Posted: June 10th, 2016 | Author: Eddy Gums | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Spiritual ecology is the knowing that we are all part of one living, spiritual being. It is the knowing of the connection of our soul and the soul of the world. The understanding that our fate is entwined with the fate of life on earth.
The rupture of this spiritual connection to the earth, and the resultant mind-set which sees the human experience as separate to life on earth, viewing nature as something external to our lives that can be controlled or managed, is fundamental in how we are to understand the breakdown of ecological systems around the world. We must move beyond the thinking that has created the problem. We must move beyond the logic of capital.
This home is on the site of an abandoned market garden, once agricultural land. Our protection of this land, to preserve it for agricultural use, means resistance, resulting in an antagonistic relationship with the landowners and the police. We do not recognise the private ownership of the land we live on. In this capitalist world system, where private property is enshrined by law over the rights of nature, we should confront the possession of land where we can. Within our spiritual ecology, we must begin to challenge the commodification of nature. This must be central in the ‘great turning’ (Macy 2007) we are to make.
Grow Heathrow came into existence on March 1st, 2010, seeking to create an alternative to the hierarchical, ecologically destructive and oppressive injustices of the structures that fuel airport expansion in the Heathrow Villages.
The original occupiers, members of Transition Heathrow, lived in the Heathrow villages for six months, investing time into building human relationships. They got to know people living in the neighbourhood, attending local resident meetings; there was a patient effort to find out what was needed in the local area. A lack of community spaces was one issue identified. Indeed, the reclamation of the abandoned market garden, the site of Grow Heathrow today, was a result of considered communication and at the request of local residents. This derelict and abused plot, which served no purpose for the local area, was transformed into a thriving community space.
A project rooted in community participation, occupiers since then have understood that a vibrant Heathrow villages willing to fight for its future is our best chance of defeating plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport.
Bringing together the democratic innovation of the Transition Town network and environmental direct activism, this project and our home aspires to offer a viable alternative to the bulldozing of green spaces, houses, lives and history; to explore anti-capitalism, non-hierarchy, and permaculture; to promote local relationships based on mutual-aid and reskilling; and to instil a culture of direct action for those directly affected by expansion plans and beyond.
A 3rd runway at Heathrow would spell the end of community life in the Heathrow villages. Thousands of homes and buildings that escape the brute force of bulldozers will be rendered unliveable. Already, the air around us is not fit to breathe; noise from aircraft, and the motorways which serve them, all amounting to the early deaths of our neighbours. A third runway would spew more poison into our air. This is a struggle against an anti-life worldview, one that sees the air we breathe, our land, our homes, our cultural legacy as profitable, serving economic growth before our health and our communities.
Grow Heathrow asks us to take up the challenge of connecting our economies to the quality of our lives and the future of the environment, and – most concretely and urgently – we hope to raise the alarm alongside those living on the front lines of climate change in the global south, and our neighbours in the Heathrow villages.
Living at Grow Heathrow has been a spiritual experience. We are actively rebelling against the wasted values of materialism, the capitalist world view which seeks to objectify nature.
We attempt to have a relationship with our home amongst the Elder trees that surround us, viewing the land we live on as sacred; this means rejecting the old habits of objectifying land, claiming it for an investment or naming it for empire. In this city of London, we see this extractivist mind-set in overdrive; land and property too often does not serve this city’s children, their families and communities, but is simply banked on, viewed as a relatively safe and secure investment. At Grow Heathrow, we do not own the land, it does not belong to us, there is only a relationship with the land, with the Elder tree. This is a relationship we are only discovering, one that can nourish us. We are learning how the calendula can heal our skin. We are learning how the elder berries can protect us from virus.
We are more tuned into the workings of the earth, the weather on this island, how this influences our daily activity. Sometimes one experiences this in simple ways, like whether we need to water our plants, whether we have enough energy gained from the wind turbine and solar panel to power tonight’s party. Living here involves developing a greater understanding of earth’s rhythms. We mark the equinox and solstice with celebration. This is a reminder of our connection with nature, the rhythms of growing food. It is our attempt to honour and give respect to nature.
Our compost toilets reaffirm our cyclical relationship with resources; ‘humanure’ is used as a mulch for trees and flowers. Living in a community garden growing organic fruit and vegetables, one becomes more conscious of the health of the soil.
Whilst we learn organic food production on our occupied land, the objective is not to sustain ourselves solely from the land we live on. With the amount of land we have, and the number of mouths to feed, this is neither possible nor our primary aim. However, the sharing and giving of food is central in bringing people together; this gesture can be conceived as a spiritual component of our community work. Collecting waste food from wholesale markets and supermarket bins, we make use of this ‘waste’, serving to volunteers, those who visit us for the day or attend our workshops.
