Episode #48  Codes for a Healthy Earth: New rules for a flourishing world with Shelley Ostroff

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Great Thunberg says that “We cannot save the planet by playing by the rules, so the rules have to be changed”.

This is self-evidently true, but that leaves us with the question of what rules could we create that we could all live by. Polly Higgins has the Earth Protector law, but Shelley Ostroff has gone one step further with her Codes for a Healthy Earth and the World Water law.

Together, these rules spell out our connection with the More than Human world, and leave us with agency, initiative, and a sense of genuine flourishing.

Shelley Ostroff (PhD) is a planetary activist, leadership consultant, social architect, mystic and writer. She is the founder of www.togetherincreation.org, www.7days-of-rest.org, www.codes.earth and other initiatives dedicated to the healing and replenishment of the planet and all its inhabitants. Concerned by the suffering and devastation humans cause each other, other species and the planet, she dedicated herself to exploring whole-system systems dynamics and integrative healing wisdom from diverse disciplines and traditions.

She has worked with people from all walks of life, from different sectors of society and across continents as a therapist, consultant, mentor, and creative partner in cultivating individual, collective and whole-system wellness. Through ongoing research and practice, she has developed a unique holistic approach to human and whole-system healing and transformation that includes evolving blueprints for a new form of holistic health-oriented global Eco-Governance.

In Conversation

Manda: Hey, welcome to Accidental Gods to the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible, and that together we can make it happen. My guest this week is active right at the heart of that intersection of the human and the more than human worlds. Shelly Ostrov is an activist, a leadership consultant, a social architect and a writer. But that list of occupations does not begin to cover the sheer breadth and depth of all that she does. Shelly is, amongst many other things, a founder of something called Seven Days of Rest, which is a global movement that gives people a week at the start of each year to focus on setting an intent for that year collectively, together, collective intent being so much more powerful than individual intent. And the intent for 2021 is rest and radical healing, which I think all of us are going to need.

Shelly is also founder of Code for a Healthy Earth, which offers a foundational whole system framework to support the entirety of the people of the world in working together across national, cultural and ideological boundaries for a radical systemic transformation of social and ecological regeneration. Think about that. It’s huge. And her latest initiative, which is  an integral part of the cause for healthy Earth, is a proposal for a world water law, which would be absolutely transformational. She talks about that towards the end of the podcast. This is the kind of conversation that could have lasted hours; we could record an entire series just on the breadth and the depth of the things that Shelly is doing, how she got there, what it means, what the implications are for each of us. We limited this to an hour, partly because we had a glitch at the end, and we had to go back and rerecord some of it. So, I apologise for the less than perfect recording. That is absolutely my responsibility. But Shelly is so inspiring, and the content was so good, so deep, so useful, that I wanted to keep all of it. We may well, in fact I hope we will, go back for another podcast at some point. But in the meantime, people of the podcast, please welcome Shelly Ostroff.

So, Shelly Ostroff, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast from sunny Israel. I’m guessing it is sunny in Israel, because when it always seems to be whenever I talk to my friends; it’s always raining and cold here, and they’re always in T shirts. Are you in a T shirt?

Shelley: Well, actually, it rained last night, and it was a beautiful rain: the second rain for the Earth for this season. So, we’re aligned today in weather.

Manda: But it’s been raining here for about a month. We practise draining our water away, and I guess you practise collecting it. We will talk about water later on.

Shelly: Unfortunately, we also practise wasting it. And like everywhere else in the world also, contaminating it, owning it, and doing all sorts of other abuses to it, which is part of what we’ll speak about.

Manda: Yes, we definitely will. We could go straight to that, but I think let’s learn a little bit about Shelly Ostroff: who you are, and how you came to be involved in so many transformative things. Can you give us a brief history of you, and bring us up to the present day?

Shelly: Gosh, thank you for the question. I’ll try and do this briefly. Yeah, I think what led me to where we are today, where I am today, is an ongoing preoccupation and concern with what humans are doing to each other and to the planet. This ongoing curiosity and pain at the suffering in the world, and the deep research into why we are doing what we are doing, and what we can do about it. So my adult life has been very much around healing, on the very individual level – my first profession was as an art therapist – and then I studied more about group therapy. I worked at a psychiatric residential treatment centre and ran a place there for helping the youth move out and rehabilitate in the environment.

