Our Language of Relationship with Earth

 “It is the theory which decides what we can observe.” ~Albert Einstein

Language is powerful. Words form concepts which, in turn, determine how we view, and treat, both people and planet.

We are so accustomed to thinking of one another, and Mother Earth, according to their utility or purpose that we easily fail to grasp how sacred life is. For example, when we meet someone new we are likely to ask them what they do for a living, rather than to meet someone and value them for simply being themselves. What would life be like if we instead asked who they are, what interests them, animates them, inspires them?

Our language similarly turns Mother Earth into a thing. We call her “the” planet, and the cradle of our existence becomes “the” environment. Ergo, if “the planet” is a “thing” then there is seemingly no harm in using and abusing “it.” Contrast this with an Indigenous perspective, namely that Mother Earth is a living being with whom we are in relationship, and to whom we owe our very existence.

By shifting our language, our mind-set, from the “what” to the “who,” we end up understanding our planetary home very differently. Compare these two columns:


What is the earth?

Who is Earth?

A planet

Creation, Mother Earth, Gaia

Filled with resources to be exploited

Is creative, wise

Exists to serve our wants and needs

Is life-giving

Contains beauty and ugliness

Is beautiful and spiritual

Exists to serve our wants and needs

Is relational, mutual, powerful

Is a “thing”

Mother, nurturing, giving, generous

Is made of rock, water, air, soil

Is relational

Has no innate intelligence

Is intelligent & self-regulating

















How on Earth can we expect to do well travelling on this living, breathing Earthship in outer space if we do not have a respectful and revering relationship with her? Our perspective (language) determines the quality of our future on this gem of a planet. Our lives depend on it.


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