There’s an interesting line of enquiry emerging from the last ten years of change-making here in Aotearoa New Zealand. I’ve participated in various movements, projects, protests, and learning environments where I’ve looked around and observed that there’s been a lot of women, and felt a growing sense of curiosity around the question “where are the men?”
“where are the men?”
Following that question with another “how can we empower men to bring their energy to the Great Turning?”
Three Stories of Our Time In the Work That Reconnects, there are three stories of our time. Business As Usual is the name given to the dominant civilizational narrative. TheGreat Unraveling tracks the degradation and collapse of our biological, ecological, economic, and social systems. While The Great Turning holds the new story for humanity as it rotates around from the industrial growth society to a life sustaining society.
It doesn’t come as a huge surprise that my training cohort for the Work That Reconnects has a significant minority of men. The same is true in the movement modalities, ceremonies, circles and workshops I engage with as well. I wonder if the pattern of lesser male participation is playing out in other transformational spaces, and why is it so obvious with the Work That Reconnects?
The Three Dimensions of the Great Turning So working from patterns to details, I run my enquiry through the various projects that I’ve participated in or contributed to, all of which exist along what could be considered a spectrum of change. This spectrum is sometimes referred to as the Rainbow of Activism which starts with hard interventionist action, moving through more community organising, to softer, more artistic or spiritual forms.
In the Work that Reconnects, the three dimensions to the Great Turning are Holding Actions, which seek to slow down the industrial growth society to buy more time for Structural or Systemic Alternatives to emerge. Simultaneously, Shifts in Consciousness allow for our mental and psycho-spiritual worldview to readjust to a life of participation in and belonging to a living world.
There didn’t appear to be a significant dearth of males within some of the harder intervention centered forms
There didn’t appear to be a significant dearth of males within some of the harder intervention centered forms such as Extinction Rebellion or longer actions such as #occupywallstreet. When I recall my mentors and teachers in Non-Violent Direct Action and other forms of civil disobedience there is strong male presence, so hats off for the fellas willing to roll up their sleeves and put their lives on the line.
Or is it that we have the loudest voices? Because I’ve seen some incredible women go to great lengths for what they believe in. The recent reclamation of ancient land at Ihumātao was led by indigenous women. My reflection from the coal face was that the occupation brought to light our deepest colonial wounds, and did an excellent job at shining that light peacefully for an extended period of time.
I can confirm that colossal non violent action was predominantly driven by teenage women.
The School Strike for Climate was an incredible feat of organisational talent and willpower, with 2200 protest events across 125 countries worldwide. I was asked to support the SS4C movement, and was struck by the lack of males involved. From Greta in Sweden to Zoe here in Tauranga, I can confirm that colossal non violent action was predominantly driven by teenage women.
Zoe, SS4C Leader, on right with microphone
I cast my mind further along the changemaker spectrum and undoubtedly see more women exploring new social and economic alternatives to business as usual. Mainstream avenues such as social enterprise or local community organising are often led by wild, charismatic women acting on behalf of people and place. The once masc-heavy landscape of Permaculture now has a powerful voice of knowledgeable and experienced ecofeminists, and most of my friends in environmental policy and conservation are women
In my discovery of decolonisation, feminism and living in community I wound my way through various bodies of work. These include Non Violent Communication, Group Facilitation, Classical Tantra, Consensus-based Decision Making and Co-housing. Most of these spaces come alive with the breath of women, and are the best example of the Great Turning in action I’ve witnessed. And yet, the pathways for men to engage seem to be missing.
I’m lonely sometimes, and I can see a huge need for male energy in these spaces.
As I write this I’m wary of treading on men, and potentially placing women on a pedestal. This is not my intention. If anything, I’m lonely sometimes, and I can see a huge need for male energy in these spaces. So what might they be facing that’s holding them back?
The Hierarchy of Power and Privilege One piece worth identifying is that men benefit from their gender based privileges, and might be less inclined to want to change the power structure that supports them, consciously or unconsciously. It’s also fairly well documented that men also suffer under patriarchy, so I’ll acknowledge this piece in part, but won’t rush to assign the cause of this enquiry to the privilege of the individuals within patriarchy alone.
Inspection leads to incomplete conclusions, while ‘aspecting’ the patterns enables us to see the wider context that forms the question. A systems level perspective reveals that patriarchy is more than the sum of its parts (men holding power), and is part of a larger hierarchy of power and privilege.
I’m basically a venn diagram at the nexus of partriarchy, colonisation, and capitalism.
Mapping the direction of the wind that fills my sails as a cis-het male of European descent, it’s clear I’m navigating between multiple systemic power structures. I’m basically a venn diagram at the nexus of partriarchy, colonisation, and capitalism.
I’m cautious to complain here, but finding myself in a Bermuda triangle of hidden systems of oppression is enough to set my compass spinning. I can see why many men would bury their heads in the sand at this point. The amount of emotional work is either too tough to face, or too subtle to sense.
In addition to this, the feminist power analysis of Patriarchy has left men without an anchor to ground us in our own definition of what it means to be a man in a liberal but aggressively regulated world of progressive politics and activism.
Having spent the last 5 years unlearning the numbness that came from being raised in a culture which discouraged feelings beyond joy and anger, I can understand how some men could justify not wanting to change the way things are currently.
Our civilisational myths have an anaesthetic effect on the guilt and shame associated with our settler-colonial history.
Our civilisational myths have an anaesthetic effect on the guilt and shame associated with our settler-colonial history. Being numb to nature’s pain makes the inherent wrongness in capitalism bearable. Pairing these with our assigned gender roles and prescribed relationship frameworks, it’s clear what is allowing us to keep the Business As Usual story alive.
We’ve certainly been groomed to value ourselves in relation to our value to others, which might explain why we seem to be stuck in Business as Usual, or obsessed with the details of science and the spectacle of the Great Unraveling.
Old Tropes and Polarities Another handicap for my brothers might lie with society’s focus on physical abilities, which perpetuates the power-over paradigm. Pairing this with a binary lens of good and evil, the act of making change is reframed to a fight between man and his adversaries. Safe spaces that shed new light on old tropes like ‘man vs nature’, or ‘men vs women’ are rare, as progressive spaces can often perpetuate these polarities by holding onto old stories as a crutch.
As the shoots of my sense-ability creep courageously up through the cracks in my conditioning, my ability to feel grows too. I feel empathy for the women in my life, for the cultures that have suffered, and for the non-human beings I share this Earth-time with.
The parallels between how women are treated and how the planet gets treated are many. While men might avoid the places where they might encounter these uncomfortable feelings, it’s possible that women find solace in the shared experience. This might explain why more women are driven to show up in solidarity for Earth, represented in feminine form by many cultures, to heal their relationship with themselves and with nature.
I’m careful to suggest anything on anyone’s behalf, but I’ve observed that women in my life are content with taking smaller steps, and more often. To set an intention for a desired reality and whisper it into the universe isn’t so passive when it’s followed by sweet longing, regular rituals and subtle, strategic influences.