And during that time, I learnt a lot about management, about large groups, about large organisations, psychology of organisations and communities studying the unconscious, and consciousness of human systems, which to me was a fascinating discovery of how the narratives, the mythologies, the stories we tell each other impact each other, and how we’re far less autonomous than we believe that we are, because we’re constantly projecting onto the field, and being influenced by the field. So this deep interest in human psychology and into the way that humans relate to each other and to the environment continued to preoccupy me into research in the shamanic realms, and also prompted me at some point in my life to do a doctorate in, I called it body, soul and role, a holistic approach to well-being in organisations. So I was really looking to understand: what are the individual and systemic dynamics that impact health and well-being, and what are the holistic ways of supporting a transformation, a healing transformation at all levels, whether we’re working with groups in conflict or communities.

And then in 2012, I was working at the time as a very holistic, both therapist and leadership consultant, travelling the world to teach and to learn about the holistic approach to working with health. I had a very powerful vision where I was called to visit the white lions in South Africa, and that vision was so powerful that I had to act on it. And I went to South Africa to visit Linda Tucker and her work with the white lions, and rewilding the white lions in their natural habitat – which is an incredible piece of work that she’s done – and met these extraordinary beings.

And from that, I was taken into a deep enquiry and research, and receiving visions and understandings of how nature organises itself in a very different way from how humans do, which led me to really focus on what we are doing to the planet. So, from a very human-centred perspective, I became much more aware of the limitations of this human-centred perspective, and expanded my sensing into ‘how does nature work?’ and what can we learn from nature as to how we can organise ourselves as a species? So in years of research, I became incredibly distressed by what I was learning, about what was really going on, because while I had a sense of it beforehand, I started to learn about the facts on the ground, recognising just how much we are… the cruelty to animals, the devastation of of the water, the climate, the forces behind it, the politics behind it. The economy behind things hadn’t interested me very much beforehand, and I took a deep dive into this and beyond, becoming very distressed and furious as to how can this possibly happen. I also became driven to see how to apply this holistic healing wisdom on the planetary level.

And during that time, I was also receiving a lot of visions as to initiatives that I was to lead. And one of them was an event called Seven Days of Rest, which was an event that we are now doing every year at the beginning of the year, to create a field of intention and consciousness and resonance for the healing of the planet and humanity, for the first seven days of every year. And it’s a global open event, which invites people to participate, to offer events, to participate in what they want to. The main thing is to take those seven days of recalibrating and creating a field of consciousness that inspires the rest of the year. And that’s where I also met my partner, Yan Golding. I’d seen his work through the research I was doing. He was also a very whole system thinker. I invited him into the project of Seven Days of Rest, and together we made it happen. There were in the first year already people from more than 60 countries participating, and it became clear it had to become an annual event for seven years.

And then as Yan began to look at the architecture of the governance system that I was beginning to write about, and from his background in researching Solutionaries from around the world, he recognised that it was holding a whole system approach that he hadn’t seen, that he could recognise as very important. And we joined forces, and together we created codes for a healthy Earth, and are now working on world water law, and on the creation of the architecture for a new way of organising ourselves as a species, which I call eco-governance, and the technology for working in a different way.

Manda: That is so good. And there’s so much I really want to talk about here if we go back a little bit. So, you said that we are constantly projecting onto the field, and being influenced by the field, and that we’re far less autonomous than we think. So could you just let us know a little bit about what the field is, and perhaps a bit of how it influences us in terms of us understanding our own agency at any point?

