Jed Diamond and John Jeavons: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Planet

Heal the PlanetNo one has to tell us that stress is increasing on a personal and planetary scale. For more than 40 years I have been seeing stress-related illnesses on the rise. I’m seeing more people suffering from depression, irritable male syndrome, arthritis, early on-set Alzheimer’s, and many other ailments. It’s also clear that the Earth is under a great deal of stress. We’re dealing with global climate disruptions, economic dislocations related to peak oil and depletion of other resources, food and water shortages. John Jeavons has been working for more than 40 years to create solutions for the inter-related ecological issues we face. I was a guest faculty on John’s world-wide training course and he is a faculty member on our upcoming Men’s Health Grand Rounds Webinar (more information on these trainings will be available soon.) I’d like to share some of the work we have been doing to integrate the healing of our personal and interpersonal lives with the healing of the Earth. Basic Principles:

   Ecology Action: Biointensive Farming  Growing Ecosystems of Hope for over 40 Years!

Aware of intensifying world challenges and the basic need of people to feed themselves, we have been working for 40 years to develop an elegant, small-scale agricultural system — GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Sustainable Mini-Farming — that when practiced correctly, nurtures healthy soil fertility, produces high yields, conserves resources and can be used successfully by almost everyone. Our goal is to help this system be known and used locally…on a worldwide basis.

MenAlive: Helping Men and the People Who Love Them  Heal Body, Mind, and Spirit for more than 40 Years!

We are at a time of change unprecedented in human history. The philosopher Sam Keen says,“The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:

  1. The new human vocation is to heal the Earth.
  2. We can only heal what we love.
  3. We can only love what we know.
  4. We can only know what we touch.

We believe that what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves and each other.  So we might say that we have a dual purpose to heal the Earth and to heal Ourselves, thus:

  1. The new human vocation is to heal ourselves.
  2. We can only heal ourselves if we love ourselves.
  3. We can only love ourselves if we know ourselves.
  4. We can only know ourselves if we get more deeply in touch with ourselves

History of the Wound

The history of the Earth goes back 4.54 billion years. Our human ancestors evolved a mere 2 to 3 million years ago and during most of our human history we lived in balance with the Earth. Jared Diamond is professor of physiology at the U.C.L.A. School of Medicine and author of Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In his studies of agriculture throughout the world he concluded, “Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered.”

James DeMeo, PhD., author of Saharasia:  The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World, believes that it wasn’t the adoption of agriculture that was the problem, but a kind of agriculture that depleted the soil and led to desertification. Since humans are intimately connected to land, as agricultural practices depleted the soil, there was also a desertification of the human body, mind, and spirit. As things dried out on Earth and deserts spread, we created emotional deserts within the human mind. Interestingly the concept of the emotional desert was first articulated by maverick psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich in his later years while doing atmospheric research in Arizona in 1954. Reich understood that deserts “suck dry” the juiciness of plant and animal life, which developed a thick and prickly outer covering against the hostile environment.  This was similar, Reich argued, to the way harsh and traumatic methods of infant and child treatment, and anti-sexual attitudes dry up the softer emotional aspects of life, giving rise to a particularly arid, dry, and/or prickly character structure.

Grow Biointensive® Sustainable Mini-Farming Can Literally Heal the Earth

John Jeavons reminds us that “Six inches of farmable soil is needed to grow food and other crops.  In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. ThisJohn Jeavons means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches.” “Globally, our present farming practices are depleting soil 18 to 80 times faster than it is built in nature, Jeavons says.  “6 to 24 pounds (depending on the world region) of farmable soil are lost per pound of food eaten due to wind and water erosion fostered by conventional farming practices. Some studies even indicate that as little as 36 to 52 years of farmable soil may remain on the planet.” Jeavons’ approach may enable people to build up to one inch of farmable soil in 8.5 years instead of 500—up to 60 times more rapidly than in Nature. Further, the Grow Biointensive methods are proving even more effective in building up soil even faster.  These practices also have the potential to grow a pound of food with as little as one-third the water required by normal farming practices.