Learning to become more comfortable with discomfort will be essential to shaking off these stories, and take our place in the Great Turning.
This approach to change is consistent with the shifts in consciousness needed to bring about the Great Turning. It could be that our men feel they bear the responsibility of preserving Business as Usual. It’s possible that humanity’s anthropocentric delusion grips us more tightly, so we tighten our control as the Great Unraveling escalates. Either way, learning to become more comfortable with discomfort will be essential to shaking off these stories, and take our place in the Great Turning.
An Invitation, Wish, and Prayer My invitation to men is to be more in service to life, and to remember the unique virtues and values that we have.
My wish would be that we can cultivate this together, and contribute our privilege horizontally and share our power-with.
My prayer is for our deepest ecological identities to guide us.
Leo Murray: With nature as his teacher, Leo plays an active role as an interdisciplinary changemaker and thought leader in Aotearoa New Zealand. He is grateful to have felt the breadth and depth of human emotions, and tries his best to learn from them all.
Officially working as a ‘beyond’ sustainability consultant for Why Waste, Leo’s other roles can be described as vibe architect, permaculture designer, systems design thinker, NVDA activist, storyteller and ocean voyager. Work That Reconnects profile: https://workthatreconnects.org/user/leo-mufasa-murray/
For our next issue, in September 2022, we are seeking contributors from all over the world, particularly outside the US, to show how the Work That Reconnects or other related or more ancient deep ecology ritual and practices are helping people grapple with the many crises before us all, how to stay connected or reconnect with earth and each other, and how to prepare or refresh ourselves for our role in the healing of the world.
Deep Times’s editors, mostly but not all based in the US, and all currently living in colonial and/or colonized places, recognize that while the specific Work That Reconnects methodology was primarily synthesized by white Americans, it has worldwide roots and reach, from the Council of All Beings in Australia and the Elm Dance in Ukraine and the coining of the term “deep ecology” in Norway. And deeper than that it is informed by and indebted to indigenous wisdom, in particular Haudenosaunee teachers and Tibetan Buddhists. Beyond that, shamanic practices, earth-based and non-dual religions and practices throughout the world have much longer histories and track records bringing people back to life, or reminding people to remain in the flow of systems and relationship. Deep Times is especially interested in learning and sharing such wisdom and practices, from the voices of those living those traditions.
How have you or others in your home countries adapted or integrated the Work That Reconnects to support local and regional needs and cultures?
What practices and wisdom does your tradition have to share with the movement towards the Great Turning of the industrial growth society to a life-affirming one?
How and when have you been sharing it? Do you want to share it more?
We hope to offer articles and poems in the mother tongue of each contributor as well as translated into English. If you can translate, or find someone that can translate, that is optimal. Please pass this on to colleagues who might be able to contribute. We are seeking articles, artwork, and poetry by a deadline of July 1, 2022.
Please submit materials to: deeptimes(at)workthatreconnects.org
Molly Brown I just finished reading one book and am trying to read two more at the same time! All well-written, enlightening, and inspiring.
Mutual Aid – The Other Law of the Jungle, by Pablo Servigne and Gauthier Chapelle This book reads like an adventure novel, with some many fascinating stories of cooperation and mutual aid among and between species, even between plants and animals. The authors also report on research of mutual aid and cooperation among humans, and what supports cooperation and what gets in the way. One of the most interesting findings is that competition between individuals may benefit the more aggressive or selfish person, but societies that practice cooperation survive and thrive better than competitive, aggressive societies. Read and find out why!
The Dawn of Everything – A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow. I had to get this book after reading numerous enthusiastic reviews about it. As I read it, I am rediscovering how much I love history, especially history about people and cultures (as opposed to military heroes, kings, and presidents). An added delight: The Dawn of Everything challenges conventional beliefs about early human consciousness, intelligence, and lifestyles—and I tend to enjoy anything that upsets our apple carts, our comfortable paradigms. Although I’ve only read 160 of the 526 pages (not counting 150 pages of notes and references and another 17 pages of index), I’m already sensing a theme emerging, similar to what I’ve found in Mutual Aid and The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent: there is no such thing as “human nature,” especially in regards to cooperation vs. competitiveness, aggression vs. peace-loving. Humans societies appear through our 200,000 years on Earth in so many different forms, with so many different values and organizations, that is is impossible to say any one way is “natural” and others are aberrations. We’re all over the map! And different conditions give rise to different adaptations and creative responses. I actually find that quite hopeful: we really can create a more sustainable, just, and humane way of life; we only have to choose collectively how we want to live, and the kind of world we want to leave to our descendants.
Finding the Mother Tree- Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard Like The Dawn of Everything, I read so many rave reviews and mentions of this book that I had to buy a copy, and can barely lay it down. Simard blows apart the comfortable assumptions on the part of those of us raised in European/American paradigms of white and human supremacy as she details her meticulous research and findings about the amazing intelligence and communication networks of trees and mycorrhizae (aka. mycelia), as well as other intimately interconnected plants and animals. She writes of her personal journey into the world of the forest, with stories about family members, photos from childhood, and other details that bring her explorations and insights alive. In this way, she speaks directly to me, to my heart as well as my intellect. Thank you, Suzanne!!
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Erin Holtz Breackman During this winter yoga session of classes, I have been reading from Thich Nhat Hanh’s most recent book, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.Filled with a lifetime of learning, practice, insight, and teaching, he could leave us with no greaterparting gift – or call to action – than this one.
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Karina Lutz I’m always reading 10+ books at a time. Major predictors if I’ll finish it: it’s a library book, with a deadline, and my book group’s reading it, ditto.
I’m loving poetry: Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things
Jim Brown’s Language Be My Bronco Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem
Jericho Brown’s The Tradition
Looby Macnamara’s Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect
and fiction: Virgina Woolf’sA Haunted House and I just finished Tove Jansson’sThe Summer Book. As for nonfiction, I’m rereading Susan Griffin’s early ecofeminist poetic treatise Woman and Naturefor this issue, taking a second try at Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory, which I enthusiastically lent to someone half way through a few years ago, and they never returned it. Next up is On Freedom by Maggie Nelson, after hearing Ezra Klein interview her about it. It’s a fascinating nondual take on an American lightning rod. And I just picked up Medical Nemesis by Ivan Illich for a book of oral history of alternative medicine pioneers I’m hoping to write.
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Martha O’Hehir I am reading Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, by Joanna Rogers Macy (1983). I have unprocessed fears and trauma from “The Cold War era.” Written in 1983, Joanna named the elephant(s) in the room: not just the Bomb Threat, but also the extinctions that were coming to consciousness after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published. And not only those, but she also saw already how the colonization and extraction practices of the “First World” (global north) were causing massive disruption in the Global South, then called the “Third World” countries. This book elaborates the psycho-spiritual-cultural reasons we struggle(d) to acknowledge and speak of our pain for the world, and one can see the seminal beginnings of the Work That Reconnects. I am reading this as a preparation to facilitate sessions using the spiral to deal with growing climate /eco-grief as an additional existential threat.
