by Nico Arcilla

I stand where forests have fallen
to chainsaws and great machines
turning giants of trees into cargo
for ships traveling day and night
to faraway cities, away from their kin.

To the ruins of the forests, people rush in
to grow plantations of seeds that will be crushed
into chocolate and eaten by those who don’t know
this story: what came before, treasure
beyond imagining, here where they have never been.

Night has fallen too, and crickets sing.
Hyrax and galago call out to their kin
in the darkness, and shots ring out from hunters
who have come for those who survived,
to trade their lives for money.

Still I see the lit lamps of fireflies
traveling with me, bearing witness,
beaming as my heart swells, for no jewel
could be so beautiful as they, and no night
could be more beautiful than this.

The risen moon, the wonder of the world
does not mourn the fallen. It brings them home
with unfathomable grace, which leaves no room
for mourning. Learn how to see in the dark,
and you will see the resurrection, the triumph over death.

On a great tree felled by men, left to waste
in a row of spindly crops, in a field that once
was forest, a tiny bird alights in the upper branches.
The fallen giant stopped me in my tracks with grief,
but the bird throws back his head and sings.

Western Bluebill

Photos by Nico Arcilla: (Upper) Black Kite flying over burned rain forest on the Ghana coast; (Lower) Western Bluebill; (Lower) Rain forest tree in Ghana.

Nico Arcilla photo by Joel Holzman

Photo by Joel Holzman

Nico Arcilla, PhD, is a conservation biologist who studies wildlife responses to human impacts, such as habitat destruction and climate change, to contribute to conservation action and public awareness. President and Research Director of the International Bird Conservation Partnership (, she is also a student at the Zen Center of Philadelphia and affiliate fellow at the University of Nebraska. For 25 years, she has been collaborating with people in Africa and Madagascar, Europe and the Middle East, Asia and the tropical Pacific, and the Americas and Caribbean to protect, understand, and celebrate the astounding biodiversity that surrounds us and forms the basis of human life and diversity.


Letter of Apology to Mother Earth

by Eve Ensler

White-throated sparrow

A white-throated sparrow, whose population has declined by an estimated 93 million. (Photo by tcd123usa; licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

After I finished writing The Apology, a book in which I wrote a letter from my father to myself apologizing and exploring, explaining in detail all the ways he had abused and harmed me, I realized there was an apology I needed to make — an apology that would force me to confront my deepest sorrow, guilt and shame, an apology that I had been avoiding since I moved out of the city to the woods where I now live with the oaks, locust and weeping willows, Lydia the snapping turtle, running spring water, foxes, deer, coyotes, bears and cardinals and my precious dog, Pablo. It is my offering to you. It is my apology to the Earth, herself.

Dear Mother,

It began with the article about the birds, the 2.9 billion missing North America birds, the 2.9 billion birds that disappeared and no one noticed. The sparrows, black birds, and swallows who didn’t make it, who weren’t ever born, who stopped flying or singing or making their most ingenious nests, who didn’t perch or peck their gentle beaks into moist black earth. It began with the birds. Hadn’t we even commented in June, James and I that they were hardly here? A kind of eerie quiet had descended. But later they came back. The swarms of barn swallows and the huge ravens landing on the gravel one by one. I know it was after hearing about the birds, that afternoon I crashed my bike. I didn’t want to live without the birds or bees and sparkling flies that light the summer nights. Suddenly falling, falling, unable to prevent the catastrophe ahead, unable to find the brakes or make them work, unable to stop the falling. I fell and spun and realized I had already been falling, that we have been falling, all of us, and crows and conifers and ice caps and expectations — falling and falling and I wanted to keep falling. I didn’t want to be here to witness everything falling, missing, bleaching, burning, drying, disappearing, choking, never blooming.

I didn’t want to live without the birds or bees and sparkling flies that light the summer nights.

I didn’t want to live without the birds or bees and sparkling flies that light the summer nights. I didn’t want to live with hunger that turned us feral or desperation that gave us claws. I wanted to fall and fall into the deepest, darkest ground and be finally still and buried there.

But Mother, you had other plans. The bike landed in grass and dirt and bang, I was ten-years-old, fallen in the road, my knees scraped and bloody. And I realized that even then nature was something foreign and cruel, something that could and would hurt me because everything I had ever known or loved that was grand and powerful and beautiful became foreign and cruel and eventually hurt me. Even then I had already been exiled, or so I felt, forever cast out of the forest. I belonged with the broken, the contaminated, the dead.

