Elisabet Sahtouris

Elisabet Sahtouris is one of my heroes, along with Vandana Shiva and Wangari Matthai.  I have a large picture of her face, copied from a magazine, on my refrigerator.  It’s been there for years.  People often ask me who she is. 

She’s a systems biologist who taught at places like MIT, but left academia and went to live on a small Greek island to study nature directly.
She wrote a book called EarthDance, which tells the story of life on our planet from the first one-celled animals to our current adolescent crisis.  (Will we commit suicide, killed by our own waste?  or mature into responsible stewards of our living planet?)

Elisabet is able to discuss complex topics in clear, simple language.  Did you know that the first great pollution disaster on our planet was the oxygen crisis?  The early atmosphere was probably made up of methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide.  The first one-celled creatures used CO2 as an energy source, oxygen was the byproduct, the waste.  As more and more oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere, it was lethal to the one-celled creatures, who died off in great numbers, or hid from the toxic atmosphere by living underwater or in mud.  And that would have been the end, except that the one-celled animals had the capacity to evolve rapidly under stress.  Some evolved to use oxygen as an energy source, and it’s so much more efficient that they could do new things, like make elaborate shells.  The shells accumulated on the bottom of the ocean, were pressed down by later sediments, and then finally hardened and were lifted above the ocean to become the mark for the first geologic age, the Cambrian.  As a geology student, I knew that the Cambrian started with the first fossils, that is when early soft-bodies creatures began to make hard parts (shells, bones, etc.)  No one told me about the oxygen crisis.

Because these early creatures have retained the capacity to evolve under stress bacteria rapidly develop resistance to our antibiotics.  It’s also why, ultimately, genetically modified organisms will fail, possibly taking us with them.  (This is already happening, but you aren’t told about it in the corporation-owned media.)  Nature is far more intelligent than we are.  We don’t see it because we are blinded by the 5000 year old Patriarchal myth that the earth is dead raw material and meant to be exploited by men (women being included as part of the earth to be exploited.)
There is so much from her story that I would love to share, but I’m only going to do the beginning, and refer you to the webpage:

Sarah James, enduring the heat of Brazil, was beating her huge caribou-skin drum to punctuate her own words as she told us about her Gwich’in Indian culture in the northernmost inhabited village of Alaska. I’d met her in Oregon the year before; this time she had made the trip to Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit of 1992. She described her people’s lives before contact with the white man. Their relationship with the caribou was sacred and they were endlessly grateful for this wonderful animal that gave them everything they needed and wanted: food, bone and skin houses, boats, snowshoes, utensils, tools, clothing, drums, flutes. Their lives were rich– rich with family and community, warm homes and clothing, plentiful food, much time for ceremony, music, dance, story telling and laughter, much reason for celebration and thanksgiving for their bounty. But when the white man came to them, he saw people living in 40-deg.-below-zero weather with only caribou to provide for their meager sustenance. He called them poor “savages.” Sarah beat her caribou skin drum, sang her welcoming skin hut dance song, and smiled broadly as she shouted, “Well, then let’s keep Alaska savage!”

Sarah was making a clear statement of preference for her traditional life of simplicity over the modern world that brought her people real poverty along with the terrible dependencies of debt, alcoholism and the glue-sniffing that has destroyed her own son’s brain. She was also making the point that wealth is a matter of perception and priorities.

The story I’m going to tell here about my ever-transformative lifestyle has two threads interwoven: one is my decreasing dependence on material possessions and all that their acquisition and maintenance implies, the other is my increasing dependence on inner guidance and more generally on my spiritual life, without which the first would be neither fun nor rewarding. And having fun is a very important and central part of my life!

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