‘Earth Calling’ a primer for repairing our frayed ties to nature

April may have gone out like a lamb, but May came in like a raging lion with dire news on the climate change front. The Third U.S. National Climate Assessment released May 5 stressed that climate change is already seriously affecting every corner of the country. A week later, there was a report that the Antarctic ice cap is now melting at an unstoppable rate, with the potential to raise sea levels 10 feet. And word came the same day that a Senate energy efficiency bill was derailed over the contentious Keystone XL pipeline for bringing tar sands oil – the dirtiest oil on the planet – from Alberta to Texas.

To little fanfare, however, in the waning days of April, another dispatch from the climate change front was released, with the publication of “Earth Calling: A Climate Change Handbook for the 21st Century.” The book is a primer in both despair and hope. It is co-authored by Ellen Gunter and Ted Carter. Gunter is a journalist who writes and lectures on the link between the environment and spirituality. Carter is an award-winning landscape architect from Buxton, Maine, who is renowned for creating what he deems “sacred spaces” from which people can communicate more closely with the earth.

Much of what the authors recount is not new, but the impact comes in gathering so much of what is now known in one volume. What is novel amidst the barrage of bad news is that Gunter and Carter ground their call to action in a spiritual framework that requires a shift in personal focus. Early in the book they cite “The World Without Us,” in which Alan Wiseman asserted that it is not the world that needs us – but we who need the world. Gunter and Carter stress that the place to start is not on healing the earth, but healing ourselves. Most vitally, our sense of deep connection to the earth.

The authors employ the Hindu teachings on chakras, the subtle body energy fields that conduct the life force in humans. Classically, there are thought to be seven chakras, starting with the base chakra at the tip of the spine and moving upward to include the heart and the crown chakras. The root cause of our growing environmental and climate change crisis, the authors assert, arises from the fact that we are no longer firmly rooted at our base to the earth. Therefore, our heart and crown energies likewise are no longer strongly rooted to the earth. We have become estranged from and varyingly indifferent to that which has quintessentially sustained us from the beginning of time. What drives this rupture is “the unconsciousness of our intentions and willfulness of our ignorance.”

Gunter and Carter cover the spectrum of the sources and consequences of climate disaster. They also document the extreme duplicity of regulators and politicians who work to ensure that serious corrective measures are delayed or ignored.

One of the most distressing sections deals with the growing water crisis – of rising oceans and diminishing potable water. The hottest summer in 500 years occurred in 2003. In 2007, scientists were shocked to witness an ice shield in Antarctica twice the size of Great Britain melt and disappear in a single week. Egypt’s Nile, the Indus in Pakistan and the Ganges in India regularly recede to almost disappearing. China’s 2,500-mile Yellow River commonly fails to reach the sea. To compound the issue, both tar sands processing and fracking are hugely dependent on vast water supplies – and the resulting toxic wastewater not only can’t be reclaimed, but it is a contaminant that threatens groundwater and aquifers needed for drinking and irrigating crops.

Midway through the book, the authors seem to take a strange turn in focus to chronicle what is happening with genetically modified crops. The United States stands almost alone in the world in genetically tinkering with food. The collusion between industry and government is staggering. Efforts to promote appropriate food labeling are vigorously fought. Much of Europe and Asia have strong labeling laws and now restrict the import of American food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

This seeming digression is used to make the case that what is happening in our food supply is integral to how Americans have become so disconnected from the earth. As the production of food has shifted since the 1950s from small farms to Big Ag, the care of land as a fundamental principle has been replaced with the principles of efficiency and yield improvements – both dependent on herbicides, insecticides and GMOs, coupled with shipping foods vast distances to satisfy market expectations of convenience to eat what we want, when we want it. Our tie to the earth through the food we eat is not being nourished.

The book’s last section is titled “Your Earth Calling.” It is filled with ideas and options for how to repair our unraveling relationship to the earth. The authors instruct us to first become better, keener, more attuned observers of where we live. They encourage discovering where our water, energy, food, and all our “stuff” come from. And where our waste goes. They encourage viewing where we live as a bioregion that starts in our backyards and extends outward to our neighborhoods and cities. And to become familiar with who speaks for us in government, and what organizations advocate our principles. They offer an extensive resource guide at the end. Gunter and Carter call readers to awaken to the earth and know who its allies are – and to join them.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer whose novel, “Dream Singer,” a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, will be published this summer. Contact him via:

www.thewritinggroup.com.