Maybe it was the sharp pain in my knee and elbow, or the dirt embedded in my new jacket, maybe it was the shock or the realization that death was preferable to the thick tar of grief coagulated in my chest, or maybe it was just the lonely rattling of the spokes of the bicycle wheel still spinning without me. Whatever it was. It broke. It broke. I heard the howling.

Mother, I am the reason the birds are missing. I am the cause of salmon who cannot spawn and the butterflies unable to take their journey home.

Mother, I am the reason the birds are missing. I am the cause of salmon who cannot spawn and the butterflies unable to take their journey home. I am the coral reef bleached death white and the sea boiling with methane. I am the millions running from lands that have dried, forests that are burning or islands drowned in water.

I didn’t see you, Mother. You were nothing to me. My trauma-made arrogance and ambition drove me to that cracking pulsing city. Chasing a dream, chasing the prize, the achievement that would finally prove I wasn’t bad or stupid or nothing or wrong. Oh my Mother, what contempt I had for you. What did you have to offer that would give me status in the market place of ideas and achieving? What could your bare trees offer but the staggering aloneness of winter or greenness I could not receive or bear. I reduced you to weather, an inconvenience, something that got in my way, dirty slush that ruined my overpriced city boots with salt. I refused your invitation, scorned your generosity, held suspicion for your love. I ignored all the ways we used and abused you. I pretended to believe the stories of the fathers who said you had to be tamed and controlled — that you were out to get us.

I press my bruised body down on your grassy belly, breathing me in and out. I have missed you, Mother. I have been away so long. I am sorry. I am so sorry.

I am made of dirt and grit and stars and river, skin, bone, leaf, whiskers and claws. I am a part of you, of this, nothing more or less. I am mycelium, petal pistil and stamen. I am branch and hive and trunk and stone. I am what has been here and what is coming. I am energy and I am dust. I am wave and I am wonder. I am an impulse and an order. I am perfumed peonies and the single parasol tree in the African savannah. I am lavender, dandelion, daisy, dahlia, cosmos, chrysanthemum, pansy, bleeding heart and rose. I am all that has been named and unnamed, all that has been gathered and all that has been left alone. I am all your missing creatures, all the sweet birds never born. I am daughter. I am caretaker. I am fierce defender. I am griever. I am bandit. I am baby. I am supplicant. I am here now, Mother. I am yours. I am yours. I am yours.

Eve Ensler

© 2019 Eve Ensler. This article was originally published at brainpickings. Deep Times thanks Ms. Ensler for granting permission to reprint this piece.

Eve Ensler portrait

Photo by Paula Allen

Eve Ensler is the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, and author of the Obie Award-winning theatrical phenomenon, The Vagina Monologues, published in over 48 languages, performed in over 140 countries. Her plays include LemonadeExtraordinary MeasuresNecessary TargetsOPCThe Good Body,  Emotional Creature and Fruit Trilogy. She recently starred in her one woman play, In the Body of the World adapted from her memoir, at  the Manhattan Theatre Club. Her newly released and  best-selling book, The Apology, has been called “transfixing,” “revelatory,” and “cathartic.” Her writings appear regularly in The Guardian and TIME Magazine. Ensler is founder of V-Day, the 21-year-old global activist movement which has raised over 100 million dollars to end violence against all women and girls—cisgender, transgender and gender non-conforming—and founder of One Billion Rising, the largest global mass action to end gender-based violence in over 200 countries. She is a co-founder of the City of Joy, a revolutionary center for women survivors of violence in the DRC, along with Christine Schuler Deschyrver and  2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Denis Mukwege, all of whom appeared in the award-winning documentary film City of Joy, now on Netflix. Ensler has been named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women. A survivor of violence, Eve has dedicated her life to ending violence against all women and girls and mother earth.

Reciprocal Rhythm

By Toni Spencer

There is a reciprocal rhythm. A flow between things.
A velocity of reciprocity that builds a village, builds
a dream, builds the world.

For we are kin and kin means I need
you, and you need me. And the sun.
And the water. And the soil
born of things long dead.

Most of us grew up in little boxes. Little boxes
made of ticky-tacky. My house.
Your house. My plate. Your plate.
In the desert, there is one plate at dinner. One plate
where we all tuck in, fingers first, food for all.
I want that.

I want you to ask me for stuff.
I want you to ask because asking is
the kind of boldness we need.
Tell me what you want and I come
a little closer to you, and we dance.