We aspire to replicate nature and the gift economy, offering our events and resources for free. Nature has a gift economy. One can see this in how an apple tree gives its fruit with unconditional love. We must aspire to provide food, knowledge, festivity and love without expecting anything in return.
Prefiguring the world we want to see, we attempt to organise non-hierarchically. This means everyone in the group takes on some degree of collective responsibility for the work that needs to be done; there is no greater authority instructing the group to work. Upon my first arrival I was struck by the community’s ethos of self-management. Values based in mutual aid and cooperation clearly underpinned everyone’s efforts. People worked at their own will, with a shared commitment to a cause we all believed in.
Moving to Grow Heathrow has had its challenges for those who have been brought up with western comforts; heating our homes without burning fossil fuels has been a steep learning curve. There is much to learn here. A cold night can connect one to the harsher reality of living on the streets of London. Just as fasting can be a spiritual tool to bring one closer to those without food, being inflicted more acutely by a cold winter snap makes one empathise with those without shelter.
There is an emphasis on preserving the wildlife that surrounds our self-built dwellings and communal spaces. There is a tension between the need for shelter, the need to create infrastructure for a community numbering 40 to 50 at times, and cutting back wildlife. This is in the context of a housing crisis in London, with brutal evictions making people homeless. We’ve taken in many. There is a need for land, to house people. We have discussions attempting to overcome this issue. In the practise of our democracy, the care and respect for other species is present. But we are learning – we will make mistakes.
The strawbale house could be described as a sacred building, the temple of our community. A building which was constructed with a respect and reverence for nature, using locally sourced, organic materials. When meditating in the strawbale house, one cannot erase this memory from the depths of the mind, the memory of love and care that went into the building. The house is surrounded by Elder trees, providing homes for a variety of birds; their singing surrounding us as we sit in stillness.
With the sometimes daunting challenge of facing up to corporate greed and state imperialism, meditation can help us find clarity and conviction. The state of peril that we find ourselves in, with 6 degrees of planetary warming a real possibility, spelling the widespread extinction of species on earth – if we are not to despair, we must ‘touch eternity in the present moment, with our in-breath and out-breath’ (Nhat Hanh 2012).
If we are to truly acknowledge our intimate relationship between our bodies and the health of the soul of the world, how are we to persist obediently to the norms of modern society that are destroying our health? Understanding of this intimate relationship must translate into a fierce love to protect it, a love whose reach moves beyond the legal authority of any given land.
It was the impulse of love that led to some residents of Grow Heathrow chaining themselves to Heathrow’s northern runway in July 2015. 25 flights were cancelled. The group narrowly avoided prison.
The government’s decision on aviation expansion in the south east of England has been delayed until September this year. Despite sustained pressure, forcing delay after delay, the idea has not been abandoned completely. But this is nonetheless ‘breathing room for mother earth’ (Winona LaDuke 2013); we will continue to fight for this breathing room, allowing time for us to awaken from this sleep, this sleep walk towards ecocide.
We must protect nature. We must protect ourselves. The love we have for each other and life on earth must result in a fierce resolve to protect us. Sometimes we will have to act in a way which sacrifices our legal rights for the rights of other humans, for other life to flourish. We must embrace an antinomian spiritual ecology, whereby our ecological responsibility demands a rejection of civil legal authorities and their laws. With a spiritual ecology, this act no longer is sacrificial, but a self-interested act; an eroding detached ego-self making way for an identity as one with nature. In our movements we can garner great strength and resilience with this understanding of oneness.
One indicator that the earth is degrading is the lack of empathy and love for those most vulnerable in society. This is a cause anyone concerned with the spiritual awakening of ourselves should engage in. We can measure the greatness of a society by how it treats those most poor and marginalised. This is why we must wed any ecological resistance to struggles against austerity in the UK, and the oppressive, egotistical ideology which serves it. Struggles against patriarchy, racism and colonialism cannot be detached from our spiritual work. If we begin not to care for our own kind, how will we develop empathy for life as a whole? A lack of empathy for humankind is a signpost for the degradation of our ecology.
The change that is required of us, to become more fully awaken ecologically minded humans, cannot come from a top down approach. The change we need cannot come from government alone. We will rely on the local actions of all of us. We depend on all of us individually and in communities, making self-determination the centre of our activity, to weaken the tyrant of capital that enchains us.
We must no longer prop up capital, or any power structures which oppress human beings or exploit life on earth. Our driving momentum is not to convince those in power to change their direction. It is often very tempting to be lured into the logic of the state and its power. Instead we hope to transcend the logic of party politics, enhance a culture of DIY, encouraging others to take their lives into their own hand.
We must engage with experiences which teach us how to commune together, how to live together as an interdependent community. There are emotional resources and wisdom one can acquire from living communally, or in Grow Heathrow’s case, living in a squatted eco community. This experience, that is both taxing and enriching, can help us develop the kind of compassion we will need to embrace each other in wider society and the ecology as a whole.
