Vital Signs

“Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this time of planetary turmoil, breakdown, potential, despair and hope, is that it confronts us so strongly with profound questions about what we are like, as human beings.”  Hilary Prentice in “Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis”.

This anthology of 20 essays is a refreshing break from the superficial whirling bits and bites of information on the internet.  Based on a movement called Ecopsychology, this book is engaging, well written, surprising and filled with important realizations.

It is  worth looking into for anyone in the field of human, organizational or ecological development such as  leadership or organizational coach and facilitator,  therapeutic practitioner or spiritual teacher.  All three disciplines help bring humanity into a deeper understanding of the connections between the inner and outer aspects of life that affect our perspective and therefore our actions

I never expected this professional book to be so engaging — a real page turner of  little known research and discoveries.  With a holistic and systemic lens these essays reveal layer upon layer of insight into causes, effects and connections between earth challenges and human challenges. Especially interesting are the discussions about the embeddedness of humanity within the planet’s systems.

Each essay has its own tone and theme.  Some are scholarly, researched complete with interviews and citations, others are more poetic and touching, even as they present well though-through material and unexpected connections and conclusions.  I loved the one about humanity evolving itself to heal the earth.

I also was intrigued by the one about man’s relationship with animals full of examples of methods of working with animals.  I had to check out the video of Leslie Desmond who argues that “creatures always register our fundamental intentions – an that therefore we need to be honest with ourselves about what they are”.  She shows that trying to “tame” animals using aggression and violence is counterproductive.

This book makes you think and reflect.  It gives you a new perspective on yourself and your role in the web of life.  It questions who we are as human beings and this brings us into a new consciousness of our potency and potential.

Check out these quotes from various essays and see what they awaken in you.  My “questions for reflection”  may make it more relevant to your own situation.

“One of the greatest difficulties with facing climate change seems to be not knowing. Climate change faces us with darkness, a great uncertainty, and a fear of losing the electric excitement of our fossil-fueled lifestyle.”    The Darkening Quarter by Viola Sampson  Question for reflection:  How do I deal with uncertainty.  How do I meet the unknown.  What is my relationship to control?

In these fragmentary times, we urgently need to discern what parts we play, as a species and persons, for the adaptive, healthy, and holy (words with same origin) functioning of the eco-systemic whole.  Longing to Be Human by Paul Maiteny  Question for reflection:  What part could we humans play?  What is my role?  What is the evolutionary impulse urging me to do?

Most people claim to love nature.  Yet we all collude in seriously damaging the web of life we inhabit and depend on.   Ecological intimacy by Mary-Jayne Rust  Question for reflection:  In what way do I contribute to damaging the web of life?  What do I know about my impact on the planet?  How can I be a healing force for the web of life?

(…) for indigenous peoples the earth and our psyche are not split violently apart, but are appropriately interwoven. It is an extraordinary gift to be here on earth, and there is gratitude, and presence, and reverence.  Heart and Soul by Hilary Prentice.  Question for reflection:  How do I see the earth and my relationship to it?  Am I a consumer of earth, an admirer of earth, a part of earth?  How does each stance affect how I act?

The world is drawing attention to itself by means of its symptoms.  While there is the economic pressure towards globalization, there is another complementary process away from individualistic egocentricity towards networked, interconnected communities that show deep concern for our wounded world.  Dangerous Margins by Chris Robertson.  Question for reflection: What community do I belong to?  In what way am I interconnected with others?  How do I show deep concern for our wounded world

Enjoy this little gem and use its insights in your practice.  You will be contributing to a new recognition of who we are as human beings and what our role is in this very special time.


An engaging and insightful video based on Ecopsychology by high quality speakers.  Worth a look!


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