It’s not the yes or the no, but the asking
that rocks the world to this rhythm.
And the ticky-tacky begins to crumble, walls fall
and we need each other all the more.

There is a reciprocal rhythm. Let me
give you things. Don’t hold back
your receiving, because it leaves us both
bereft of the kinship that ties us, reminds
us of our entwined-ness as ecological beings.

I cannot. No. I will not survive without you.
OK yes, some kind of half living but
not the kind I’m worthy of.
Not the kind you’re worthy of. And not
the kind they are worthy of.
Help me, not to fix but to fill the heart. Not to trade but to
till the soil of inter-being that is all there has ever been.

There is a reciprocal rhythm and it’s not in 4-4 for it
doesn’t follow straight lines. It’s a wild rhythm where
I help you and you help her and she gets to stop and he
gives all he has for love.

There is a reciprocal rhythm and it’s not in 4-4.

Toni Spencer works with questions of deep ecology, resilience and “a politics of wonder.” As a lecturer and course leader Toni has taught on the faculty of Schumacher College (Educational Practice, Ecological Facilitation as Leadership, Embodied Eco-literacy) and at Goldsmiths, University of London (Eco Design). As a participatory artist she has worked with Encounters Arts and The Feral Kitchen, also taking “The Work That Reconnects” to activist communities at Occupy London and elsewhere.  She is a Trustee at Processwork UK and was on the Embercombe Council for 8 years. With a BA in Fine Art and an MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice, Toni has trained in a diverse range of awakening practices and facilitation modalities, alongside many years of dancing, foraging and “living life as inquiry.” She is a mentor and teacher for Call of The Wild with Wildwise and Schumacher. She has enjoyed spending time at Findhorn, on Dartmoor and in the deserts of Jordan where she fell more deeply in love with humanity, silence and writing.

No Time to Lose

by Joanna Macy

The following article was adapted from Joanna Macy’s talk at the “No Time To Lose: A Dharma Response to Climate Change” event hosted by Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California on September 15, 2019.   It was previously published in Tricycle, Nov. 2019, and is republished here with permission.

Perhaps the truest form of touching the reality of this moment is this: to experience our capacity to praise and love our world, as it is. Even when it’s on fire. 

The Arctic is on fire. The rainforest of the Amazon is on fire. The Bolivian rainforest is on fire. Great swaths of Indonesia and Central Africa are on fire. 

Can we praise our world still? Yes. 

Last November, I was at a retreat at Spirit Rock. Doing walking meditation outside on the road, just concentrating, placing the foot, lifting the heel. But this mindfulness was broken by a stupid memory—it stuck like a bur. I didn’t need it. It was about some minor embarrassment to me, years back. 

And I thought to myself, “I should know better how to handle this.” Just noting, noting, noting. And then I despaired, asking, “Oh, what do I do?” Then—right up my left side—rose a thunderous voice that said: “Just fall in love with what is.” 

As soon as I heard that voice, I saw, right ahead of me, two curtains closing. On the left was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. “Twelve years left to cut our emissions in half”—and even though we knew this—emission levels have been steadily growing. This had been the most searing, most alarming, frankest report yet. On the other side of the curtain: Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election, and his electoral promise to cash in on the Amazonian rain forest and turn it over to big business and “let it make money.” 

I was rooted there. My whole body seemed to turn to stone, as I stood facing an impossible future.

My life hasn’t been the same since this “fall in love with what is” rang like a command in me.

My life hasn’t been the same since this “fall in love with what is” rang like a command in me. It was a message of acceptance: “Stop your self-preoccupation for a minute, Joanna, and accept what is happening to the world.”

What we’re up against is so mammoth, I realized, a change so total, that it is like we’re entering a bardo [the liminal state between death and life in Tibetan Buddhism].  

The bardo occurs not just when you die; it also can be a huge change in the conditions of your existence. [Tibetan Buddhist teacher] Mingyur Rinpoche talks about something like this in his book Falling in Love with the World, describing so powerfully how totally disoriented he was after leaving his monastery and going out into the world completely alone. 

But we’re entering this bardo together. 

Buddha Akshobhya, whose skin is blue like water, which reflects things as they are. (Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, 2003, cat. 134; licensed by under CC BY 2.0.)

In the east is Akshobhya Buddha, the buddha of mirror wisdom, who holds a mirror to us and our world. For us to survive, for us to pass through, we must not turn away from the mirror. Look into it, and you see a lot of beautiful things: students marching, wise teachers, and some of the great wisdom traditions stepping forward. In the center, however, we see a political economy doomed by its own rapacity. We see global corporate capitalism, or what you can call an “industrial growth society.” It’s devouring the world, and it’s on automatic––it’s gotten to a point where it can’t stop.