I am also reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson (2021). This book is a compendium of women’s voices via essays and poetry, illustrated by Madeleine Jubilee Saito. It is a repository of sanity and solutions, a treasure box of gems to encourage, strengthen and support “the relational web between us, which needs to be nurtured.” The book is cleverly annotated and the authors have provided more references and resources for collective reading on their website www.allwecansave.earth.
I am also reading Paul Levy’s (2021) recently published Wetiko: Healing the Mind-Virus That Plagues our World. “Wetiko” originated as a word used by native peoples to describe what they observed in colonists’ and settlers’ behaviors, which appeared as a virus of the mind resulting in the attitude and unconstrained impulse of “Subjugate, Enslave, Extract, Consume.” Levy also describes how the Coronavirus-19 pandemic demonstrates in reality how wetiko works: like a physical virus, it has no life of its own, but can only do its work through a cooperating human host. Wetiko as a construct has proved to be a useful concept for Spiral work: in seeing with new and ancient eyes, especially as we examine our own culpability for suffering and climate change through participating in a wetiko-based culture. Additionally, Levy says, “The great dissolver of wetiko is compassion,” echoing Joanna Macy’s call to us to allow ourselves to feel and honor our pain for the world, which leads to compassion and a transformation of our being which allows us to go forth with courage and action. If the Great Unraveling can be seen as the unraveling of wetiko, then we can be quite optimistic, seeing with new eyes how we can accelerate a new sustainable way of living on planet earth by starting with ourselves and dismantling wetiko within. And what, says, Levy, is the greatest power over wetiko? Awakened creative imagination.
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Evangelia Papoutsaki My books-to-read pile is fast increasing while the books I am still reading pile is not going down fast enough but I am happy to be surrounded by so many wonderful books. I just finished Osho’s(2001) Awareness: The Key to Living in Balance which I enjoyed very much as it served as a reminder of how meditation heightens awareness and “presencing.” Here is a quote: “The whole Eastern methodology can be reduced to one word: witnessing. And the whole Western methodology can be reduced to one thing: analyzing. Analyzing, you go round and round. Witnessing, you simply get out of the circle.” A good reminder to an academic who is training to analyze everything!
I am still going through Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations (2021, in 5 volumes), I loved David Abram’s contribution in Vol. 1: Planet about Wild Ethics and Participatory Science: thinking between the body and the breathing earth. “Wild Ethics has more to do with a simple humility towards others-an alternative openness not just towards other persons but also toward the inexhaustible otherness of the manifold beings that compose this earthly world.” His books, The Spell of the Sensuous (1997)and Becoming Animal (2011) are the only two books I take with me when I do my fieldwork on small islands; they are like bibles reminding me to stay close to nature, becoming part of nature.
And I am re-reading after many years The Poisonwood Bible (2008) by Barbara Kingslover: what a masterpiece and a good reminder of the evils of colonization and missionaries inflicted on a whole continent. Narrated through the voices of the female members of the household of a Baptist missionary in Congo, the book juxtaposes these female narratives against the multiple manifestations of patriarchy. Brilliantly written and solidly packed with symbolism. And the book I am now starting is The Vagina by Naomi Wolf. Cultural history but also a fiercely courageous portrait of female sexuality through her own personal narrative. A great follow-up to her older bestseller, The Beauty Myth. I am so looking forward to getting to the conclusions part: reclaiming the Goddess where she mentions her visit to Crete (my ancestral island) that was the epicenter of Goddess worship of the ancient Minoan civilization that antedated the ascent of the Aryan male-dominated pantheon of gods of classical Greece and also the harsher patriarchal workshops of the Hebrews. I think it’s time I go back to my ancestral island to trace the inner Goddess of my ancestors!
I shall not mention my long list of Buddhist texts, my ongoing practice… but I did enjoy re-reading Awakening the Buddha Within by Surya Das and the work of Thich Nhat Hanh whose passing away touched me deeply.
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Rebecca Selove My current readings are mostly related to research. I read several novels during my break in December, and will mention this one: Now in November, the first novel written by Josephine W. Johnson. She won the Pulitzer Prize (1935) which she wrote at age 24. I found it in a thrift store, not that I was looking for it. She was living on a farm “outside” of St. Louis in an area that is now quite urban, and near where I lived. The book is about a family with four daughters who were middle-class and urban, who moved to a farm during the Depression and had great difficulties with poverty and crop failures. The story is told through the eyes of Marget, who alternates between describing challenges and tragedies of their lives and the lives of their neighbors, and being enchanted by the natural world. I thought it was a remarkable and wonderful book.
I have also been following Caring Bridge entries from and for Tallu Schuyler Quinn, accessible via Google. Many of her entries are going to be published in her forthcoming book What We Wish Were True.
Recorded by Martha O’Hehir
Carolyn Treadway I am reading about a new book co-edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth: We Are The Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth. It willbe published by The New Press early in April. I can’t wait to have this book in my hands!
Dahr is author of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption and of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq.He has also been part of WTR for many years. Stan is an indigenous teacher of Native American literature and author ofDiaspora’s Children and Going to Water: The Journal of Beginning Rain.For the new book, together they have interviewed twenty indigenous leaders, whose voices and wisdom the book amplifies and promotes.
Here is what The New Press says about the book:
An innovative work of research and reportage, We Are the Middle of Forever places Indigenous voices at the center of conversations about today’s environmental crisis. The book draws on interviews with people from different North American Indigenous cultures and communities, generations, and geographic regions, who share their knowledge and experience, their questions, their observations, and their dreams of maintaining the best relationship possible to all of life. A welcome antidote to the despair arising from the climate crisis, We Are the Middle of Forever brings to the forefront the perspectives of those who have long been attuned to climate change and will be an indispensable aid to those looking for new and different ideas and responses to the challenges we face.
I believe that all people urgently need to learn and follow indigenous teachings and guidance on how to relate to our Earth, our only home. This book may become an essential“guidebook” for that purpose.
Another treasure I’ve been watching (not reading) is a 54 minute documentary movie, Living in the Time of Dying, filmed by Michael Shaw. Making this documentary was Michael’s response to learning the probability of global climate collapse. He conveys our climate situation in an open, honest, compassionate, reverent manner. In the film he interviews Dahr Jamail, Stan Rushworth, Jem Bendell, and Catherine Ingram, as well as telling his own story of making the film. It is excellent and very powerful. I highly recommend it.
Note: Due to website limitations, poem line breaks will not be right on all screens, particularly narrow ones. To see the poet’s intended version, please click the Print Friendly button. Or try turning your phone or tablet to landscape orientation.
Sometimes the bitterness arises again and I remember its face. I check my cheeks, jaw, the muscles where it once lodged.
Sometimes I let go and invite a smile: to start, I relax the clench, which releases the frown, which frees the tips of the spreading mouth to rise
along with all that has been pushed down or sank.
And with all that, gratitude also rises, bubbling like a fountain through the top of my head.
