Also see:  Sustainable Community Development | What is Meant by Development? | Choice of Lifestyle | Institutionalized Resistance | Social Service | My History in Sustainable Community | Educating for Sustainability | Giving Children a Voice | In addition, visit "The Commons" in Essays

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson


Social insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over, each time expecting new and dramatically different results, despite the lessons of world history. This statement is a summation of how Western industrial society navigated the 20th century—a century in deadly grapple between the immediate wants and demands of society and what the environment can sustainably produce.

Will the 21st century also be one of deadly grapple between the polarized positions of corporations and preservationists, positions symptomatic of a spiritually bankrupt and morally sick society? Is this the legacy we intend to bequeath our children, our children's children, and beyond?

Our current mode of participating with Nature can be traced throughout human history as each successive society has experienced its own growth, evolution of social consciousness, moral decline, and ultimate demise. The singular lesson I find in the history of human experience is that the process of restoring the land to health is the process through which we become attuned to Nature and, through Nature, with ourselves. Ecological restoration is therefore both the means and the end, for as we learn to restore the land, we heal the land, and as we heal the land, we heal ourselves. But for such healing to occur, we must transcend the scientific and economic objectification of Nature, and relearn to honor the sacredness of Nature through acceptance of our intuitive knowing, which science can help elucidate and economics discounts, but which neither can explain, test, nor replace.

W cannot answer our deepest, social-environmental questions through scientific inquiry or economic valuation since these questions come from the human heart, which defies our fragmented, mechanistic worldview. Having said this, I remember a time some years ago, when I thought I had some of the answers. Now I am not even sure of the questions. There are, however, a few things of which I am relatively certain, and it is with profound humility that I commit these notions to paper as: A Prime Directive for Healing The Earth. I do so in the hope it may provide a viable alternative to the current pattern of social-environmental destruction perpetrated through human ignorance, fear, and the greed it spawns.



The Prime Directive that guides our participation in the sacred evolution of Plant Earth is based on elevating our social consciousness, which lies in either of two, basic patterns of human thought: one linear, the other cyclical. The linear, industrial pattern produces a culture in which materialism is the force driving society and thus determines the mode of its institutions, which are based on continual, economic expansion that relegates spirituality to the bottom rung of the social ladder. The cyclical pattern, on the other hand, produces a culture in which spirituality is the force driving society and thus determines the mode of its economics and institutions through which people attempt to fit harmoniously within Nature's dynamic flow and ebb.

Given the same piece of land, each culture would produce a different design across its broad sweep based on the culture's pattern of thinking—the template of its dominant values. As social values determine a culture and the culture is an expression of those values, so the care taken of the environment by a people is the mirrored image of the hidden forces in their social psyche. These hidden forces, these secret thoughts guarded in mind and heart, ultimately express themselves on the land and determine whether a society survives or becomes a lingering ghost in the long march of history.

The path of social development we choose to follow may be cooperative and ecologically benign or competitive and ecologically malignant. The choice is ours. We cannot escape it. Thus, with choice in hand and children of all generations in mind, a Prime Directive is necessary to guide whatever policies may be forthcoming to midwife our participation with Nature and—through Nature—with the sacred evolution of our home planet in the most cooperative and ecologically benign fashion that is humanly possible in this, the 21st century.

The Prime Directive

Prime Directive is a set of guiding principles for our social behavior as planetary citizens. A "planetary citizen" is any person who inhabits Earth. In addition, however, the Prime Directive applies to any person visiting another celestial body, because that person is a representative of Planet Earth. As such, the Prime Directive is a standard of conduct to be interpreted, reinterpreted, and amended when any part thereof can be improved for the mutual, evolutionary benefit of Earth and its human society.

           The Prime Directive: We shall live in humility on Planet Earth, thereby minimizing the harm done in our living. We shall honor the Earth and all its life forms by living within the biophysical principles that constitute Nature's governance of the evolutionary processes through which we strive toward social-environmental sustainability. And we shall carefully and wisely manage what we introduce into the environment because the effects of our introductions are instantly and forever out of our control.