Part of our project as spiritual ecologists is to undermine the political narrative that justifies our exploitative economies. The ideology that believes we cannot act as ‘we’, but as self-centred individuals. This notion has to be undermined, we must be part of a political project which demonstrates that human beings can and are motivated by far nobler causes than financial gain; instead, being driven by mutual aid and cooperation, care and compassion for humans and other beings.
We must reawaken the identity which wishes to respect the ancient soul of the world, ensure this life giving force prevails over the competitive, industrialist psyche that has dominated capitalist economic production. We can hope that the struggle against corporate interests and the state can reinvigorate our spirit, allowing us to become more centred to the needs of the global ecology within our political framework. We can hope that by mobilising in solidarity against the objectification of nature, we can grow a greater ecological awareness amongst humanity.
This vision of the world is against any idea of a totality, but rather a future of alternative post capitalist worlds. The drive towards self-determination for those of us at Grow Heathrow living amongst the Elder is exploratory, drawing inspiration form the Zapatista principle: ‘preguntando caminamos’, ‘asking we walk’. We don’t have all the answers. We are still learning and always will be. Employing horizontal structures using consensus decision making, we acknowledge our democracy is a dynamic, evolving process, always to be worked and reworked, always ready to accept we took the wrong direction.
Let us be open to adventure; if we are afraid of struggle and pain, we will miss the joys that life has to offer. Perhaps we can lead in searching for hope in the dark night. Better to step out into the unknown and take the wrong direction than not to walk at all. And let us be attentive explorers, for those that view the universe with dimness and a lack of attention will not be shown its true nature and complexity.
Everything we achieve at Grow Heathrow is only with the comradery of trusted allies who inspire as much as they are friends. Living there has demanded everything of us, trials that have touched our whole humanity. I am continually moved and inspired by the individuals who move here. They have made a spiritual step, for they have recognised the emptiness of materialism, how the pursuit of financial gain bankrupts the soul. By moving to Grow Heathrow, one has placed greater importance on human bonds, the need to take care of human beings, and take care of nature. This is a step that I admire in everyone who has moved there, one that I admire in all human beings.
This land, inhabited by Elder, one of our most cherished native trees, for healing and nourishment, provides a spiritual protection for humans and nature alike. Much like the interconnectedness of life on earth, our words, our creative doing is interwoven with their being; an eviction would spell the same fate for our community and the Elder. For now, the Elder are flourishing, growing through the remnants of derelict structures; inspiration for how we must search for light amongst the rubble of capitalism.
We can be certain of nothing, but we can have hope. Sometimes the universe does feel harsh and indifferent, but Grow Heathrow offers this hope by asking us to recognise the interconnectedness of all beings – to reveal life in all its forms and the connecting energy that drives them, which is, of course, love.
Laduke, W. 2013. In the Time of the Sacred Places. In: L. Vaughan-Lee, ed. Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. Point Reyes: The Golden Sufi Center.
Macy, J. 2007. The Great Turning. Berkeley: Centre for Ecoliteracy.
Nhat Hanh, T. 2012. Thich Nhat Hanh: in 100 years there may be no more humans on planet earth [online]. Available from: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1291786/
Posted: May 8th, 2016 | Author: Eddy Gums | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Lewdown Holdings Limited (who own most of the land we live on) are attempting to get a possession order which would mean we could be forcibly removed from the community project that we have all worked together to establish for over 6 years.
Having turned this once abandoned market garden into an ecologically thriving community garden – a site where all previous planning applications have been rejected, each proposed development failing to respect the ecology of the land and the needs of the local community – Grow Heathrow could be facing an immediate threat of eviction.
There will be a solidarity demonstration, gathering from 9:00am outside Uxbridge County Court on Thursday 19th May.
The address is: 501 Uxbridge Road, Hayes, London UB4 8HL.
By public transport, ride buses 90, 195 or H98 from Hayes and Harlington station, or the 427 or 607 from Ealing Broadway.
Grow Heathrow is happily volunteering our beds and a cup of tea in the morning to anyone who may travel from further afield. In the morning we’ll cycle to court together. Bring your banners, and musical instruments. Let’s have a party, laughing all the way to court.
In the 20th century, Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Lakota tribe said,
“The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.”
In other words, if you don’t treasure this beautiful planet that we currently inhabit, then you are unlikely to value the lives and rights and the needs of its people.
Grow Heathrow asks us to take up the challenge of connecting our economies to the quality of our lives and the future of the environment, and – most concretely and urgently – we hope to raise the alarm on behalf of those living on the front lines of climate change in the global south, and our neighbours in the Heathrow villages.
Join us on the 19th May in solidarity for the villagers’ long, inspiring campaign for their rights, their futures, as Heathrow’s onslaught for a 3rd runway intensifies.