Other times full of care I watch what has been frozen, and it thaws within my inner gaze —if I can sustain it— or I dig to the root of the feeling, and there I find them again: the grandmother I never met, my mother’s mother, and my other grandmother, and their mothers, and on back.
Without their stories I greet them. I ask why still bitter? I ask if they’d like to live vicariously: a bite of horseradish or late-season kale, a cup of coffee or chicory, and let the story digest.
I sip and ask myself why still bitter and what it is I resent.
Of course, my story is not enough here, as the ancestrexes have sat down to tea, and we circle to interrogate the power given to the fathers. The ancients can’t believe we’re still living this crap. Or they can’t believe how free we’ve become. Or both: gratitude stirs through the bitterness, cream through coffee.
I want life to be different than it is, and they applaud, but also, I want it to be different than it was, which is not helpful.
Except perhaps as these flares they set out in my joints:
Don’t believe the lie of power over.
I read the signal as my knuckles grow to look like grandma’s.
Don’t believe the lie of submission as defense.
Today a great grandma I’ve never seen, wearing a crown of braids says through glittery eyes Don’t believe the lie of self as separate and defenseless. one tip of her mouth lifting, the other firm:
We couldn’t stop them, but we arranged it so you can—
And we are with you.
Recorded by Rebecca Selove
Karina Lutz is a writer, editor, teacher, lifelong activist, and Work that Reconnects facilitator. She is the author of two books of poetry, Preliminary Visions and Post-Catholic Midrashim. She has taught writing, yoga, energy auditing, global water issues, sustainable systems, and green social ventures. She also knows how to make food, clothing, shelter, community, social change, and love. Her poetry blog is Poetry for the Great Turning.
Life Creates Conditions Conducive to Life by Beth Remmes. Click on image for artist’s description
Welcome to the September 2021 issue of Deep Times. The editorial team chose our theme for this issue, “Sacred Wisdom, Sacred Earth,” because we wanted to explore what might be called the “spiritual” roots of the Work That Reconnects. We also wanted to honor the wisdom traditions that have sustained so many people throughout history up to the present time as they have faced hardship, oppression, and collective trauma. A common thread in almost all those traditions has held Earth as the sacred source of life–hence: “Sacred Wisdom, Sacred Earth.”
This theme evoked a strong response, bringing in more submissions than we’ve ever received before, predominantly poetry. Consequently, this issue is larger than most, with three or more poems and one to three essays for each stage of the Spiral–as well as three videos. We hope you will find solace and inspiration here, and resources for your work for the Great Turning.
We begin as always with Gratitude, so vital to our spiritual and emotional well-being. Reverence is closely associated with gratitude, explored in two essays on that theme. Three poems and a video of a Rilke poem set to music celebrate the natural world that gives us life.
When we chose our theme, the editorial team talked about the danger of “spiritual bypass”–using spiritual teachings and practices to escape from the pain of the world, rather than to embrace it and metabolize it. This is especially tempting in these very frightening and uncertain times. The Work That Reconnects directly addresses that tendency by Honoring Our Pain for the World. In that section, essays, poems, and a video tribute to WTR facilitator Vivienne Elanta guide us in that process.
Four poems, two essays, a new practice, and a photographic contemplation invite us to See with New/Ancient Eyes, to comprehend more fully the chaos, uncertainty, and beauty of today’s world from Gaian, Deep Time, and Deep Ecology perspectives.
And in Going Forth, an essay and three poems suggest how we can bring the sacred more fully into our lives as well as our work on behalf of all life. Exquisite paintings of controlled burns in Evolving Edge section urge us to center Indigenous peoples and knowledge in restorative land stewardship efforts.
Over the days ahead, I expect to revisit many of the offerings of artists who conveyed their sense of sacred wisdom for this issue. I hope you find deep connection and inspiration from the written and spoken words, visual images, and music that evoke our sacred Earth.
I want to acknowledge the creative and cooperative spirit of the Deep Times editorial team, for which I give heartfelt thanks. The team in turn wants to express our gratitude to everyone who submitted poems and essays to this issue. Please continue to submit to future issues, according to the theme of each issue and following our submission guidelines.
The Network provides support, guidance, and inspiration to people all over the world in their work for the Great Turning. We welcome your donations to support the Work That Reconnects Network and Deep Times. The Work That Reconnects Network is currently a fiscal project of Inquiring Systems, Inc. so all donations are tax-deductible.
Beloved Thầy (teacher) Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Vietnamese monk who coined the term “interbeing” to make the Buddhist concept of mutual causality more accessible to westerners, died Jan. 22, 2022 at his root temple in Hue, Vietnam, at the age of 95. Mutual causality, sometimes translated as “dependent co-arising,” is central to Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes, and the subject of Joanna Macy’s dissertation Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems.
Here is an obituary/biography of Thầy by The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international pacifist organization he had been involved with:
I have used Thầy’s guided meditation on embracing fear from his book entitled Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm as a segue from Honoring our Pain to Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes. That book has a new deeply resonant and philosophically contextualized review by Maria Popova here: https://www.themarginalian.org/2020/12/01/thich-nhat-hanh-fear-love/
Shortly after that speech at Riverside Church, at a retreat with Thầy in Massachusetts, nonviolence scholar Arthur Stein told me he thinks history will recognize Thầy‘s impact on Buddhism, the movement towards social engagement, as equivalent to Martin Luther’s impact on Christianity. At the very least, he joined in that great shift with the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Maha Ghosananda of Cambodia, and other great Buddhist teachers displaced by wars of colonization in the last century.
Here is the Great Bell Chant including translation into English by Thầy with music and translation into English. I find listening to it helps me reconnect, and is a way to step into the present as a form of “bodhisattva check in,” like the Work That Reconnects practice. It transmits the energy of deep longing to end all suffering on Earth: https://plumvillage.org/library/chants/the-great-bell-chant/
In light of the teaching of “no birth, no death,” Thầy called birth and death “continuation.” May we all be his continuation, and may the next Buddha be a community, as he often said. Or perhaps a network of networks dedicated to the Great Turning! Another of his teachings was of the impermanence of civilizations, which can add to our active hope, even as we mourn and celebrate his continuation.
March 11-12, Thay’s 49th day ceremony and as his ashes were scattered at Plum Village.
Welcome to the “Conversations in ‘Deep Times’” podcast series, where our aim, as a companion to the Deep Times journal, is to highlight the Work that Reconnects and its facilitators, as well as other practitioners, scholars and creatives from the wider community who make a significant contribution to the Work and the deep changes taking place on our planet. These podcasts are accompanied by a curated transcript that is edited to read as an independent piece, including relevant links in the show notes for you to further explore.
In this inaugural episode of our podcast series, Deep Times Editorial Team member Erin Holtz Braeckman interviews Paul Pulé, an Australian scholar and activist specializing in men, masculinities, and their impacts on Earth, others and self. His research and education efforts are dedicated to creating a movement of systemic transformation for gender justice, environmental care, and a sustainable world.
