Green is a State of Mind


Green is a state of mind. On a conscious level it is our everyday choice to rinse and toss our empty coffee cups, wine bottles, and food wrappers into the blue bin, to scrape our plates into the green bin, to sort and deposit our waste products into a chain of reincarnation. In its next life, our coffee cup becomes copy paper.

The recycling process took hold decades ago when we became aware of our impact on the environment, on Nature. On a deeper level, we have a conditioned relationship with Nature, a Western mind state born from deep culture that informs what we imagine to be our place in the world. Have you ever asked yourself how your relationship with Nature came to be?

We’ve inherited a worldview that describes this relationship to the earth, the oceans, the skies, and all the life forms that inhabit it. Stories of human origin dwell deep in the subconscious. And we, as human beings, from a Western viewpoint, reign at the top of the hierarchy. Speaking in general terms, we don’t view our relationship to earth and all her forms of being as equal to us.

Nature, especially from an Enlightenment viewpoint, is something to be dominated. This type of thinking is based on an ongoing effort to radically divide the human from Nature based on a unique human trait X: opposable thumb, conceptualization and abstraction, toolmaking, reason, sense of beauty, conscious awareness of self, ethics and language.

Christianity asserts that humans have a soul, forever separating them from the nonspiritual aspects of nature. Yet, for secular thinkers, Charles Darwin remarked in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, that these explanations “are almost worthless, as their wide difference and number prove the difficulty, if not the impossibility of the attempt.”

Where does that leave us in relation to Nature? As most of us intuit, outside of our conditioning, is that we are participating in a complex system. We impact Nature and Nature impacts us in ongoing reunion of recycled actions and reactions. This hardly puts us at the top of a hierarchal chain of being. We are in midst of a complex web of creation.

Green, as I see it, is a movement toward an ecological state of mind, a deeper understanding of our relationship to the planet and each other. The Green Movement is a reconditioning of our inherited Enlightenment values that has kept us divided and careless and dominant. By changing our deeply ingrained mindset, we change our environment from the inside out.

I have a couple of sources I’d like to share. One amazing read that couples philosophical and religious insight to environmental issues is Being Human: Ethics, Environment, and Our Place in the World by Anna L. Peterson. Another awesome, (and I’m talking awesome in Otto’s sense of the numinous) is a documentary entitled Manufactured Landscapes featuring photography by Edward Burtynsky (directed by Jennifer Baichwal). It’s Koyaanisqatsi-esque but more poignant. Cheers! And know thyself.

PhotoCredit: Jaques Daigneault

About The Author

Cynthia Vale is a budding scholar and doctoral student in Transformative Inquiry at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She writes the dot429 philosophy blog. You can reach Cynthia at

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