If devastating wildfires all over the globe, deep freezes, melting polar ice caps, rising oceans, collapsed electrical grids, and record-breaking, pavement-cracking, power cable-melting heat are any indication, irrevocable climate change has arrived, aided and abetted by man’s broken relationship with nature itself. But what if psychedelics could renew that relationship, and open up new possibilities for understanding our place in the changing web of life?
Runaway climate change presents the biggest problem of them all: a pesky little thing called the impending death of humankind. Why isn’t How Can We Stop the Apocalypse? at the top of the headlines every day? Why isn’t this the first item of discussion on everyone’s agenda? Why aren’t we humans dropping everything we’re doing, rising up as a collective, and fighting for our lives?
Clearly, there are many who still don’t understand the gravity of this climate catastrophe. By the time enough people start taking action to make a real change, it could very well be too late. If we’re going to have a prayer of caging this beast, vast numbers of people need to rapidly wake up to this crisis and start acting like their own survival matters.
If only there were some kind of consciousness-changing agent that could heighten environmental awareness and help steer people toward a wiser, more sustainable way of life…
One of the classic entheogenic experiences is the realization that everything is alive and interconnected. When we enter a state of ego dissolution in a natural setting, we come to understand that we are inseparable from our environment. This can instill a deep sense of reverence for nature, and often a sense of obligation to protect it.
Dr Sam Gandy, PhD, from the Imperial College London, has suggested that: “We are currently in a sixth mass extinction event of life on this planet, due to human actions on the biosphere. This ecological crisis appears to stem from a disconnection of humans from the natural world.”
Recent studies have confirmed that psychedelics can reliably reveal our “oneness with the natural world.” It has been shown that this sense of connection lasts long beyond the psychedelic session, and that this can yield significant mental health benefits. People who have had psychedelic experiences have also been found to be more likely to embrace eco-friendly practices.
Practical Steps to Reconnecting with Nature
Gandy also offers some practical steps to begin this “ecodelic” or psychedelic reconciliation with the ecosystem. First he suggests: “guided nature walks to provide a means for people to learn more about what they can see and hear, and how things are interconnected. Getting out into nature is of profound importance to your mental wellbeing, particularly if you’re a nature deprived, high flying urbanite!”
Gandy also offers the Japanese example of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing as a concrete example of a “simple and non-threatening practice that combines mindfulness and nature connection (with these things having a reciprocal and synergistic relationship)… “Being in nature effortlessly puts one into a mindful state, a state of mind that is intrinsically good for us, and one of the dominant modes of consciousness familiar to our Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors,” Gandy says.
With the massive explosion of community-run MeetUps, Psychedelic Societies and Integration groups supporting the global psychedelic community already, it would just take a focus of intention to run forest walks with existing psychedelic communities in a supported and guided manner, under the influence of a psychedelic.
It’s really not that hard – no one is suggesting a ’60s style acid revolution against the establishment here – simply a safe set and setting for existing psychedelic communities to gather and commune in nature under the influence, to renew our connection to nature and to thus be inspired to fight for her.
Warriors for the Earth
Ayahuasca is especially conducive to expanded environmental awareness. It has directly inspired the formation of activist groups like Extinction Rebellion, and its use has led to the preservation of ancestral territories in the Amazon.
Use of entheogenic plants like ayahuasca, San Pedro, Salvia divinorum, psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, et.al., has been growing over the last few generations in the West, blossoming into what some commentators call a ‘Global Shamanic Revival’. As well as healing many physical and mental issues in people there has been a sea shift in Westerners’ spiritual connection to themselves and the planet through their ceremonial plant medicine use.
Yet it has “also created a culture clash and valid criticism of the colonial narrative repeating itself in the exploitation and use of indigenous medicines in a way that echoes back to previous resource booms,” Reset.me writer Rak Razam said recently.
The Future of Psychedelics must address the urgent need for sustainability of entheogenic medicines, and the supply-and-demand pressure of more people coming into this arena, putting stress on the ability of indigenous cultures that caretake these medicines. Climate change is also threatening the ability of the earth to continue to produce plant and earth medicines at the exact time we need them the most.
And yet… Gail Highbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion has said, “The causes of [our] crisis are political, economic, legal and cultural systemic issues but underneath that are issues of human trauma, powerlessness, scarcity and separation. The system resides within us and the psychedelic medicines are opportunities to help us shift our consciousness,” she told Breaking Convention, a UK psychedelics conference in 2019. “I don’t think we necessarily have time to wait for the science to tell us these medicines are useful. The indigenous cultures have already shown us the ways.”
As This Is Your Mind on Plants author Michael Pollan once observed in a GQ interview, the present ecological crisis was “born of our sense of distance from nature: our willingness to objectify nature and see it merely as a resource.”
He pointed out that “by making us feel really connected to nature,” psychedelic medicines can enable us to “sense the subjectivity of other species, which should lead to treating them with more respect and care, and feeling a deep implication that you’re part of nature, not just a spectator.”
So it’s not just that psychedelics have a future in connecting us with nature; it’s that without that connection, we may not have a future at all.
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com