[In this six-part feature, Jed Diamond examines his male experience through fatherhood, mental illness, and the Men’s Movement to explore what it means to be a more whole, mindful Man. | Part I: Fatherhood | Part II: My Female and Male Mentors | Part III: Why We Must Disengage from the Woman in Order to Learn to Love | Part IV: Gender Specific Medicine | Part V: The Ship of Civilization is Sinking]
I think we all have to face the coming changes and men have a unique role to play. For millions of years it was the men who left the camp to hunt and it was the men who first saw patterns of change that might necessitate the tribe moving or changing their practices. Sam Keen is a man with a complex understanding of the world, but with a simple vision of what needs to be done.
“The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:
- The new human vocation is to heal the Earth.
- We can only heal what we love.
- We can only love what we know.
- We can only know what we touch.”
John Jeavons is a true man of the earth. He puts his hands in the soil and gardens every day. Jeavons is the author of “How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine.” He also directs the Grow Biointensive Mini-Farming Program for the internationally renowned Ecology Action. “Aware of intensifying world challenges and the basic need of people to feed themselves,” says Jeavons, “we have been working for 40 years to develop an elegant, small-scale agricultural system that when practiced correctly, nurtures healthy soil fertility, produces high yields, conserves resources and can be used successfully by almost everyone.”
But Jeavons does more than dig in the earth, he actually grows soil. “Six inches of farmable soil is needed to grow food and other crops,” says Jeavons. “In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. This means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches.”
Jeavons travels throughout the world have convinced him that nearly all farming on the planet, be it organic or conventional, First World or Third, takes more than it gives. Most organic farming, for example, borrows soil nutrition, in the form of compost or manure that has been generated elsewhere. Jeavons’ standard for sustainable land stewardship proposes a very simple, obvious benchmark: It must generate at least as much topsoil as it uses. And as the world grows smaller and each scrap of arable land becomes less expendable, borrowing nutrition from some other piece of land is not solving the problem, he argues, but simply moving it around.
“Globally, our present farming practices are depleting soil 18 to 80 times faster than it is built in nature, Jeavons says. “6 to 24 pounds (depending on the world region) of farmable soil are lost per pound of food eaten due to wind and water erosion fostered by conventional farming practices. Some studies even indicate that as little as 36 to 52 years of farmable soil may remain on the planet.”
Have you ever tried to grow food in a desert? Jeavons believes that a lot of the stress and unrest in the world is related to food shortages. Given the rate at which the world’s farmable soils are being lost, a case could be made that the entire planet could become a desert in as little as 65 years, if we do not take proactive initiatives.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that by 2025 almost 5 billion people, about two thirds of the world’s population, are likely to be at significant risk due to insufficient water to grow the food they need to feed themselves. To add to the problem, while soils are becoming increasingly depleted, the world population is growing, water is becoming less available, and other resources are increasingly in short supply. Peak Farmable Soil, Peak Water, Peak Food, and Peak Everything demand that we find new solutions if we want to survive.
But practical solutions are available. A University of California-Berkeley Soil Science Department Master’s thesis has shown that Jeavons’ approach may enable people to build up to one inch of farmable soil in 8.5 years instead of 500—up to 60 times more rapidly than in Nature. His practices also have the potential to grow a pound of food with as little as one-third the water required by normal farming practices. “The choice is ours,” says Jeavons. “We can have a future of increasing resource depletion, scarcity and desertification, or we can transform the current global challenge into a situation of abundance—of enough for everyone.”
Father Earth and the Old Woman, Michael Meade and Clarissa Pinkola Estes
A number of years ago my wife and I attended a wonderful workshop with Michael Meade and Clarissa Pinkola Estes (author of “Women Who Run with the Wolves”) titled Ovarios Y Cojones: Labyrinths of Memory and Danger Within Women and Men. It was a wonderful integration of male and female energies in the world. The highlight of the event for me came near the end with an unexpected poem by Clarissa. I’ve shared the poem with thousands of men and women. Many are moved to tears. A number of men have told me, “Finally, there’s a woman who truly understands.”
This poem is called “Father Earth” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
There’s a 2 million year old man
No one knows.
They cut into his rivers.
They pealed wide pieces of hide from his legs.
They left scorch marks on his buttocks.
He did not cry out.
No matter what they did to him, he did not cry out.
He held firm.
Now he raises his stabbed hands and whispers
that we can heal him yet.
We begin the bandages, the rolls of gauze, the gut,
the sutures, the grafts.
Slowly, carefully, we turn his body face up,
And under him, his lifelong lover, the old woman,
is perfect and unmarked.
He has lain upon his two-million-year-old lover all this time,
protecting her with his old back, with his old scarred back.
And the soil beneath her is fertile and black with her tears.
My Ten Hard-Earned Lessons
1. All movements have something to offer.
This is a time to try many different approaches, with the bottom line question: Does this help to heal ourselves, our relationships, and the planet we all share?
2. Our passion and creativity are often rooted in early trauma and loss.
At the time I felt that my father’s suicide attempt and the subsequent disruption of our family was the worst thing I could image. Dealing with the wounds and healing them have contributed greatly to my passion for healing and compassion for the wounded of the world.
3. Caring about the needs of our children and grandchildren can keep us on track.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed and lose hope, I focus my attention on the children, my own and others. I’m reminded of what we have to lose and the joy of doing what I can do to insure that that they have a future worth living.
4. Give thanks to our mentors and elders, both male and female, and let their work inspire our own.
There have been so many inspiring people who have come before us. Their lives and their work can give us hope when the future looks dark.
5. Join a men’s (women’s) group.
I have found there is real power, nurturing, love, and support that can only be found in a same-sex group. As Robert Bly reminds us, “We need to hear the sound that male (and female) cells sing.”
6. Learn to disengage from the force field of the Woman.
In order to have a healthy relationship with women or a particular woman, we have to disengage from the archetypal Woman in order to tap our authentic power and love.
7. Recognize that rites of passage are essential for men.
I didn’t have a rite of passage growing up, but was fortunate to have had one as a young adult, another as an elder, and I’ve helped my children and grandchildren experience rites of passage at the important stages of their lives.
8. A gender-specific approach to health can affirm our essence and bring men and women together.
For too long gender-differences were used to keep women down. It’s not surprising that many see “gender-differences” as a code for “You’re not O.K. and I’m in charge.” But they can also help us heal and bring us closer together.
9. Civilization as we know it is coming to an end. Something better is emerging.
We’ve been told that “civilization” is best the world has to offer. Though it has given us a lot of positive things, it has also brought a lot of misery and violence and at its core it is unsustainable. As Jared Diamond said, “Civilization is the worst mistake in the history of the human race.” Something better is emerging. Some call it “Earth Community.”
10. Healing the earth is our new calling.
We live in a very complex world. But a simple focus on healing our disconnection from the earth can become the basis for solving all the major problems we face. Father Earth is calling to us. Will we answer the call?
Jed Diamond, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is Founder and Director of MenAlive, a health program that helps men, and the people who love them, to live well throughout their lives. He is a pioneer in the field of male-gender medicine, integrative mental health, and complementary medicine. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network. He is also a member of the International Society of Men’s Health and a founding member of the American Society of Men’s Health.
His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the United States including the New York Times, Boston Globe,Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He also did a nationally televised special on Male Menopause for PBS.
Diamond has been a licensed psychotherapist for over 40 years and is the author of ten books including the international best-selling Male Menopause that has thus far been translated into 17 foreign languages.