Love is Green: Compassion as responsibility in the ecological emergency
by Lucy Weir
This book links three themes, non-dualistic agency, ‘the good’ of systems, and compassionate attunement, and relates them to the ecological emergency.
The author begins by examining how we currently understand our ability to choose what we do, our agency and conclude that this is dualistic: we think of an action to do, and then we physically act. Yet an understanding that we are enmeshed in context means our capacity to act freely dissolves in the mesh.
We evolved capacities for consciousness and awareness, capacities that allow us to realise that we are here, now but that do not inevitably imply choice. Our capacity for ‘realisation’ gives us the ability to elicit an emotional response. When we understand our enmeshment, we can attune to a deep compassion for ourselves and indeed for all systems unfolding through time. Compassionate attunement allows a different set of options for action to become available to us. This then shifts how we respond to ourselves, our human relationships and to the ecological emergency, we are currently embroiled in.
This work is inspired by the great Kamakura Zen Master Eihei Dōgen. The book’s contribution is to extend and link the notion of practice-realisation with the literature on evolutionary biology and entropy maximisation which allows us to speak of ‘the good’ of systems. Systems unfold as ‘good’ for us when biodiversity maximisation occurs.
By considering the ecological emergency in light of compassionate attunement, we open ourselves to a new array of possibilities for action. Some of these the author outlines in the conclusion, relating them to existing literature on compassionate achievement and compassionate communication, to show how our this practice shifts our relationship to ourselves, to one another, and to the ecological emergency, thus changing the course of human history.
Lucy was born in the Highlands of Scotland to two ornithologists, one of whom was also an artist, while the other who was also a potter. As in the biblical proverb, she faced all the problems of a rich person attempting to live a good life, and therefore discarded all her potential for wealth and influence, by leaving the global North after university, and going to work in developing countries, later ‘dropping out’ when returning to the UK, and eventually ending up working in a therapeutic community. When that closed, she went to study in Oxford University under Professor Barbara Harrell-Bond, a woman who had a profound influence on her understanding of social and environmental justice, and on the development of autonomy. When in Oxford, she met, and subsequently married, an Irishman and spent nearly twenty years in the west of Ireland, struggling to survive, rearing two children, teaching yoga, and writing. She researched and wrote a Ph.D. in a hut at the end of the garden and on completion, left to live near Dublin, in order to find work. Her vision is to open an eco-therapeutic community, which would combine work with marginalised people with the ideas of practice-realisation, compassionate attunement, and compassionate communication, as well as helping to show in practical terms how the ideas in this book can be enacted in a practical context.
Dogen, Zen, Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Climate Change, Mindfulness, Practice-realisation, Compassion, Compassionate Attunement