Once again Earth’s turning has brought us in the northern hemisphere into the season of vernal equinox. Shifts in light and temperature are apparent. Subtle and not-so-subtle adaptations in the habits of the winged, finned, furred, leathered, crawlers, four-footed, two-legged, leafed, flowered and fruit-bearers are visible for those with the curiosity and patient ability to see. Each being seems to be claiming its springtime identity with the hope that its habitat and food-chain are vital and flourishing.

Alas, as we know, many species and entire eco-systems are facing critical stressors as their natural environments are unduly devastated by relentless human impacts.  Indeed, leading scientists say that now we are living in a new geological era, the Era of the Anthropocene. This term was first used in 2000 by Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Crutzen, whose work focused on chemical mechanisms that affect the ozone layer. According to Crutzen, the Anthropocene epoch marks the time when human activity is leaving an irreversible environmental impact on planet Earth that will be detectable thousands of years into the future.

Milkweed (photo by Jane Goddard)

Living in a geological era where the human species has become the main predator of life is a pretty heavy burden. How do we discover our deepest identity when our cultural identity is fed primarily by a belief in relentless economic and population growth, driven global markets and rising consumption? How do we shift the definition of the “Era of the Anthropocene” to mean humanity living in balance and harmony with Nature?

At the Center for Earth Jurisprudence we commit to keeping the “big picture” before us (the really BIG Universe Story) while claiming our identity as humans to live in right relationships and interdependence with the entire web of life.  For the past year we have been focusing on the essential role of water, particularly Florida’s springs. This has led to richly blessed new relationships and networks with wonderful companions, friends, and advocates who are deeply committed to the health of Florida’s waterways.

Two special artists come to mind: Jim Draper and his “Feast of Flowers” exhibit currently at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville and John Moran with his “Eternal Springs” exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in Gainesville (in collaboration with Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby) are just two of Florida’s outstanding artists who bring their commitment to showing us Florida’s natural wealth.Just since January we have participated in programs such as the Orange County League of Women’s Voters’  “Imperiled Waters of Florida,” the Florida Conservation Coalition (and partners’) “Speak-up Wekiva,” our own CEJ’s “Rights of Springs,” and the Florida Springs Institute’s “Springs Conservation Summit.”

In addition, we have weighed in with comments to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection hearings on the Basin Management Action Plans for several Florida springs—demonstrating that the proposed plans to reduce nitrate pollution are too little, too late. The proposed BMAPs have no enforcement teeth and basically repeat regulations and best management plans that are already on the books.

(photo by Jane Goddard)

However, we remain committed to working with others in preserving and conserving the springs, the waterways and the common good—and the good of the commons. We want the Era of the Anthropocene to become an era when humanity takes responsibility for protecting and conserving water and the natural world for future generations.

Personally, I think the core of human identity lies in our ability to discover ourselves as we serve the common good of the community. As individuals we need others to help us understand who we are. Those others are the people around us, and also the other beings who reveal to us our deepest capacities to be creative, compassionate and caring.

Recently Rev. Peter Sawtell, Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, outlined six essential qualities for the development of a transformational ecological identity and spirituality.  I found them insightful, and I leave you with them for your own musing. They reflect an interiority that seeks right relationship and a capacity for reflection, receptivity and transformation. They are: awe, listening, lament, confession, imagination and commitment.

I submit they are qualities in which the natural world would delight, if they became essential components of the Age of the Anthropocene.

Narrow Leaf Blue-Eyed Grass (photo by Jane Goddard)

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