Listen to the podcast:
Season 1, Episode 1 – Ecological Masculinities with Paul Pulé – PART 1
Preparation of each issue of the Deep Times Journal includes conversations among the editorial board members about the theme and ways the Work That Reconnects serves us in responding to current events. During our conversations about Unraveling the Patriarchy, several members suggested the following resources for Journal readers. The recent death of bell hooks brought some of her contributions to the forefront of our thinking. Two other authors of important writings about shifting from a power-over paradigm are offered as well.
In this video, https://youtu.be/sUpY8PZlgV8, bell hooks introduces her core idea of interlocking systems of domination. She describes the overarching system as “white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy,” which informs the Work That Reconnect’s identification of the dominant paradigm of industrial growth society as one of “power over.”
by Anna Lyons-Roost in collaboration with Rick Jansen and Frieda Nixdorf
Recorded by Frieda Nixdorf
This submission emerged at the interplay of creative embodiment through the meeting of three humans whose paths crossed in the midst of soul journey. Each, following their own rhythms and deep call of Soul, through spontaneous response, offered themselves to the calling forth of the dance of masculine and feminine.
During a recent vision fast on the land, in the presence of four trees, Anna received the following poem.
‘I have come as a pilgrim to this forest, knowing nothing but my own yearning. From some ways off the path, I am drawn towards the sentient presence of a small gathering of four trees. Soon I am under their branches, sheltered from the rain. I let go my anxiety, and I sleep.’
After a full day in the presence of those four trees Anna experienced a significant change in her way of being and perceiving.
‘As I return to Who I Am, the Roots of the Trees welcome me back into my, kinship in the family of life on this planet.’
Shared with Rick, while immersed in his practice of deep listening while accompanied by background music*, he was struck by the interplay of words and music, and how the combination of both seemed to meet as partners in dance. Inspired to dance along, Rick was called to record an adapted version of Anna’s poem as an “Ode to Four Trees” set to music, which he then shared with Anna.
This spontaneous reception of Anna’s deep soul expression with Rick’s creative heart evoked a gentle emergence of a deeper process underneath the soil of this creative collaboration, which was then met by Frieda. In her capacity to recognize and draw visibility to hidden threads, she shared her awareness of the intimate meeting that was occurring between the sacred feminine and masculine, between the elder generation and the younger generation, between a young man seeking his true and native way to live, and an elder opening to the presence of soul in themysterious realms of her own old age and death. It is in those meetings that something precious and unnamable was birthed and now shared here as a rippling out of a shared medicine.
* Acknowledgement for the music goes to composer Kevin Wrenn. This particular piece is called “Unwoven.”
“Ode for Four Trees” recorded by Rick Jansen
Praise to you, Four Trees By Anna Lyons-Roost
Oh Four Trees, I wander your forest floor, rootless and seeking knowing nothing, and seeking, seeking to be whole.
You call me, Do you call me? Beneath your branches you shelter me, amidst your roots I lie down. Your forest is silent and in stillness I sleep.
But my Soul, keeping vigil, hears you call her to come, from her home spun of light, to come to you in the shadows of the earth. She wakes to her yearning to touch and be touched by your trunks of mossy bark, and to know this sleeping one.
In love with this tender earth, She enters my body, Incandescent beyond the boundary of my skin, She kindles my flesh into the flame of my Soul.
After decades of yearning, I know her as Who I am. And beneath the earth, Four Trees, your roots embrace their new kin.
Anna Lyons-Roost, born in Berkeley, California, lived as a child in the Sierra Nevadas, finding sanctuary in the forest, playing, reading and wool-gathering among the branches and roots of trees. At 17, back in Berkeley, she awakened with anguish and shame to the Vietnam war and the oppression of Black Americans, and she began working with children in urban ghettos. At 18, she found both sacred silence and activism in Berkeley Friends Meeting, shifting at 33 to meditate and dance with the Sufi Order, and then settling at 36 into her current practice of Contemplation rooted Christian and Buddhist monastic traditions. Anna lives in Portland, Oregon, with Eric, her lifetime partner of 52 years, and Zocha their dog, and Anna’s co-therapist in her practice of Jungian analysis. Anna cherishes these elder years with her children, grandchildren, friends and garden, and is deeply grateful to participate in the Great Turning.
Rick Jansen is a young Dutch man who is just recently giving in to his long-lasting passions for creative expression, movement/dance and the mysteries of soul and wild nature. After quite some soul searching, threads are weaving together now in his work as a Purpose Guide™, where he accompanies people in seeking their visions in service to the Great Turning and soon he will join the team of Alliance for the Earth and the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project dedicated to global healing and collective awakening. You can find Rick at www.naturesoulpurpose.com.
Frieda Nixdorf – The thread that underscores all Frieda’s work is the recognition of the healing and regenerative powers of nature and her commitment to serving the planet and growing the cultural shift of the Great Turning. In addition to mothering a young human who is on the brink of venturing out into the world, she offers her gifts as a soul aligned purpose guide and mentor, a group facilitator, teacher, a playful and connected weaver of dream world imagery and tender of earth consciousness. Frieda’s background is in psychology, education, art history, visual culture, expressive arts and the non-profit environmental field. She currently serves as adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University and staff mentor at Purpose Guides Institute. You may connect with Frieda at: www.lifeintheconfluence.com.
Editor’s Note: We are making an exception to our usual word length for this exceptional article. Because of its length, we are not able to provide a recording of it; the podcast with Paul Pulé is available here.
Our collective’s vision is to create a world of gender equality and climate and environmental care.
In this article, we discuss the ways that the Work that Reconnects(WTR) helps shape our contributions to shifts away from the overculture habits of Industrial Growth Society. We are two members of a team of activists, educators and researchers who have formed the Starfish Collective. Our collective’s vision is to create a world of gender equality and climate and environmental care. Our mission is to manifest such a world by transforming destructive masculinities norms through regenerative relationships with Earth, others, and self – a process we refer to as ‘masculine ecologisation’. We see ourselves as one of global to local (glocal) movements that bring about social and environmental justice at different levels of society and in different ways. As such, we share the desire to address patriarchal destructiveness of Earth’s living systems and the multiple oppressions of marginalized people. Starfish takes its lead from (eco)feminism, queer ecologies and deep ecology. Methodologically we are primarily inspired by the Work That Reconnects but also Dragon Dreaming, the Art of Hosting, Social Presencing Theatre, the Theatre of the Oppressed, the Transition Movement, and Permaculture. Starfish is particularly interested in contending with the patriarchal structures and dominating masculinity norms that are root causes of social and environmental exploitation. We see care for Earth, others and self as central to developing a truly sustainable and vibrant planet for all of life – not only for human beings.We work towards engaging more boys and men with people of all genders to create gender equitable cooperation and Earthcare. One way that we do this is by adapting and developing embodied practices that help participants look beyond gender binaries and destructive masculinities norms both conceptually and through our participants’ practical engagements with the world. Our educational offerings are inspired by the research conducted by Assoc. Prof. Martin Hultman and Dr. Paul M. Pulé, which is referred to as ecological masculinities.