The Earth is being assaulted, extracted, poisoned, contaminated. This is us coming home to our true nature and our true identity. We can’t stop climate change to go back to what we were. We’re in collapse now, but it doesn’t have to be a total collapse. That’s where my heart-mind-body is poised now. 

There is inspiration out there to help us craft a life-sustaining society through this. Five centuries of hyper individualism has messed with us, but we ache to shake off our competitive suits of armor. We want to fall into the Earth’s arms and into each other’s arms. We need to find our way back to each other, and learn once again how to take care of each other. 

It will be messy, but this is our work right now: to see the Great Turning [from an ever-growing industrial society to a life-sustaining civilization], even as things are falling apart. 

Copyright 2019, Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Joanna Macy, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a groundbreaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science, explored through her books, audio-visual resources, and teachings on the Great Turning.

White Space: A Letter

I joined a Deep Adaptation series led by Dean Walker in the Spring of 2019.  The content of the six session online course was extremely well planned and was powerfully directed toward supporting people as they come to a deep acceptance of the immanence of global collapse. I was immediately aware, however, that the group of approximately thirty people was, with the exception of one African American man, entirely white. After some conversation with Dean, and with several participants who were as concerned as I was about the “White Space” that was created in the group, I decided to send an email to Dean detailing my concerns and suggestions.  What follows is that letter, slightly edited for publication here (with permission from Dean). –Kurt Kuhwald 

June 2, 2019

Dear Dean,

I offer this missive with deep respect for you and your work.  I offer it, too, in the spirit of collaboration with the hope that an authentic way, or ways, forward can be created that will build not only resilient communities but fully inclusive ones. 

I have three concerns that have to do with the exclusion of People of Color, both from the Deep Adaptation group and from the writings associated with the group’s focus.  While I understand that you would welcome more diversity in the Deep Adaptation group, my experience is that when groups (including activist and/or justice oriented groups) are not diverse, it is because BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are, in fact, actually excluded.   

My experience is that when groups (including activist and/or justice oriented groups) are not diverse, it is because BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are, in fact, actually excluded.

This will take some unpacking to explain fully, and in the points that follow I hope to bring some clarity and understanding about how that exclusion takes place—even (or especially) when unintended. Three preliminary points:

  1. The content of the writings offered (yours and those of others you chose for us), seem to be essentially written from a “white space.”  That is, (a) they make little reference to the concerns and the orientation of frontline BIPOC about climate disruption and how they specifically are affected by it, (b) they do not take note of the apocalypse that has been and continues to be visited upon BIPOC peoples and their communities for centuries. I believe that Philip Shepherd’s work, which you referenced, is a good example of these points, despite the fact that it is helpful in many ways, and certainly insightful into the disastrous separation from embodiment engendered by the larger, capitalist-driven, white supremacist society. For those of us affected by or concerned about that apocalyptic history (whether BIPOC or Allies to BIPOC), the  absence of specific information regarding and/or specific reference to it is experienced as erasureThis kind of erasure is part of what creates “white space,” which means that BIPOC/Allies feel not only excluded, but fundamentally feel unsafe as well.
  1. Racism is embedded in and endemic to the cultures of the United States. In this historical time, it is hidden within liberal groups by the dynamics of “white fragility” (a term developed by Dr. Robin DiAngelo), implicit bias, and unconscious (or conscious) grounding in privilege. Therefore, the creation of a community that is meant to be deeply inclusive must, at its inception, specifically seek inclusion and participation of BIPOC. To go on without a genuine and wholehearted effort to do so has wide-ranging implications that directly affect the humanity of all involved—and the ultimate success of the original mission.  This point is critical. To form a community without this step of inclusion and collaboration creates immediate and often insurmountable problems in seeking to balance the racial mix of the group going forward.  In my own experience it is close to impossible—and can only be partially transformed by a subgroup of dedicated folks whose work influences but can not, in the end, fully transform the whole.
  1. Within the community of facilitators of The Work That Reconnects (WTR) that was founded by Joanna Macy, a stream of work has been evolving for a number of years within a subset of its facilitators (of which I am a part). Here is how that work is described on the WTR website in the section, Evolving Edge: “At this time of great social and environmental crises, a group of facilitators has been exploring ways that the facilitation of the Work That Reconnects (WTR) has reflected the industrial growth society’s patterns of harm. The intention of this exploration is to more fully recognize, address, and reframe the ways that power, privilege, and oppression appear within WTR spaces in order to develop the WTR and its facilitators.” Lessons learned by that small community of facilitators can be helpful for anyone concerned about authentic racial equity, diversity, and collaboration.  It is also relevant to those working within the models and narratives that are aligned with Deep Adaptation and Extinction Response communities, including your course, “Deep Adaptation in Times of Collapse.”

