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Moving from the Anthropocene to the Androgynocene
Gaian Leadership for a Balanced World
By Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.
We have only to look around us to see the extent to which we are already living in the Anthropocene. Human activity asserts itself everywhere on the planet, from the most remote reaches of the poles to the deepest abysses of the ocean to the highest peaks of the mountains. Plastic garbage and synthetic chemicals are ubiquitous in our water, soil and air. Satellites and drones can see every acre of the planet, zoomed in or zoomed out—and this technology is now available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection through the wonders of GoogleEarth. Every other living being on the planet thrives because humans allow it to. Only the viruses, bacteria and fungi are–so far–resistant to the overwhelming force of human control.
The Anthropocene may be a done deal, but the outcome of this brave new era is far from certain. Gaia is ours to destroy, ours to nurture. Which will it be? If we are to enjoy a long and prosperous future as a species, we are going to have to step up our nurturing efforts. For at least the past 5,000 years, since Gilgamesh was celebrated for cutting down the forest to build his city, human beings have seen Nature as a resource to be plundered at will, with the richest spoils going to whoever could seize and mine/drill/deforest/plow the most territory. Aggression and greed have been rewarded with social status and luxury. It is no accident that during this same period, in virtually every culture, men have been dominant on the planet; the “masculine” quality of aggressiveness and power understood as brute force have been in ascendance, while the “feminine” qualities of nurturing and compassion have been perceived as weak and relatively unimportant.
If we are to survive as a species on a flourishing planet, we are going to have to move beyond the Anthropocene into the Androgynocene. We are going to have to balance the masculine and feminine energies that inhabit every human spirit, and let our actions in the world proceed from this newly balanced integrity. In practical terms, this means that people in male bodies need to cultivate their nurturing side, and people in female bodies need to cultivate their warrior side. Gaia needs humans to become androgynous warrior-healers who can put our incredible intelligence and highly developed ethical sense to work for the benefit of all life on the planet.
We already have some Gaian leaders like this among us. Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Sandra Steingraber, Rigoberta Menchu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama….the list of living Gaian leaders could go on, and there are many others who have already passed into history—Gandhi, Rachel Carson, Wangari Maathai. Gaian leaders are able to align the personal, political and planetary in their own lives, and model for others a balance of aggression and compassion, acting as fierce warriors only as necessary to secure the health and stability of the human community and the biosphere that sustains us. Gaian leaders in the past often acted mostly in their own local spheres, but in our new globally networked society the potential is greater than ever for an initiative that starts in one place on the planet to spread quickly and become a global movement.
The speed and reach of the Internet makes it possible to envision a worldwide uprising of Gaian leaders, embedded in local communities but acting for the welfare of the planet as a whole. If we accept the responsibility of our role as stewards of the planet with open hearts and balanced spirits, we can move beyond the archaic divisions of people by race and sex, beyond the arbitrary boundaries of nationality and the superficial separations of religious creed, to understand ourselves as an integral part of the great Gaian order, the species through which the planet is able to understand and become better aware of herself, and evolve to ever great complexity and beauty. The Anthropocene could be the greatest era in planetary history—but only if we succeed in making it into the Androgynocene.
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