the string is passed from the
"bird person" to the "insect person." That
is their connection. The insect lives in a flower, so the string
is further unrolled across the circle to the "flower person."
Soon a web of string is formed interconnecting all members of
the group, including somebody representing a person.
Every part of the global life
community, from sub-atomic particles to weather systems, is part
of this lifeweb. Their webstring interconnectedness produces
nature's balanced integrity and prevents runaway disorders. Dramatically,
people pull back, sense, and enjoy how the string peacefully
unites, supports and interconnects them and all of life. Then
one strand of the web is cut signifying the loss of a species,
habitat or relationship. Sadly, the weakening effect on all is
noted. Another and another string is cut. Soon the web's integrity,
support and power disintegrates along with its spirit. Because
this reflects the reality of our lives, it triggers feelings
of hurt, despair and sadness in many activity participants. Earth
and its people increasingly suffer from "cut string"
disintegration, yet we continue to cut the strings.
Natural beings relate while
in contact with the whole of the web through webstrings. As part
of nature, we are born with this ability. Pulitzer-Prize winning
sociobiologist Dr. Edward O. Wilson, of Harvard, affirms that
people have an inherent biological need to be in contact with
nature. He says Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual,
cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.
Recently, I asked some web
of life activity participants if they ever went into a natural
area and actually saw strings interconnecting things there. They
said no, that would be crazy. I responded, "If there are
no strings there, what then are the actual strands that hold
the natural community together in balance and diversity?"
It became very, very quiet.
Are you quiet, too?
Pay close attention to this silence. It flags the missing link
in our troubled thinking, perception and relationships. The web
strings are a vital part of survival, just as real and important
as the plants, animals and minerals that they interconnect, including
ourselves. The strings are as true as 2 + 2 = 4, facts as genuine
As part of nature we are born
with the natural ability to know webstrings but we learn to neither
recognize nor exercise this ability. Without seeing, sensing
or respecting the strings in nature and our inner nature, we
break, injure and ignore them (1). Their disappearance produces
a void, an uncomfortable psychological emptiness in our lives
that we constantly try to fill. We want, and when we want there
is never enough. We become greedy, stressed and reckless while
trying to artificially regain webstring fulfillment. We place
ourselves, others and Earth at risk for with respect to the web
of life there is no substitute for the real thing (2).
With the exception of humanity,
no member of the lifeweb relates, interacts or thinks through
the webstring sense of verbal language. Nature's web is a non-verbal,
preliterate experience consisting of webstring attraction loves,
not words that abstract, meaning pull apart (4). A bird's love
for food (hunger) is a webstring. So is the tree's attraction
to grow away from gravity and its roots attraction toward it.
The fawn's desire for its mother and vice-versa
are webstrings. Every atom and its nucleus consists of, expresses
and relates through webstring attractions. All of nature, including
us, consists of these attractions. People inherently experience
those needed for our survival as 53 or more natural senses. As
we learn to ignore them, our webstrings end up hurt and frustrated
in our subconscious mind (11).
Today, newly researched nature
reconnecting activities enable people to sensuously bring webstrings
back into our lives and thinking (3). Their presence helps reinstate
balanced personal and environmental relationships (10). Genuine
webstring contacts in natural areas help us sentiently reattach
the strings within us to their origins, the strings in the web
of life (6). We feel, enjoy and trust this thoughtful connection.
Webstring connection activities
also help people translate webstring attraction feelings into
verbal language and share them (9). In this unifying way, our
sensory connections with the web feelingly express and validate
themselves in conscious thoughts and words that help us guide
our reasoning and relationships (12). They enable us to think
like nature works. We enjoy nature's balanced wisdom as it enters
our relationships. Webstring support replaces destructive exploitation,
competition and greed, recovery occurs (7). The natural world,
backyard or backcountry, becomes a remarkable classroom, library
and therapist that we treasure (8). It helps us peacefully co-create
a future in balance with ourselves, each other and the global
life community (12).
* * * * *
The most effecient way to learn
to use and teach the webstring process is by taking a short,
Course: The Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship
1. Cohen, 2000, Nature Connected Psychology:
creating moments that let Earth teach http://www.ecopsych.com/natpsych.html
2. Cohen, 1997, Reconnecting
With Nature: Finding Wellness through restoring your bond with
the Earth, Ecopress, Corvallis, Oregon. http://www.pacificrim.net/~nature/newbook.html
3. Cohen, 1994, The Natural
Systems Thinking Process
4. Cohen 1995, Counseling and
Educating With Nature http://www.ecopsych.com/counseling.html
5. Cohen 1993, Well Mind, Well
Earth, Roche Harbor, WA, World Peace University Press
6. Kofalk, 1994 The Distinguished
World Citizen Award
7. Cohen, 1996, Study and Survey
of Participants http://www.ecopsych.com/survey.html
8. Cohen, 1996 Nature Psychology
Courses and Degrees http://www.rockisland.com/~process/
9. Cohen, 1996 Psychological
Elements of Global Citizenship
10. Cohen, 1997, Journalized
Findings of Participants http://www.ecopsych.com/millecopstrand.html
11. Beyond Addicted Thinking:
do this activity. http://www.webstrings.org/webstzbutton.html
12. Cohen, 1995, The Global
Wellness and Unity Activity
for additional references visit
About the Author:
Applied Ecopsychologist Michael
J. Cohen, Ed.D. founded and coordinates Project NatureConnect
and the Natural Systems Thinking Process. They are continuing
education workshops, distance learning courses and degree programs
of Greenwich University, Portland State University and the Institute
of Global Education. Dr. Cohen chairs the Department of Applied
Ecopsychology/Integrated Ecology on San Juan Island, Washington
and initiated the 1995 National Audubon conference "Is the
Earth A Living Organism?" For 33 years, he has founded and
directed degree granting environmental outdoor education programs
for the Trailside Country School, Lesley College, and the National
Audubon Society. His many books and articles include the award
winning "Connecting With Nature: Creating Moments that let
Earth Teach" which is included in his 1997 self-guiding
With Nature" (Ecopress) and "Well Mind, Well Earth:
97 Environmentally Sensitive Activities for Stress Management,
Spirit and Self-esteem." Dr. Cohen is the recipient of the
Distinguished World Citizen Award.