The Ecology of Relationships


In six posts this month, from Gaia: Living Earth through to Mother Nature's Digestive System, I have been making the connections between the health of human beings and that of the earth. 

The intention is to show that our relationship with the planet is one of symbiosis or a co-dependency such that when one gets sick and diseased so does the other. 


This is not just about the physical but also emotional and psychological health. That is not a new concept, various people have written about the link between human health and that of the planet for decades.
A World of Heart-centred Relationships 

A chapter in one of my favourite books on ecology discusses and compares the ‘eco-psychology’ of relationships and the link between, as the author puts it, “the non-sustainability of person-to-person relationships with that of our human-to-planet relationship”; both of which we simply tolerate.

During my time as a mental health professional individuals, both men and women, spoke of the control, mental confusion, emotional anguish and torment they experienced in relationships, tantamount to domestic abuse. They came seeking a non-judgemental space to talk openly and frankly, and then leave with a semblance of peace, at least for a while, having offloaded something troubling. 

Some had been literally crippled - emotionally, psychologically and, worse of all, spiritually – by their experience. Perhaps in time they would find the courage and reach for support to sever the ties that bound them to a dysfunctional relationship, akin to self-harming. 


Usually, the whole tenor of the conversation was that the individual was resigned to accepting the status quo and making the best of a bad situation. More often than not they felt unable to leave because of children, but sometimes because they had fallen into a pattern difficult to break, one of co-dependency. The truth was their very life force was being drained and at one level they were slowly dying.

By now it is abundantly clear that in our humankind to planet relationship, it is the latter that is subjected to abuse on a global scale, as we bear witness to the decimation of all Mother Nature's vital functions. 


Psychiatric Social Worker Terrance O’Connor comments on the perils of simply accepting the ‘status quo’ of an abusive relationship:


“The status quo is that [whilst rectified through direct action] the hole in the ozone layer got bigger…The status quo is that some scientists are predicting that by the middle of the [21st] Century global warming will result in most coastal cities…being below sea level…

The status quo is that acid rain, besides destroying the lakes and forests, is now considered to be the leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke. The status quo is that 35,000 people die of starvation every day…every day, two or more species become extinct, not due to natural selection but due to deforestation and pollution...

What does this say to you?

To me it says that the status quo is the planet is dying! The planet is dying because we are satisfied with our limited relationships in which control, denial and abuse are tolerated. The status quo is that we have these [types] of relationships with each other, between nations, with ourselves and the natural world. Why should we bother? 

[We should bother] because a healthy relationship is not an esoteric goal. It is a matter of our very survival and the survival of most of life upon this earth”.[1]



[1] Terrance O’Connor, Therapy for a Dying Planet [In Eco-psychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind; Ed. Theodore Roszak]

Related Post: Reflections in a Global Mirror (February 2013)

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