Being raised by a spiritual, scientific father who was a water and soil conservationist on four different Indian reservations in Arizona (where I freely roamed the surrounding wild lands), I grew to understand the interdependence of humans with the natural environment and to hold sacred not only the life and health of human beings but also all life—plant and animal—and the ecosystems that keep us all alive.
In college and the ensuing years, I increasingly realized that it was almost impossible to live in the sacred manner I desired under the influence and control of the dominant culture of materialism and the conquer-all-in-nature mindset. And so in my 20s and 30s I lived in a conflictive state of compromise within mainstream society, doing what I could to live simply, buy minimally and responsibly, conserve water, recycle, repurpose, garden, participate in a cooperative where we bought organic foods in bulk and split among ourselves, and so on. I constantly researched and learned of better ways to live sustainably and attempted making changes within my nuclear family unit, which was at times challenging when certain family members did not want to participate.
Now I live in an EcoVillage of about 110 people that I co-founded more than thirty years ago. How did this happen? First and foremost I trusted the guidance of the Universal Creator of all and the Threefold Spirit within me. I worked from the “inside out,” being open to accepting challenges of trying higher ways of thinking and living. I had to continually rethink, unlearn, and relearn. I joined others who had similar goals, and we worked together to manifest what we thought was the highest good for ourselves as well as for our neighbors and the rest of people on the planet. We embraced Mahatma Gandhi’s premise to “live simply so that others may simply live.”
Often I personally felt inadequate and vulnerable, as did my comrades. We often floundered, faltered, and sometimes failed in our endeavors, but always striving to think, feel, and do what we believed was for the highest good of all on this world. Many people have come and gone, as is the tendency of humans to drop out when becoming disappointed and discouraged with the difficulties of living outside of mainstream values and continually assessing ourselves personally and as a group for ways to improve. It indeed is tiring to swim against the current of a river, which sometimes is gentle and requires little endeavor but at other times is rough rapids that require all the strength we have.
On our 220-acre land, to which our parent organization holds the title (rather than any individuals), our Earth Harmony homes are clustered in order to have open land for natural flora and fauna. Planted around our living areas are shrubs and trees that not only serve as food for the many birds, bees, and butterflies that pollinate our organic gardens, but bring beauty, shade, and food for us humans. We harvest rainwater, use gray-water and bio-remedial black-water systems, and recycle/repurpose everything that we can. We try to buy locally-produced and fair-trade items as much as possible, shop in thrift and re-sale stores, and have regular clothing, housewares and furniture exchanges among community members. All of the food served out of our kitchens is organically grown and mostly locally acquired. We compost all food waste and strive to keep our trash that is going to landfills as minimal and biodegradable as possible.
As individuals and as a group we are actively involved in being informed of ongoing environmental issues, participating in local activism groups dedicated to protecting our bioregion, signing petitions and sending letters to legislators that encourage broader and forward-looking perspectives that have to do with the welfare of people and ecosystems. And we individually vote for those who support a platform that is protective of human and environmental health.
How we in the EcoVillage think and live, which reflects responsible stewardship for all life, can also be done at some level by individuals, nuclear families, and neighborhoods. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.
We all can regain a sense of what is truly sacred and good, realizing that it is not the material human-made things or political and monetary systems that are so much to be valued as it is each other and our natural world that sustains us in providing our life-support and nourishing systems, healing properties, companionship, joy, spiritual communion, and beauty. If we can embrace the philosophy of some Native American cultures—to take into consideration the impacts that our decisions have seven generations into the future—our world will be on its way to regeneration.
About Niann: Niánn Emerson Chase is a world-renowned spiritual leader, educator, activist, and prolific author with many articles on culture, society, spirituality, and sustainability. She is co-author of the book Teachings on Healing, From A Spiritual Perspective and co-founded Global Community Communications Alliance, a multifaceted global change nonprofit, comprised of approximately 120 change agents from five continents. She is the co-founder and Director of The University of Ascension Science & The Physics of Rebellion located on the campus of Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage in Tumacácori, Arizona. Along with Gabriel of Urantia, she co-founded the Soulistic Healing Center in Tubac, Arizona, where she is also a counselor.
Niánn’s website is: https://niannemersonchase.org/