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discussion circles | what they discuss

reconnecting with earth (re)

The readings in Reconnecting with Earth explore how our personal values affect the way we view and treat the Earth. This is the 2009 edition of Exploring Deep Ecology, the first course launched by Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) in 1993.

Circle participants are inspired to explore their personal answers to deep questions we face, as we hear news about global warming and environmental devastation. Participants:

  • explore what it means to take personal responsibility for Earth;
  • clarify their own values through discussions about our relationship to Earth;
  • discover how personal beliefs and values affect the way we view and treat the Earth.

Through an exploration of diverse traditions and points of view, participants engage in deep conversations for 7 sessions:

1. Wild Nature: An experience of awe and wonder in nature can lead to a deeper sense of connection to the Earth.  How do these experiences shape our relationship to the Earth? Excerpts and Readings: “The Real World Around Us” by Rachel Carson ~ “The Tuolumne Camp” by John Muir ~ “The Judgement of the Birds” by Loren Eiseley  ~  “Seeing” by Annie Dillard  ~ “The Phosphorescent Soul” by Terry Tempest Williams  ~ “The Moral Equivalent of Wildness” by Kathleen Dean Moore.

2. Shifting Paradigms: Human beings are one of many species, everything is interconnected, and sustainability should replace economic growth as our long-term goal.  How do these underlying assumptions differ from current assumptions of our society? Excerpts and Readings: “Thinking Like a Mountain” by Aldo Leopold  ~  From The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra  ~ “The Eight Principles of Deep Ecology” by Naess and Sessions  ~  “Deep Ecology and Lifestyle” by Arne Naess  ~  “The Gaia Hypothesis” by Mother Earth editors  ~  From Seeing the Whole at the Center by F. Marina Schauffler.

3. Nature and Spirit: Religion and spirituality can play a significant role in shaping ecological values and ethics.  What insight and inspiration for taking responsibility for Earth do they offer? Excerpts and Readings: “The Greening of the World’s Religions” by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim  ~  “The Gospel of J. Matthew” by David Roberts ~  “First Do No Harm” by Stepanie Kaza  ~  “Sharing One Skin” by Jeanette Armstrong.

4. The Universe StoryScientific discoveries in physics, biology and cosmology are challenging our assumptions about how the world works.  How might these insights change our relationship to the Earth? Excerpts and Readings: “Cosmology: The Largest Context” by Michael Dowd ~  “Comprehensive Compassion: An Interview with Brian Swimme” by Susan Bridle ~  “The Universe Is Our University” by Thomas Berry ~ “Living the New Story: An Interview with Sister Miriam MacGillis” by Alan AtKisson.

5. Ecopsychology: Modern life tends to cut us off from our bond to the natural world.  Could restoration of that bond help to heal both individuals and the planet? Excerpts and Readings: “Ecopsychology” by John Seed  ~  “When the Earth Hurts, Who Responds?” by Sarah A. Conn ~ “Restoring Nature, Restoring Yourself” by Francesca Lyman ~  “Interview with Bill Plotkin” (unknown)  ~  “Imagination: Creating a New Reality” by Laura Sewall.

6. Bringing it Down to Earth: Modern, postindustrial society reflects an outdated worldview.  How can we build a society that reflects a new understanding of our place on Earth?  How can we as individuals, live a more Earth-centered lifestyle? Excerpts and Readings: “The Learning Curve” by David Orr  ~  “The Genius of Nature” by Jeanine Benyus  ~  “Developing Bonds to Place” by Starhawk   ~  “The Pleasures of Eating” by Wendell Berry  ~  “The Night of the Razor-Clam Tide” by Kathleen Dean Moore.

7. Wrap-Up. This last meeting may happen at a different place and time, and is often a potluck meal. Your group will start by evaluating the circle experience. Then, you'll decide what you wish to do next (together or separately). You will also learn of many ways to stay involved in our wider community of like-minded people. If your group is so inclined, the wrap-up is also a great time to plan a community project together.


see our monthly announcement or get in touch with your neighborhood's volunteer point of contact to find out about circles who are about to discuss this guide. Or, order a guide and start your own.

Cover "Reconnecting with Earth"

local opinions about this guide

re 2-sided description (PDF, 165 KB), with reading list

re flyer to advertise an intro meeting: Editable (in Word) or fill out by hand, in B/W (PDF 143 KB)

re evaluation form (PDF, 89 KB) - If you're sharing or re-using a guide

re circle schedule PDF, 38 KB | MS Word, 74 KB

discuss these issues online in one of our four yahoogroups

videos about issues related to those discussed in this guide

Introducer / mentor sampler RE 2009 (PDF, 672 KB)