Articles of The "Prime Directive"

These Articles are written as examples of the behavior necessary for us, as planetary citizens, to faithfully implement, follow, and thereby fulfill the Prime Directive:

           Article I: As air is the main transporting and integrating factor of human-caused pollution, its circulation around globe affects the soils, waters, and all forms of life thereon and therein. Our first duty, therefore, is to clean the air by carefully managing what we introduce into it and thus prevent further contamination thereof, which in turn will allow the air to begin ridding itself of human-caused pollutants. Concomitantly, we shall, with due diligence, clean and detoxify all existing industrial establishments, modes of transportation, and so on, regardless of the monetary cost, such is our responsibility to all forms of life in all generations—present and future.

           Article II: As soil is the main terrestrial vessel, it receives, collects, and passes to the water all air-borne, human-caused pollutants. In addition, such pollutants as chemical fertilizers and pesticides are added directly to the soil and, through the soil, to the water. At times, such pollutants make their way into the air, where they are redistributed over the Planet's surface through strong winds, which carry aloft topsoil following the deforestation, desertification, and intensive farming, which includes the mass production of livestock and poultry.

As the air is cleaned so will the soil be cleaned, but that is not enough. Our second duty, therefore, is to carefully manage what we introduce into the soil to prevent further contamination, which in turn will allow the soil to begin healing itself. Concomitantly, we shall, with due diligence, clean all toxic sites, regardless of the monetary cost, such is our responsibility to all forms of life in all generations—present and future.

           Article III: As water is the great collector of human-caused pollutants, it washes and scrubs them from the air by rain and snow. It leaches pollutants from the soil. And it carries them in trickle, stream, and river to be concentrated in the ultimate vessel, the combined oceans of the world.

As the air and soil are cleaned, so will the water be cleaned, but that is not enough. Our third duty, therefore, is to carefully manage what we introduce into the water to prevent further contamination, which in turn will allow the water to begin a process of continually diluting and biodegrading the human-caused pollutants therein. Concomitantly, we shall, with due diligence, clean and detoxify all polluted water through whatever means necessary, regardless of the monetary cost, such is our responsibility to all forms of life in all generations—present and future.

           Article IV: Every form of life is equal in its service to the environment, even if we do not understand the way in which it serves. Each life, each species, each biological function is equally important to the evolutionary success of Planet Earth. Each species is not only unique but also has its own excellence and is comparable to none other. Therefore, any differences among life forms is just that, differences, while the hierarchies or human valuation and judgment are social constructs that have nothing to do with reality. So it is that, because of and in spite of these differences, every life is a practice in biological conservation, and every form of life is equal before God, however "God" is perceived. Therefore be it resolved that we:

           1) Respect the integrity of the naturalness of all forms of life, which may mean letting one or more individuals die to fulfill a particular process in the evolution of Nature by looking beyond the momentary emotion of seeing an animal in apparent distress, and respecting a form of life for what it is and where it is in the naturalness of Nature's processes. This concept is crucial because people often rush to protect an individual in the immediacy of the moment, while allowing entire species to vanish forever into the realm of extinction through the agent of economic competition.

           2) Cause no conscious or purposeful extinction of any form of life or life-form process for economic or political gain, regardless of the perceived, short-term monetary cost in revenue foregone, such is our responsibility to all forms of life in all generations—present and future. For as we treat the least of our brethren, so we treat the whole of Planet Earth.

           3) Strive toward a time when we allow our kinship with animals to raise the level of our consciousness that we might see a truer image of the human spirit reflected in an understanding and benevolent attitude toward all forms of life.

           Article V: In as much as humanity's habitation on Planet Earth is a natural part of the evolutionary process, and in as much as we must participate in redrafting Nature's environmental design simply because we exist, we not only belong here and have a right to be here in context of our "nativeness" but also have a duty to participate fully and accountably in the design of our environment in the context of our "naturalness." While our existence precludes an option of nonparticipation in altering the environmental patterns of the Planet's surface, the consciousness with which we engage in such behavior is a choice—one for which we are accountable to our children and our children's children into all generations of the future. Therefore, let us recognize that:

           1) It is neither our moral obligation nor our sacred duty to rule Planet Earth. It is, however, our moral obligation and our sacred duty to fulfill the role of planetary trusteeship for the benefit of all forms of life—present and future. To this end, all forms of life are to be treated with humility and dignity.