Here are some of the learnings from the “Decolonization” of the WTR (it is important to note that these learnings generally apply to any work for justice):

  1. Revealing where harms have been done in the facilitation of the WTR, in its teachings and practices, is essential in order to shift into work that is supportive and fully inclusive rather than harmful—and to repair harm wherever possible. It is important to understand that “harms” involve and are generated from a number of dynamics: the culture of the community (i.e. “White Space” that excludes BIPOC); a world view that is exclusive and that does not tell nor function from the full story (i.e. that includes a recognition of how  BIPOC were involved historically); individual practices that exclude or target BIPOC (e.g. through “micro-aggressions”); and, the lack of openly recognizing and valuing the full experience of BIPOC in all domains of the community’s work.
  2. Accepting and honoring the experiences of BIPOC persons must be relocated at the center of the community, and particularly in the transformation of the work of the community from harm to support and inclusion.
  3. Courage, dedication, openness, and the willingness to expand and deepen the prevailing story are required by all involved, but particularly by those in the dominant culture in order to facilitate healing, shifts and transformation of the work.
  4. Assessment of the community and its work must include the “big picture” of its vision, mission and objectives, as well as a granular focus on specific practices. Both of these domains need to undergo significant transformation so that the lens and the praxis reflect the full story.
  5. The lack of full inclusion of the perspectives, lived experience and personhood of BIPOC in any work for justice and transformation results in half-measures and in the end undermines that work.  It will, in fact, ultimately support the very powers it wishes to change and replace and/or replicate the systems it aims to change or replace in the long term. 


What can be done to create a diverse and racially balanced and/or racially sensitive, welcoming and supportive atmosphere/community of praxis once the group has formed without it?

  1. The first thing to do is to identify those within the community who also see the problem and believe it must be addressed—and to work with them to explore the problem and its dynamics, including harms it has caused.  With those people, a strategy for going forward can be created, which will include:
  2. Openly acknowledging, within the community at large, that the imbalance in membership is a problem, and while admittedly difficult and complex in nature—demands immediate attention. This requires courage, sincerity and humility, as well as a passion for justice and equity. For most white people, this also requires serious internal examination of their unconscious biases, and privilege, as well as the dynamics of white fragility that continually influence their understanding and behavior.
  3. Once the problem has been brought to the attention of the whole community, there are a number of ways to move forward.  Two possibilities are:
    1. A working group can be created whose job would be to explore the issue in full. It would bring its learnings to the whole community—which requires committed time to hear, discuss and work with the findings (group discussion, small group discussions, guided meditations, exercises for opening and experiencing the stories at work, embodiment practices and presentations of information needed to create a full story).
    2. Halting the work of the group and refocusing it on the issue of exclusion until an adequate grasp of the issues has been achieved and a plan for action of the group’s mission has been reset.

Given that there are only three sessions left in the Deep Adaptation program, and that the sessions are only one and a half hours long, taking on a full-scale focus that addresses the issue of group’s lack of BIPOC participation, with the intention of seeking a significant increase in BIPOC inclusion, would not work, in my opinion.  However, giving some time to the issue of that lack in the work of Deep Adaptation seems critical to me.

I deeply believe that if we do not find ways to create a unified way forward, a path of addressing Climate Disruption that is fully inclusive of the human family, the resulting society and culture will have been built, essentially, on genocide.  That may seem to be a harsh assessment, but try as I might, I cannot come up with any other conclusion.

Blessings & I look forward to talking with you soon,


Kurt Kuhwald photoAfter a 23-year stint as a High School Special Education teacher, Kurt A. Kuhwald completed his training and ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister in 1994; he primarily focused his ministry on anti-racism/multiculturalism, Just Transition/Climate disruption, and Low-wage Workers’ rights. Trained as a psychotherapist by Dr. Carl Rogers in 1985, Kurt worked in community, hospital, and private settings.  He was introduced to WTR in 2006 and in the last five or so years has worked with the “Evolving Edge” team to bring oppression, power and privilege issues (particularly about racism) into the community of WTR and its facilitators.