It Comes Down to Love

Nov 22nd, 2020 | By | Category: Other Resources

By Geoffrey Holland, contributing writer for Transition Earth.

[Photo: Russell Oliver, Creative Commons]

[Photo: Russell Oliver, Creative Commons]

Women and Nature; they are inextricable.  You can’t love one if you don’t love the other. The world we live in is in very deep trouble, because we have failed to love either sufficiently.

Consider how we got here. Think about the human journey the past three or four thousand years.  Boil it down to simple terms: men have been in charge, women have been treated as property, and nature has been plundered rapaciously and relentlessly.  History has been shaped by men. It is a litany of stories of men in bloody, violent confrontation and conquest.   It’s mostly been that way ever since humans gave up caves for permanent settlements.

It’s codified in the Bible. The ‘Old Testament’ declares that men are in charge, women are property, and nature is a commodity made to be exploited by men.


Man enjoys the great advantage of having a god endorse the code he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over women it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the supreme being.  For the Jews, Mohammedans and Christians among others, man is a master by divine right; the fear of god will therefore repress any impulse towards revolt in the downtrodden female.

~ Simone de Beauvior, The Second Sex, 1949


Human societies the world over are hierarchical. Men are on top. Men make the rules. Nature is reduced to a commodity for men to exploit. Females of the human species are marginalized, oppressed, and treated like nature as a form of exploitable property. It’s been that way pretty much through all of recorded history.

Humans have long operated under the assumption they are separate and superior to nature rather than a part of it.  That has encouraged a brand of mindless cultural overreach that now threatens the destruction of life on Earth. Our world is in very big trouble.  No one did it to us. Humans alone are responsible.  We must learn to think on a planetary scale.


The Big Picture

At the end of the year 2020, we find Earth’s living biosphere under full on assault by humanity.  The biology of our oceans is collapsing.  It’s been said that by the year 2050, there may be more plastic waste in the oceans than fish. We’re cutting down our forests like there’s no tomorrow. We’re squandering our precious topsoil, and sucking the life out of critical sub-surface aquifers. We’re flooding our environment with toxic chemicals. Plant species are going extinct, and wild animal numbers are in freefall across the planet.

It’s no mystery why life on Earth is in such big trouble. Humans are taking all the planet has to offer for themselves.  Just fifty years ago, the human population was just over three billion. Since then, that number has more than doubled to nearly eight billion, on the way to ten or even twelve billion by end of century. The Earth has only so much to give. Humans are taking most of it for themselves.

The most urgent issue at hand is climate change, driven by our insatiable energy demands and our eating habits.  Pollution directly caused by humans is saturating our skies with carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and other heat trapping gases. The volume of CO2 pollution alone is 37 billion tons annually.  As a consequence, glaciers are disappearing, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and we’re seeing every kind of climate-driven weather extreme.  I’m talking about massive wildfires like we’ve seen in just the past year in Australia, the American West, and the Amazon.   I’m talking about extreme flooding and freakish storm systems linked to overheated skies and elevated ocean temperatures. That’s how we got Hurricane Harvey that hit the southeast Texas coast a few years ago, and dumped well over 50 inches of rain in five days. Freakishly powerful storm systems that were once thought to be seen every thousand years, are now becoming part of the annual norm.

On top of all the existential environmental stress, we’ve got a pandemic that has infected well over fifty million people around the world and killed approaching three hundred thousand in the U.S. alone.

The big picture for humanity at this moment in time is not pretty. We are on a very dark course. It will continue to get worse, unless we wake up, step up, and embrace a new paradigm defined by dignity for all and responsible planetary stewardship.


People Protect What They Love.

~ Jacques Yves Cousteau, Ocean Explorer


Turning Back From the Abyss

Continuing ‘business as usual’ is a dead end for humanity.  There is no future in regression to some fantasy idealized version of the past.

The way forward requires a course correction at the most fundamental cultural levels. It starts with the understanding that all humans are created equal. That includes female human beings.

In a fair and just society, by virtue of being human, women are equal to men in all ways. In a fair and just world, women are entitled to an equal voice.