The MenAlive: Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit

In working with men, women, and children over the last 40 plus years, I’ve developed a system of healing that draws on the best practices from the fields of eco-psychology, affective neuroscience, gender-medicine, and energy healing. My process begins with a recognition that personal trauma and planetary trauma are related. Just as it has been important in healing the Earth to pinpoint the destructive impact of unsustainable agricultural practices which occurred 6,000 years ago, it is important to accept the reality of traumatic events that occurred in our early lives.

In their book Code to Joy:  The Four-Step Solution to Unlocking Your Natural State of Happiness psychologists George Pratt and Peter Lambrou describe the ways early trauma impacts our lives with a short story: Imagine that you are walking through a field, munching absentmindedly on a snack.  The sun is out, the air is balmy.  A light breeze at your back.  Life is good.  Suddenly you hear an earthshaking crash. Startled, you look up at the horizon just in time to see a gigantic plume of ash and dust rising up into the sky and spreading out to form a gigantic cloud that will persist for days, weeks, perhaps years.  It will blot out the sun and completely change your world.   One more detail:  You are a dinosaur. Scientists tell us the dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid striking the earth millions of years ago.  The impact threw so much debris into the atmosphere, they say, that it darkened the skies and changed the climate from sunny and nice to a nuclear winter.

Remember, at the time they were wiped out, the dinosaurs ruled the world. I’m sure few of them suspected that a bunch of debris in the air could harm them, cause them to sicken, and die. “The impact of traumatic personal events can have the same kind of effect, darkening the skies of our own outlook and causing a chilling effect that permeates every aspect of our lives,” say Drs. Pratt and Lambrou. Early trauma impacts our lives, but these events are often outside our awareness. Pratt and Lambrou offer another story to illustrate how even small traumas that are long forgotten can continue to undermine our health and well-being: Imagine you are standing just outside your home, surrounded by a dense fog, so thick you can’t see the other side of the street in front of you.  You look to the left, to the right, but can’t see more than fifty feet in any direction.  You are surrounded. How much water does it take to create the blanket of fog that has completely isolated you from your world? A few ounces.  The total volume of water in a blanket of fog one acre around and one meter deep would not quite fill an ordinary drinking glass.  The fog actually contains 400 billion tiny droplets suspended in the air creating an impenetrable cloak that shuts out light and makes you shiver. This is what happens when we have painful experiences that we just can’t shake. Pratt and Lambrou call it “the fog of distress” and we’ve all experienced it at some time in our lives.  What is it made of?  It is part feelings and part beliefs, partly subconscious and partly bioelectrical. Humans are adaptable and generally we handle the ups and downs of life without any lasting negative effect.

After one of those “bad days” the experience simply vanishes from our minds without a trace and we end up a little older and wiser as a result. “But not always,” say Pratt and Lambrou.  “Sometimes, especially when we are very young, we have experiences that we cannot shake.  Even if they seem insignificant, no more substantial than a glass of water, when these upsetting experiences evaporate, they then condense into billions of droplets of anger, fear, self-doubt, guilt, and other negative feelings, surrounding us with a suffocating blanket that suffuses every aspect of our lives for years to come.” Being adaptable human beings, life goes on.  We generally “forget” the painful experiences.  We get busy with our lives and the “fog of distress” goes underground in our psyche and takes up residence in our subconscious mind, outside of our conscious awareness.   Yet it continues to operate in the background, much like an old program on our computer, slowing down our lives and sapping our joy. We are at a unique time in human history. Often when we are in the most difficult circumstances, the best of who we are is called upon. We are truly at a time when we must heal ourselves if we are going to be able to heal the planet. And we must be able to heal the planet if we are going to have a place here on Earth where the human species can grow and flourish, without destroying the support system that makes life on this wonderful planet possible. We invite you to join us at this most creative time in human history. Connect with John on LinkedIn. You can me on LinkedIn too. Photo Credit

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  1. I look forward to hearing more about this mini farming project. What a beautiful thing that growing food nourishes our planet, our souls and bodies! I once worked on an alcohol rehab project in Central America where the patients grew the food they ate while at the hopsital. It was a wonderful thing since most of the patients came from small farms.

    I LONG to grow some of my own food in the future, something that is impossible for me now due to travel work commitments. Glad to see there is work and interest going on on this important topic.