Starfish is mostly Swedish based with growing international affiliations. The collective is inspired by sociocracy and structured around working groups, an advisory group, and a core management group. Our numbers are currently growing, but for now there are about 20 of us who are active in various ways and at different levels depending on our skills and availability, with some of us working on customized trainings, some serving as collaborators with a range of clients, and others making contributions behind the scenes. We work with government, corporate, and grassroots organizations to expose the multi-layered and gendered aspects of our social and ecological crises. In consultation with our clients, we provide customized responses to find solutions through public policies, organizational systems change and the functioning of community groups. The Work That Reconnects has been instrumental in helping us build a bridge between our educational practices and the theory of ecological masculinities that has inspired them.
Glocal Problems – Personal and Political Responses
Clearly, the ways we have been conducting Business-As-Usual are not working. Those habits are in fact life destroying, certainly for Earth’s myriad organisms and for those who are marginalized–but ultimately also for those who have benefitted from these machinations in the short term. In fact, masculinist constructs persistently create and maintain lose-lose-lose games. As the social and ecological consequences of this are foisted upon us with renewed abandon, how can we shift the ethical foundations and painful impacts of Business-As-Usual towards a deep, long-range, and life-sustaining future? To answer this question, it is important to be clear about where these problems have come from in the first place.
We are all in this mess together–a mess that has been made for and by certain ways of being masculine in the world.
We are all in this mess together; a mess that has been made for and by certain ways of being masculine in the world. To be clear, we are not suggesting that global social and environmental problems are purely men’s fault. However, men of select profiles are the worst social and environmental actors. They are also the prime beneficiaries of global masculinist structures. Consequently, they hold the lion’s share of responsibility for the problems we face and they ought to be held proportionately accountable. On the other end of this parlay, we see some men working to find different ways of being, thinking and doing, contrary to the expected social norms impressed upon them. Consequently, the information that follows is a critique of these destructive masculinities norms of which some (mostly) men, as well as some women and genderqueer people, are the principal purveyors, indicating that beneath these individuals are socializations and structures that create, maintain, and reward them.
Theoretical Origins: The Masculinities of Social and Environmental Crises
…the most revered of masculinities assume three main forms: the warrior (who embodies bravery), the gentleman (who epitomizes gentility) and the self-made man (who manifests his own success).
Anthony Synnott (2009, p. 46, 51) suggested that the most revered of masculinities assume three main forms: the warrior (who embodies bravery), the gentleman (who epitomizes gentility) and the self-made man (who manifests his own success). Such individuals are typically (but not exclusively) cis male. They are awash with expectations of being good husbands, exceptional fathers, tireless workers, civil men calling the shots and when it all breaks down, they are also violent beasts ready to put things back in their ‘rightful’ place with force. These stereotypical male characteristics share an alignment with being white, wealthy, travelling frequently, consuming copious amounts of energy, and eating high meat diets: features that are enmeshed with hegemonized social constructs, particularly in the Global North (Alaimo, 2009, p. 26). Taken to be emblematic of the most celebrated of Global Northern/Minority masculinities, these characteristics define a narrow bandwidth of socializations that present working- and middle-class employees (especially white cis males) with the expectations of entitlement that theirs is a life that can and should be self-made and is supposedly on offer to anyone willing to work hard enough to garner these promised rewards. Such is:
the social contract that enabled self-made men to feel that they could make it, even if they somehow failed to realize their dreams, [which] has, indeed, been shredded, abandoned for lavish profiteering by the rich, enabled by a government composed of foxes who have long ago abandoned their posts at the henhouse … There was a moral contract, that if we fulfill our duty to society, society will fulfill its duty to us in our retirement, taking care of those who served so loyally (Kimmel, 2013, p. 203).
These ‘foxes’ are of course the most extreme embodiments of hegemonized masculinities, which locate Global Northern/Minority, white, cis males at the top of the heap, imbuing them with deep-seated senses of internalized superiority (Kimmel, 2013, p. 18). The reality for most workers is that becoming ‘self-made’ (certainly beyond the ceiling of the upper middle-class) is a revisionist libertarianism that presents a false promise for most, since only a select few can rise to the top and harvest the accouterments of corporate capitalism – precisely because it is not an economic system founded on merit or fair distribution of resources.
…being self-made is tenuous, subject to sudden and spectacular perturbations based on hoarding and nepotism
Rather, being self-made is tenuous, subject to sudden and spectacular perturbations based on hoarding and nepotism. When we concurrently consider gender identity, heteronormativity, inherited wealth, violence, and inequitable access to information, we see that being self-made leans on masculinist assertions. In pursuit of the material benefits of extractivist labor, these gendered assertions ignore social and ecological accountability, for the benefit of a few, but at terrible cost to most people and the planet.
Granted, in many communities today, gender fluidity is becoming increasingly commonplace. However, the prioritization of masculinist mores continues to dictate who can most easily ascend to the pinnacle of our social, economic, and political systems precisely because many global machinations continue to prioritize industrial and breadwinner constructs as the ideals for all to flourish in a masculinist world (see Figure 1). These masculinist constructs are built on ‘malestream’ norms; a term borrowed from feminist scholar Mary O’Brien’s (1981, p. 62) writings on women’s reproductive rights, which is used here as a synonym for patriarchy, the ‘rule of fathers’– or a
political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence (hooks 2004, p. 18)
Feminism has made considerable gains for women in addressing some of these constrictions. However, and despite more than a century of political struggle, feminism – and more recently, queer studies – have not been able to subvert malestream norms. Therefore, many people of all identities find themselves pressured to comply with the constraints of this Industrial/Breadwinner categorization.
We are still seeking ways beyond gender essentialized traditions and their dire socio-political, economic, and ecological consequences. A wave of populist revivalism of strong man politics has been emboldened by industrialists, who have enlisted technology to thwart civil liberties and ignore environmental regulation to ensure localized gains. It is foreboding to note that the caring nature of the human spirit has been compromised by the masculinist muscle flexing of industrial/breadwinner masculinities time and again. The impacts of events such as the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine are not simply regionally devastating, but are accelerating our march over the cliff of climate catastrophe, while reigniting the threat of nuclear war. The insanity of this is particularly confounding considering burgeoning global environmental crises.
Clearly, we are not freed from millennia-long notions of greed-driven protectionism, nor do changes of government easily rid us of their tyrannies. These gendered characteristics represent a deeply entrenched systemic problem; this otherising and exploiting of planet and people for personal gain is masculinist and has proven itself time and gain to be a formidable adversary to global safety, security, and ecological integrity. Some have seen this and have sought regulatory responses to contain their blows.
This second categorization is comprised of…socially and environmentally well-intended individuals and groups who control the development of public policy and their enactments.