Shelly: So, when I refer to the field, I’m referring to a field of consciousness of which we are all part. The idea that we are interconnected is becoming very recognised in the field where we talk more about our interconnection on a physical level. But for a long time, those that have been studying group psychology have understood that it’s also a collective field of consciousness of which we are part. And that collective field of consciousness, you know, it has its levels at the individual, at the family level, the group level, the organisation level, the national level, the cultural level and also the planetary level as a human species. We are all being impacted, and impact, this collective field of information of which we are part, and as such as we grow up in our families and in our cultures, we tend to take on specific roles that have been in many ways influenced by the cultural norms and the cultural stories. And we have also learnt stories about other cultures, about other genders, about other fields of influence. And we pick up a lot of these in our collective in the way that we understand who we are in the world, and how we engage in the world. These stories impact us. We can’t be autonomous from them because almost we imbibe them on an unconscious level, and often take these stories to be a reality in that sense.

Shelly: And that’s just one sense where we are less autonomous than we think we are, because we are inevitably influenced by the information that comes our way. And with growing awareness, we can have more choices. But nevertheless, our field of consciousness is only as broad as our awareness to that which is impacting it. So that’s one aspect of how we are less autonomous, and these roles that we take up are often unconscious. And there’s an enormous amount of work, both as individuals and as societies, that we can do to say how are we activated in different situations to take up a specific role. So if I’m the youngest person in a specific group, or the oldest person, or a person of colour or a white person, so-called white, whatever I represent in the field will naturally trigger associations in the group that I’m in, and those projections onto me will influence the way in which I engage with a group. If there’s an unconscious anticipation as the oldest person in the group, as the youngest person in the group, as the female in the group, as the male in the group, as the person of a particular nationality, we anticipate that they’re supposed to hold a specific role, and we project our collective stereotypes onto them. And that activates the person to actually take that role. And this happens on an individual level as well as on a collective level. So, for instance, the so-called right and the so-called left take on specific roles that go way beyond their individual choice. They’re almost a collection, an expression of our stereotypes of a culturalisation, and so much more than that.

Manda: So how do we step out of that, if now that we see it – if we see it – and we wish not to have to take on the roles that are projected onto us, or to project onto other people different roles, what can we do in and of ourselves to break that cycle?

Shelly: I think the first thing that I’ve found most useful is to become aware of that cycle, to learn the language of the psychology of the collective, and to be able to discern some of the mechanisms that we use in that. For instance, projection is stereotypes, generalisations. These are all mechanisms that when they’re identified, they have less hold on one. And then another way that we can also work with it is through self-awareness, through self-exploration to constantly ask ourselves, you know, how is the response that I gave? Does it feel to me to be a real reflection of my deepest being? Or is it something that I feel almost came out too quickly as a response? And what is the impact of that response? And could I have had alternatives in how I respond to certain situations. So that process of ongoing reflection, and becoming aware of how we tend to engage, and the consequences of that engagement, and to also explore other possibilities of seeing situations in new ways, is an essential part of that awareness.

Manda: You said that with the ongoing reflection of how we engage and the consequences of that, we begin to see situations in new ways. And that takes me back to something you said earlier about your work when you went to connect with the white lions. And I would like to know a little bit more about those, but you said that the enquiry that arose from your connection to them led to an expansion of your sense, of your senses, of how does nature work? And I’m really, really interested at this moment, partly because that’s what we’re doing within Accidental Gods: opening the gates of our perception. Changing the nature of what sensing is, so that we can connect more with the web of life, with the more-than-human world. So I’m really excited that your connection with the white lions gave you that expanded sense. And I wondered if you could unpack that a bit, what do expanded senses feel like? And then what did you learn as a result of having expanded your senses?

Shelly: You know, as I was saying before that, I had worked very much with people. And so I had developed quite a deep sensitivity to people’s dynamics, and to listening to people through the almost embodied listening, a resonance field that is created between one person and another, listening not only to the words, but to the behaviour, to how what they were saying was expressed, and how it made me vibrationally. So there’s a deep vibrational wisdom that I had already developed. But I had not lived in nature, and I had not been connected very much to nature, before this. There was a longing, but there wasn’t much experience in nature. And then suddenly, out of the blue, to receive this powerful vision from the white lions… I’d read the book by Linda Tucker many years beforehand. And it was in this vision that I had a sense that I was being called there – and it was a very strong sense – by Mandla, the white lion, that was the the king there at the time; he’s now transitioned. And that possibility that I could be receiving a message from another species was something that I’d read about and knew about. But I had never experienced it before. I’d read about and knew about people who were animal communicators, or who had spoken to plants, and learnt about plants through communication. I had never developed these sensibilities before. But after I had been to the white lions and spent a few days there, the environment was so pristine and powerful that there was a sense when I got there, that this is a compass for me, and that I have to learn something about it, and it’s opened up a portal to to listening and to engaging more with the essences of life.

