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RUTH ROSENHEK'S STORY (2000)
(based on an interview with Marie Buckley)
SEE ALSO Woman's Journal story
In 1997, I sold my car and wrote letters to the financial institutions which hold my graduate student loans to request that repayment be deferred until such time as the Earth's ecological and social crises are resolved. I was granted a three year deferment and hit the road to join Australian international rainforest activist John Seed. We toured about the US for the remainder of that year as part of a Rainforest Benefit tour offering deep ecology workshops and Rainforest roadshows, inspiring folks with slides of rainforest protection projects, singing music and facilitating ceremonies and rituals to help us all to deepen our experience of connection with the Earth.
Since then Ive been a full-time environmental activist.engaged in rainforest protection efforts in Ecuador, fundraising to help grassroots environmental efforts worldwide and raising consciousness through ongoing roadshows and workshops.
In retrospect, I see that it was a heartfelt cellular reawakening that occurred within me. After growing up in Montreal, Canada, I graduated from Bryn Mawr College intending to become a psychotherapist. Instead, I ended up working in the computer field for a decade but these were all job-jobs in the sense of making a living rather than pursuing a meaningful life path.
At age 30, I experienced what might be called a spiritual transformation and subsequently, I visited Buddhist monasteries in Nepal for several months after which I returned to the US to work with an AIDS service organization in New Hampshire. When the organization brought in a consultant to assist us in ironing out our inner turmoils, I recognized my own passion to work with groups and went on to earn a Master's degree in Organization and Management. Shortly thereafter, I became the director of the Women's Health Consortium in Portsmouth, NH.
Throughout the 90s, I worked in the grassroots social justice movement, but I came to realize that all good social change work was underscored by the fact that we live in a time when we are tearing apart the strands of the living web. It seemed to me that the good work we did wouldn't mean all that much if the life support system, clean air, water, and habitat, crumbled all around us.
At the same time, I felt myself focused on the losses being experienced by the 10 to 30 million other species who co-habit this planet with us. You could say that the larger Earth or Gaia called to me and I felt my identification expand. Previously, when I contemplated the way humans are wreaking havoc on the planet, I would become overwhelmed with grief and hopelessness. Adding to this burden was the thought that something must be wrong with me for feeling such intense feelings about wildlife and forests. And back to my therapist I would go. However, in the mid 90s, I discovered the Despair and Empowerment work of Joanna Macy. Through this work I came to understand that my feelings of sadness, fear and anger are healthy reactions to the ecological and social times we live in, As Thich Nhat Hahn says, "The most important thing we can do as humans is to hear inside ourselves, the sounds of the Earth crying." Equally important, I met new family members or tribe, others who felt just like me. I was in good company and well supported and encouraged to follow these feelings and my heart.
For the past two years, Ive been on an ongoing Rainforest Benefit tour with a few months spent between tours in Australia where I work with John Seed and the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC). There, my time is spent working on campaigns which include rainforest protection projects in developing countries and the Goldbusters Campaign, which uses creative economic strategies to drive down the price of gold in order to halt environmentally destructive hard rock mining practices. One of the campaigns mottos is "Say no to gold jewelry and yes to the Earth".
All the work that I do with RIC and on tour is volunteer. To cover travel expenses, Ive put my graduate degree to good work as I consult with leading edge environmental organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network in California. This covers the costs but mostly I live in other peoples houses; what an amazing network of Earth friendly people exist who take great pleasure in supporting folks like myself!
As for possessions, I carry with me a musical keyboard, laptop computer, a book and minimum apparel in a backpack. Two pairs of pants, two t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, and a toothbrush covers my basic needs.
While travelling from one spot to the next, I like to memorize new inspiring poems which I later recite at roadshows, intermingled with slide presentations and music. My latest additions are the Universe Jam and Earth Tribe, two rap poems by a fella name of Drew Dellinger. Mary Olivers Wild Geese is also one of my faves and now Im learning a Robinson Jeffers poem called No Man Apart, a true early deep ecologist.
Im fascinated by the times we live in. Were currently participating in and witnessing the sixth major mass extinction on this planet, the demise of the Cenozoic Era. The last major extinction spasm was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs became extinct. At that time, small mammals who lived in holes in the ground emerged into the open spaces where previously the dinosaurs had dominated. These small critters are the ancestors from which we descend, who along with small reptiles and others once again came to fill all the available niches in a rich biodiversity. This took somewhere between 5 and 10 million years.
Its estimated that by the time Im 80 (40 years hence), any rainforest not currently protected will be
gone. Over half the worlds species live in these rainforests and these will be gone as well. Additionally, were facing global warming, ozone depletion, and diminishing availability of clean water and air.
Of course, we don't know what the Earth might do and history shows us that following an extinction, life surges forth creatively to adapt to new times. So I see my mission as an attempt to slow or change the current extinction spasm and to help as many of Earths living beings and places to get through the tightening sieve as possible.
As depressing as the Earth's ecological situation seems to be, its an absolute joy to be working to protect the Earth. I cant imagine any other way of living that would make me happier and more importantly it fills me with deep satisfaction.
Contact Ruth Rosenhek/RIC at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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