There is a second masculinities category to consider that is softer, greener, and more flexible than industrial/breadwinner constructs. There is also a reformist masculinities categorization that recognizes the existential risks of remaining locked in an Industrial/Breadwinner construct as social and environmental fracturing accelerates. This categorization supports technological solutions and government regulation to address global social and environmental problems. It is more attentive to the environmental evidence exposing the limits of industrializationand responds by creating structures that manage (but do not shift us away from) the paradoxes of eternal economic growth. Such individuals (again, mostly but not exclusively men) can be considered representatives of an ecomodern approach to innovation that could be considered synonymous to “light green” masculinities (see Figure 2). This second categorization is comprised of (generally) socially and environmentally well-intended individuals and groups who control the development of public policy and their enactments. This ecomodern group oversees the support for, interpretation and implementation of research and responses to the world’s social and environmental problems through innovation, technology, and regulation (Fleming, 2017; Hultman, 2013). Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuelle Macron, Germany’s former Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with the U.S.’s Joe Biden and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson are telling examples of this reliance of ecomodernisation to save us (and the planet) from ourselves.
However, as with industrial/breadwinner masculinities, ecomodern masculinities do not exhibit a commitment to the intrinsic value of all of life ahead of industrialization. In fact, ecomodern responses to global problems (e.g., smart grids, renewable energy initiatives, vehicular electrification, clean water desalination infrastructures, software support mechanisms, ocean de-plasticization technologies, etc.) are subject to the same constraints that have landed us in the difficulties to which we must now address. They rely heavily on a reductive calculus that is the hallmark of the modern scientific method within an ethos of corporate capital growth.
A third way forward that draws its inspiration from the heterogeneity of healthy ecosystems is termed ecological masculinities (see Figure 3). Martin Hultman and Paul Pulé (2018) developed ecological masculinities from their respective understandings of four distinct discourses: critical studies on men and masculinities (Howson & Hearn, 2020), ecological feminism (Warren, 2000), deep ecology (Naess, 1973) and feminist care theory (Tronto, 1992). These theoretical foundations have been supplemented with considerations of the Gender and Environment metanarrative, which has been noting the need for an ecologisation of masculinities for some time (Buckingham, 2020). Additional insights have been sought from feminist political ecology (Rocheleau et al., eds., 1996).), feminist new materialism (MacGregor, 2021) and queer ecologies (Sandilands, 2001).
…if we are to generate simultaneous care for Earth, others, and ourselves we must cultivate softer, kinder, and warmer masculinities
Hultman and Pulé suggested that if we are to generate simultaneous care for Earth, others, and ourselves we must cultivate softer, kinder, and warmer masculinities than those constructed by industrial/Breadwinner and Ecomodern constructs. Ecological masculinities are conceptually and practically dedicated to our ‘being animal’ as human beings of all identities (Abrams, 2010); an awareness that we are integrally immersed in the intricate living planet on an equal footing with the rest of life. To be, think and do otherwise is to accelerate planetary social and ecological demise. In their work to develop the field of study, they argued that the ways we conceptualize and apply ecological masculinities can transform masculinities norms towards intimate relational engagements, immersing masculinities in tactile, emotive, and relational exchanges with Earth, others, and the self.
The field of study is positioned as a diverse starting point that builds on (previously disparate) conversations about masculinities. A central premise of ecological masculinities is to (re)awaken ways of being, thinking, and doing masculinities that are intimately engaged with Earth, place and people at the same time; to deepen relational connections (both amongst humans and between our species and the other-than-human world), and to support us all to experience the feelings of loss associated with the anthropogenic changes that are upon us, so that we can together respond to the monumental social and environmental challenges at hand with increasing and widening circles of care.
The term ‘ecological’ is used here both metaphorically and sociologically, to celebrate the complex communication pathways within and between species, and with that knowledge, expose and potentially resolve competitive tensions between them. In this sense, the term ‘ecology’ is used here to emphasize that relationship is not only used as a noun but can also be applied as a verb ‘to relate’ or synonymously ‘to ecologize’. The term ‘ecologisation’ refers to the process of building intimate relational actions between people and with the other-than-human world on an equal footing. Starfish’s educational offerings work from these theoretical conceptualizations, focusing on ecologizing masculinities.
With our attention on these foreboding social and ecological trends, how does Starfish design and deliver educational processes that ecologize masculinities? Further, how do we transcend traditional binaries so that we are able to reach people of all gender identities through our educational offerings? To answer these questions, we turn to introducing the Starfish Collective.
Introducing the Starfish Collective: Ecologizing Masculinities
There are many ways to tell a story. One way is to start with a meeting. Starfish started to form in 2015 when Martin Hultman first met Vidar Vetterfalk, a project manager at the Stockholm based feminist organization MÄN: Men for Gender Equality. Vidar had been working on transforming masculinities for years and had just started to include ecological perspectives in this work. Martin was doing pioneering research on masculinities and the climate crisis and, together with Vidar, organized an event in Sweden to address these themes in the lead-up to the COP21 in Paris. Martin later invited Vidar to help develop the ideas that were presented in the book Ecological Masculinities: Theoretical Foundations and Practical Guidance, which he was writing with Paul at the time, and was published in 2018. All three were interested in moving beyond the ivory tower of academia to put the contents of the book into practice. In response, Vidar invited a group of men to meet at a beautiful permaculture community garden center just south of Stockholm called Under Tallarna (Under the Pine Trees) to explore the intersections between masculinities and environmental care as they experienced it.
The education material encourages men to meet in small reflective groups to become aware of the patriarchal patterns in their own thinking, emotions, and behavior
MÄN had already developed educational material for groups of men to work with ending men’s violence, which constituted their supportive response to the #MeToo, movement. This emerged as a response to the enormous interest MÄN received from men who were contacting them to change patriarchal norms. The education material encourages men to meet in small reflective groups to become aware of the patriarchal patterns in their own thinking, emotions, and behavior and to begin to transform them, with sessions on themes such as masculinity norms, men’s violence and men’s struggles with pornography. This created a starting point for the development of additional education material to join the dots between men’s violence towards others and the masculinities violence that detrimentally impacts the environment.
With an increasing number of requests to speak or hold workshops about this work, the field of research that Martin and Paul’s 2018 monograph had initiated continued to develop, and the working group became what is now the Starfish Collective. We envision Starfish’s work will develop as more diverse people join the team. However, customized group processes and trainings for our clients continue to be our focus as we find ways to develop broader, deeper, and wider care in practice.
We like to follow the spiral approach of the Work That Reconnects when planning our sessions, whether they are online or in-person. The Work That Reconnects is an important part of our training and something that we wish to support and spread in the world, and we believe that our work aligns well with its intentions as well as its practices. Some of us in the Starfish Collective are currently studying Coming Back to Life (Macy & Brown, 2014) to hone our skills as educators for change and fold some of the influences of the Work That Reconnectsinto our foci on masculinities and environment educational offerings. In all our educational offerings, we seek the balance between practical action and emotional and spiritual responses, also inherent in the Work That Reconnects, which supports participants in honoring the pain that often comes with realizing their part in upholding destructive masculinities in the world (Macy & Brown, 2014; Macy, 2022). Our task is to help participants discover fresh actions to effect social and environmental change.
