By the end of his life in 2009, Berry saw that Earth was already well into the terminal centuries of the current Cenozoic era. The Cenozoic, along with the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras that preceded it, comprise the three periods of Earth's story in which animals have lived and evolved. Each of the transitions between these eras extended for millennia. During these transitions, the first phase was marked by great die-offs of species as Earth's habitability underwent radical deconstruction. Some species partially adapted, but only a small percentage were able to adapt to the full scale of changes that transpired between each era. Each die-off phase was followed by centuries and millennia during which new species emerged through the patient, creative, evolutionary process.
These previous phases of die-off and new emergence lasted millennia, and provide the context in which Berry understands what's happening in Earth's story today. Berry stretches our minds to reach for Earth consciousness. When our consciousness is shaped by Earth, we can see ourselves in transitional roles that are highly different from what our egos and multi-Earth thinking conjure for us. In Earth consciousness, civilization and egos are secondary. Creation and Self are primary. Not only are we in Earth's unfolding story, we are planet-inhabiters in the Universe's incomprehensibly vast unfolding. With the kind of Earth consciousness that Berry exemplified, we get beyond any feelings we might have of being too small to correct and heal what multi-Earth attitudes, corporations, and economic models have done.
Having defined the scale of our great work, and having professed belief that we and our children have the capacities to undertake it, I want to describe further the process by which we can move into Earth-size consciousness. Getting there involves us in a back-and-forth dance between inner and outer change. Inner changes involve becoming ever-more aware of the workings of our soul. Getting to know our ego and other aspects of ourselves is like getting to know other people in life. First we make one another's acquaintance; then we may move into functional relationships. But it takes time and intention. The better we get to know our egos, the more we see that they are not capable of Earth-size consciousness. They are too small a center of identity for that kind of awareness, thinking, and living. So when we journey into greater topographies of consciousness, our egos get worried. They feel afraid, send us warnings, and work to get us to turn back. Our egos undergo a kind of ego-suffering because they must come to acknowledge, albeit painfully, that they cannot be the center of the greater identity our great work requires. For that, a larger center of identity is needed. That center is Self, which I've already introduced and am eager to say more about in following chapters.
Outer changes involve us in promoting policies that can shape OneEarth structures and systems. Personal practices matter, but policies are essential to scale OneEarth changes up to Earth-size. As we learn of more Earth-size structures and systems, we use them. By being alert to both practices and policies we give our beliefs legs and a public voice. We change individual behaviors and also the systems that impact the behavior of whole communities and regions. By owning practically and publicly what is going on with us, our inner changes get translated into visible Earth-size actions. Bringing our inner and outer worlds into congruence can take us to moments where our emerging consciousness clashes with the reigning practices in organizations and relationships that we are part of. In such moments we develop discernment and skill in engaging disagreements that arise in our great work.
The inner and outer changes of our great work need also to synchronize with Earth and the huge changes she continues to make. She continues to invite us to disrobe from supersize grandiosity and put on Earth-size grandeur. That invitation has turned into the imperative of the 21st century. We have tarried so long in small topographies of consciousness, and so repeatedly turned from Earth's ecological messages, that the warmth of her invitation has taken on the heat of imperative. As her messages have increased in volume, more of us scurry to change practices and policies, acknowledging that Earth's changes determine ours. The humility she forces upon us opens us to different ways of thinking. Many businesses, campuses, and local governments now seek to reshape themselves to fit Earth's context. Some investors, who see the declining future for the fossil-fuel industry, have begun withdrawing funds and investing in sustainable-energy sources. These actions are responses to Earth's imperative. Awareness is spreading that to opt for the MultiEarth status quo is to choose the path of an endangered species.
By undertaking our great work, we acquire the consciousness to be sure the changes we make are at a scale right for our planet. We alertly synchronize with her. I make it sound like a well-choreographed transition to an Ecozoic world is underway. In fact, we already see the harshness and cruelties of the transition--unprecedented species extinctions, damaging weather extremes, polarized ideologues vying for leadership, violent struggles for energy, decades-long droughts, displacement of people escaping rising oceans and ecologically triggered conflicts. All of these severely challenge the adaptive capacities of multi-Earth practices, systems, and thinking. Being a global leader in a multi-Earth business or amassing wealth only to show success in multi-Earth ways becomes smaller in significance when put in the context of Earth's imperative.
Our planetary home, and its presence in our consciousness-expanding Cosmos, is the irrefutable context for all of us, all species, all business, all religion, and all education. Many elected and appointed officials in our countries talk and vote according to a story that does not fit what's happening on our planet. Both their ideology and actions fail in the OneEarth paradigm. But when we proceed with clear planetary and cosmic parameters, we can be confident that our great work will get us where we need to go. It presents itself as a daring, faith-evoking alternative to the civilization project that, instead of being our great work, has so far been our immature and lesser work.
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