The distinguished author of The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler, offers this understanding:

What we need is a new way of thinking that goes beyond secular vs. religious, left vs. right, Eastern vs. Western, socialist vs. capitalist, and so on. Old social categories ignore the impact of childhood and gender relations on how our brains – and hence our beliefs and behaviors – develop. Nor do any of them provide the new economics, narratives, and language to meet the challenges facing our world. The real struggle for our future is between the domination configuration and the partnership configuration worldwide. Once we understand this, we can build a solid foundation for a more sustainable, equitable, and caring partnership-oriented world.

[Photo: Center for Partnership Studies}

Riane Eisler [Photo: Center for Partnership Studies}


The Partnership Way

As a young and confused man, I read The Chalice and the Blade. It forced me to rethink much that I’d grown to believe about gender and equality. Riane Eisler’s book is still the gold standard for understanding where humans have come from and where we need to go.

Allow me to share another nugget of Riane Eisler wisdom:

This notion that man can, and should, have absolute dominion over the “chaotic” powers of nature and woman…is what ultimately lies behind man’s famous “conquest of nature” – a conquest that is today puncturing holes in the earth’s ozone layer, destroying our forests, polluting our air and water, and increasingly threatening the welfare, and even survival, of thousands of living species, including our own.

Riane Eisler is one of my greatest teachers. From her, and other gifted communicators like Carl Sagan and Jane Goodall, I learned to see my place as a part of nature and the universe. I became deeply troubled by what humans are doing to the planet. For the longest time, humans have behaved blindly, like a frenzy of maggots feasting on a carcass.  It’s frightening to see what happens when we have eight billion humans, each wanting a piece of the shrinking planetary pie. We are mindlessly consuming the life out of the only Earth we have.


We humans are wired for empathy by evolution, but when children grow up in dominator families they internalize this male over female template for relations early on. They then automatically apply it to other differences, whether based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and so forth.

~ Riane Eisler



There is an elegantly simple elixir. It has emerged from Riane’s lifetime of work.  It’s a vision of a world that has transitioned away from hierarchy and dominance and replaced it with a living paradigm built on cooperation and shared gender responsibility… In its grandest sense, the partnership way is a prescription for planetary consciousness.


[Photo: Dianakc, Creative Commons]

[Photo: Dianakc, Creative Commons]


The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least not in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet.  Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

~ Carl Sagan, Voice of the Cosmos



Women Are Already Getting It Done

Women have been trapped in servitude through the annals of history. In the US, females couldn’t even vote until a century ago.  So much has changed in recent decades. In Europe, North America, and other parts of the world, women have struggled, and substantially they have prevailed. They have found their power through activism. In so many ways, female humans are seizing the reins.

In the U.S., at least as many women are enrolled in medical schools and law schools as men. Women are rapidly populating their professions of choice. In politics, women are getting elected at every level.

The U.S workforce is now slightly more than half women. In a fair and equal world, women will soon have half the best jobs.

We should all be heartened by that.  I find it reassuring, because I believe that women, perhaps more than men, are hardwired to care for what they love.  When women are active participants, they bring out the best in their male collaborators. As that happens, we will see ever more women on duty in the planetary pilot house, steering the human culture away from mindless self-destruction.  When women are in their rightful equal place at the levers of power, they will choose stewardship over mindless profiteering.


Young People Are Being the Change

I am thrilled by the level of commitment by people under thirty to achieving a transformative world built on gender equality, economic fairness, and taking proper care of the planet.

Groups like the Greenpeace, the Sunshine Movement, Earth Guardians, and,  made up substantially of young people, have become leading voices for positive change.

Here’s what we can say about the prevalent, social-media-driven brand of activism. It is powered by at least as many women as men. Women are the primary force behind a lot of it.

There are also a lot of good men engaged side-by-side with those energized women. They are male humans, who already love their mothers, their sisters, aunts, wives, and daughters. More than that, they are feminist men. They want the best for women in general.  They define themselves by their commitment to cooperation and gender-equal partnership.

These activist women and men have chosen to stand up together for a healthy and resilient environment. They value life. They value each other. They don’t want to live on a ravaged and exhausted planet. At the deepest level, they are concerned about survival. But the foundation of their commitment flows from their common well of love and compassion for nature and all of humanity. That makes me hopeful.


Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.

~ Jane Goodall, Distinguished Earth Citizen



Geoffrey Holland is a writer/producer, and lead author of The Hydrogen Age. He is Dialogue Coordinator for the Stanford Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere.

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