We have found that before providing educational information about men, masculinities, and Earth, which is our programmatic focus, we must prioritize creating and maintaining a safe container for participants to address, and wrestle with, the sensitive material that is awakened. In support of leading participants through the WTR spiral, we establish Group Agreements at the beginning of the process. These include:
Confidentiality – what’s shared in the room stays in the room
Speaking in rounds and setting a time limit for each person’s contribution to a round, usually 1–3 minutes, setting a timer that everyone can hear
The more you share of yourself, the more you will receive from others – but/and it’s not about being a ‘good’ participant sharing perfect stories, but rather about sharing honestly what comes to you in the moment
Encouraging participants to only share what they feel comfortable with – saying ‘pass’ can also be a way of listening inwardly – and anyone who says pass is also given another chance to speak at the end of the round
Active listening, without interrupting or asking questions and listening with generosity, assuming the best of the other participants and their intentions when they are sharing
Avoiding commenting on other people’s stories, as this can make people think about how they are being perceived and they may feel misunderstood, reducing the safety in the group
Setting times in advance to respect participant schedules outside of the session, aiming to end on-time. Or if running over time getting group agreement to extend
The original educational material developed by MÄN was intentionally focused on Global North/Minority, white, middle-class cis males, as an experimental starting point for pedagogical development. We started with this constituency because we consider one of our primary goals is to reach privileged people in the Global North/Minority regions who hold the greatest responsibility for creating the mess we’re in and through our work with them we aim to facilitate action to create a better world for all. That said, we have since progressed our educational offerings to include decolonial and intersectional perspectives for participants of all gender identities as well.
…we offer embodied exercises that have proved to be very effective in grounding the work in participants’ respective lived experiences.
For participants who are agreeable, we offer embodied exercises that have proved to be very effective in grounding the work in participants’ respective lived experiences. One example is to use the Duet practice from Social Presencing Theatre to work on each type of masculinity. The first person strikes a pose that embodies that type of masculinity for them. The other person responds by making a new pose embodying the same type of masculinity as a response to what they witnessed and experienced in their body’s reaction to the first person – in this way, the two poses are intricately connected. Then the first person finds a new pose, connected to the other person’s pose and so on. Paul had a profound experience when facilitating this practice at a Theatre of Oppressed workshop in Milan, Italy in 2019 with another member of our Collective, Social Arts Facilitator Uri Noy Meir. There, they used a body sculpting exercise, an adaptation of the Duet, to give participant’s a forum through which they could perceive and express the impacts of the different masculinities on their respective professional and personal lives. Participants reported the experience as transformative.
To invite a more emotional response to the climate and environmental crises we are facing, we show the video of activist Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019, available here. When time permits, we also like to use specific practices from the WTR for Honoring Our Pain and Seeing with New Eyes, especially The Seventh Generation – with some additions regarding dimensions of masculinities, gender and power. When participants are invited to share what they will remember most about our sessions, we have found that this exercise is almost always a favorite. This practice can work well online, with participants going into breakout rooms in pairs to share after an introduction in the main room.
In the final segment on Going Forth, we sometimes ask participants to share some thoughts about their next steps, preferably in a circle. If the group is too large, this can also take place in pairs or with online groups, in the chat. We also like to ask for what or whom they are taking these steps, in what context and with whom, what kind of help they need and how they might find that support. This was suggested by ecofeminist and social/environmental justice activist Karin Styrén, who helped develop MÄN’s educational material, to emphasize the relational and collectivist nature of activism.
A tool from MÄN that we often use is the distinction between the ‘Big Room’ and the ‘Small Room’. The Big Room is where we talk about societal structures, theories, and critique, focusing on reasoning and the mind. The Small Room is where we talk self-reflectively about our personal experiences on an individual level, with a focus on gut feelings, intuition and the relationship between ourselves and others. Many of us, especially those who inhabit men’s bodies, are much more used to being in the Big Room and feel more comfortable there. We have learned from our friends at MÄN that it is important to encourage people in reflective groups to spend as much time as possible in the Small Room. Their experience has shown that those kinds of conversations can lead to powerful, transformative change; we are finding that to be true for participants in our educational offerings as well.
…the Work That Reconnects has inspired our work on transitioning through the complexities of masculinities and environmental issues.
In this article, we have suggested that some men (and wealthy, white men of the Global North/Global Minority in particular)–but more accurately select masculinist norms–are principally responsible for social decay, environmental crises like anthropogenic climate change and the creation and maintenance of mechanisms of production and consumption of modern society. We have suggested that the primacy of certain forms of masculinities is assured through the consolidation of select men’s power, wealth, and consumption patterns. These patterns are reflective of industrial/breadwinner and ecomodern norms, which are enmeshed with the overculture of Industrial Growth Society. We have aimed to give you a sense of how the Work That Reconnects has inspired our work on transitioning through the complexities of masculinities and environmental issues. We have done this so we are able to liberate ourselves from these masculinist traditions and their life destroying social and ecological consequences, we must use different ways of being, thinking and doing than those that created our social and ecological problems in the first place. We have not only exposed the gendered nature of our global social and ecological problems, we have also shone a light on how we at the Starfish Collective work to create a deep, long-range, and caring future by transforming masculinities norms. We’d be delighted to help your organizations to do the same, in support of all of life.
Additional resources and links to our work on masculinities and the environment are available here.
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Alaimo, S. (2009). Insurgent vulnerability and the carbon footprint of gender. Kvinder, Køn & Forskning, 3–4, 22-35.
Buckingham, S. (2020). Gender and Environment (2nd edn.). Oxon, UK: Routledge.
Daggett, C. (2018). Petro-masculinity: Fossil Fuels and Authoritarian Desire. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 47(1), 25 -44.
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Paul is working on a new book and documentary that expose the masculinist aspects of our growing social and ecological crises; offering profeminist, gender diverse and environmentally caring responses to our pressing times. He is a freelance researcher/educator for change and Honorary Research Fellow at Coventry University’s Centre for Global Learning (GLEA) where he explores embodied educational practices through Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and Arawana Hayashi’s Social Presenting Theatre. He is also eco-queering Ecological Masculinities in support of non-binary explorations of the human/nature relationship.
Abigail Sykes is a Sweden-based, New Zealand-born journalist, translator and educator with a focus on the Transition to sustainable, just and regenerative societies. She is a co-founder of Omställningsbyrån (The Transition Bureau), a community of professionals working with stories and conversations about Transition. Key tools include Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects, permaculture, and the Art of Hosting.
Abigail is also a co-founder of Starfish collective, a group of activists, educators and researchers dedicated to gender equity and climate and environmental justice, where she is particularly interested in decolonisation, ecofeminism and intersectional perspectives. Starfish is inspired by research by Associate Professor Martin Hultman and Dr Paul M. Pulé that addresses patriarchal structures and dominating masculinity norms as root causes of social and environmental exploitation, and sees care for Earth, others and self as central to the development of a truly sustainable and vibrant planet for all.