An Interview with John Seed: Environmental Activism, Rainforest Conservation, and the Council of All Beings

In this third part of a series of articles on environmentalism and spirituality, MOTHER interviews John Seed, the world's leading environmental activist for rainforest protection, who is now practicing deep ecology to awaken people's spiritual connections to the Earth.

| May/June 1989

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    John Seed, the "town crier of the global village," works to awaken our spiritual connection to the earth.
    PHOTO: PAT STONE
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    "I am Insect; you insult me and call me Bug.You are repulsed and spray me in your homes, your yards and your farms.But I do much good andhave my rightful place in the order of things. I ask you to look before you spray, to see how many strands of the web of life you roughly shake, and to seek a gentler way."
    PAT STONE
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    "I am Raven. I ask you to join us birds in our song when the sun rises and the sun sets. Live in the moment. Keep your life simple. Get rid of all those things that make life on this planet hard for us. Live simply, as we always have."
    PAT STONE
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    "I am Spider who lives by the creek. I have patience. I create a web and sit there all day, waiting for an insect to fly by. To humans, I give the patience to just sit still and listen to the creek running by. Listen to the stories and songs it has to tell you. Watch the birds that play in it and the flowers that wave at it and the trees that fall into it. Just sit and listen."
    PAT STONE
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    "Finally, humans, I, Rock, speak to you. I ask you to wake up—Wake up, humans, wake up!—and pledge your allegiance to life. Even though others may look upon you as traitors, speak on our behalf in all human meetings and councils.Speak with strength and courage and power because you represent all of us who, in the normal course of events, have no voice. We ask you to give voice on our behalf." 
    PAT STONE

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The council of all beings had ended; the drumbeats echoing away like thunder, the energy and the tension leaving us. Now it was time to abandon this awe-inspiring, 9,000-foot-high meadow in Montana's jagged Crazy Mountains. Time to wend our way back down to the campground and, ultimately, our homes.

The intense weekend had culminated in a ceremony in which a group of people took on the roles of other species and shared those creatures' concerns for themselves, the planet and that troublesome fellow species—the human. But I didn't have time to reflect on that experience just yet. Not now, when I finally had the opportunity I'd been waiting for all weekend; the chance to corner the Council's dedicated and singular leader, Australian John Seed.

Seed is probably the world's leading activist for rainforest protection. "The town crier of the global village," the Christian Science Monitor called him. He has buried himself neck-deep in front of bulldozers to stop logging. He founded the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC), a global-action group doing everything from funding a lawyer for an endangered tribe in Sarawak to planting an "agricultural moat" around a jungle in Ecuador. Now (the summer of  '88) he was roaming America, sleeping on floors and in forests, trying to awaken people's spiritual connections to the earth with a unique ceremony he had helped create.

Seed's impressive rainforest conservation résumé had led me to expect an "ecovangelist"—a solemn Cassandra of planetary doom and gloom. Instead, I found a long-maned troubadour flailing a guitar and crooning environmental ballads. A 43-year-old sprite with impish eyes and a soft voice ever quick to laugh.



Indeed, when I mentioned that I'd like my photographs to reflect his playfulness, he eagerly agreed to go jump in the creek. So as we started down the streamside trail, I soon found myself turning off my tape recorder—and taking off my clothes. (Well, how could I get close enough to shoot my skinny-dipping subject if I wasn't ready for a plunge myself?)

Like two intoxicated elves, we skipped from pool to pool, ducked into mossy nooks and swapped turns behind the camera. Then we'd drip dry, dress (he'd throw on a wraparound sarong, sandals and "Earth First!" T-shirt) and take to the trail again. I could then dutifully ask questions and record answers—until the next bend revealed another oh-so-alluring pool.






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