           2) We must consciously, purposefully control our population in order to remain within our cultural capacity for the sake of all generations. Cultural capacity is the balance between how we want to live, the quality of our lifestyles and of our society, and how many people an area can support in that lifestyle on a sustainable basis—without robbing the rest of the world to do so. If, however, we continually choose to ignore the balance between our cultural capacity and the land's biophysical capabilities, the degradation of the land—not the satisfaction of our desires—will determine the physical quality of our respective lives.

           Article VI: It shall be our social duty to save an ecologically sound representation of all known habitats, regardless of the perceived, short-term monetary cost, such is our responsibility to all forms of life in all generations—present and future.

           Article VII: It shall be the duty of every citizen to pass forward to the next generation the kind of environment in which he or she would choose to live. To accomplish this end, we, as individuals and as a society, must ask how much of any given resource we may use for our immediate benefit and how much is necessary to leave intact as a reinvestment of biological capital in the health and continued productivity of the ecosystem for the benefit of all life in the generations immediately succeeding ours and into the distant future. Then, we must act accordingly.

           Article VIII: Because we exist as citizens of Planet Earth, and because we have no choice but to use this planet as our home, our culturalization of Nature's environment shall be conducted in a way that a balance between Nature's blueprint of naturalness and humanity's social desires is ensured as much as humanly possible, as well as Nature's ability to continue evolving in a sustainable, productive, and desirable direction. To this end, we shall so treat the environment that the degree of culturalness maintains and compliments the connectivity of habitats across the broad sweep of the land while simultaneously allowing Nature's processes of disturbance, such as storms, fires, and floods, to continue guiding the overall evolution of the Planet. To facilitate this possibility, we must pay particular attention to and be totally committed to controlling our human population.

           Article IX: Whereas no economic paradigm of sustained, linear growth can exist without destroying the living systems that support it; whereas unlimited competition is the engine of overexploitation that drives living systems to collapse; whereas all living systems must be renewed through a reinvestment of biological capital if they are to remain viable, which means leaving enough of a system intact to function as Nature designates, we therefore resolve that the pulse used to measure the health of our economic system is to be shifted from the "bottom-line," linearity of artificially sustained monetary growth to the biologically sustainable capacity of Nature to maintain itself and its ecological services within the biophysical principles of its governance.

           Article X: In as much as we, through our sexual acts, are responsible for each child that enters the world; in as much as our present decisions will determine the circumstances for all generations of children; in as much as the great and only gift we have to give our children, their children, and their children's children, unto seven generations and beyond, are choices to be made and some things of value from which to choose; and in as much as a gift is free of all liens and encumbrances, which means to protect, maintain, and proffer the gift, but not judge how it may be used, we accept that we are, with increasing measure, the trustees of today's decisions, tomorrow's consequences, and the future's circumstances. We therefore resolve—with steadfastness of mind and clarity of heart—to find the moral courage and political will to act as trustees for the benefit of all generations, regardless of the perceived short-term economic hardships and political uncertainties, such is our responsibility to all forms of life—present and future.


           No additional scientific research or technological marvels are required to embrace the Prime Directive and thus heal Planet Earth. Finding the spirituality we have lost, rediscovering our misplaced humanity and its heart of courage is, however, imperative. We must act now if Planet Earth is to be a fit home for those who follow. The choice is ours. To all who are young, and to those whose faces are yet unseen, we bequeath the consequences of our decisions and our actions. Let us therefore reach high into our consciousness that our legacy may be worthy of those who follow, that our legacy may be one we, ourselves, would gladly inherit.

Dedicated to all who love Planet Earth and commit themselves to nurturing Her back to health in the 21st century. Respectfully submitted on this 1st day of February 2005.



Then I say the Earth belongs to each generation during its course, fully and in its own right; no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence. — Thomas Jefferson


Chris Maser
Corvallis, OR 97330

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