And interestingly enough, you know, I had invited nature to speak to me, but what happened was in deep meditation, I would sense that different consciousnesses were revealing themselves to me. It wasn’t even so much in direct contact with nature; it was in the heartful meditative connection to nature, that nature began to speak to me about how it functions. This may seem very abstract, but I think to begin with a reflection question is always useful. So, for instance, if you say, “Show me yourself, how do you organise? How does nature manage its resources in such a vitalising way? And what can we learn from that?” And from just being curious about that question and from listening to patterns, I could see, you know, I would find myself travelling in my imagination into the body, into ecosystems, into the planetary ecosystems, and well, you know: in nature, every part of the whole has exactly what it needs in order to thrive, and yet there is no hierarchical system. There’s no one leader. It’s an incredibly complex web of life. Even our physical human body is so complex, and yet each function knows exactly what to do. So how do we translate that into something that we can learn from? And what I came up with was that nature works with one foundational code that does so much.

And when we get that code right, when we understand that nature doesn’t work by imposing leadership or rules or regulations, but instead by a life code, it opens up many, many possibilities for thinking about how we can reprogramme ourself as humanity. Because basically we are being programmed: we’re being programmed by our cultures. We’re being programmed by our leaders, whether they’re ideological, political or economic, whichever it is. So how do we really encode ourselves with the codes of life? And that’s when I received this vision of the vitality code, which is what I refer to as nature’s code that ensures that each part of the whole receives precisely what it needs in order to manifest its unique function in service of the whole, to manifest its unique potential in service of the whole. And that organising principle, that code, feels to me so profound as an organising code for governance, for education, for media, for everything we do.

Manda: Yes. So is this the basis of the Earth code, that one vitality?

Shelly: I would say that it was the first code that really came to me as a code. And yes, it’s the foundation for how to rethink everything about what we do, because if we’re going to be healthy, if we’re going to heal ourselves, we have to put that code in place. We have to start looking at how energy moves through the system, how humans are impacting the way energy moves through the systems, and how we can do that in a way that realigns with the the vitalising codes of nature. So that one simple principle… you know, as human beings we tend to complicate things quite a bit, and abstract them, and suddenly there was this simple organising principle that can be related to on so many different levels, and in every sphere of life. ‘How does each part of the whole receive precisely what it needs to manifest its unique potential in service of the whole?’ And in that one sentence, I found everything. So it was the basis of the Earth codes. But what you call the Earth codes, it’s codes for a healthy Earth, which is a framework that Yan and I initiated. And I can say more about that if…

Manda: Yes, definitely.  So now would be a good time. Can we dive deep into the codes for a healthy Earth, what they are, how they arose, how they changed the understanding of systems thinking? Because it sounds as if you have done that also, and that you’ve done it by bringing in the learning that you got from your deep meditative connections, which is so inspiring, I have to say. So, yes: let’s have a look at the codes for a healthy Earth. Thank you.

Shelly: So codes for a healthy Earth. One of the questions that Yan and I were preoccupied with was the fact that there’s so much confusion in the system, there’s so much disinformation in the system. There’s so much limitation in how we are viewing the world, because we’re conditioned to think in very fragmented and siloed ways – about ourselves, our place in the world, about issues. And we were recognising that there are so many people in the world that are working on extraordinary solutions, but that we weren’t all seeing the same thing, and that there isn’t a clear map, a clear strategy, a clear understanding that we are all – a clear compass. So we are all working as best as we can to fix what we can, to serve what we can.

The question that came to me was, what do the citizens around the world need to know in order to take up our roles as healthy citizens for a healthy planet, and to transform the way we organise ourselves? And we saw this as an initial offering to the global movement of change makers, as if we could just put together in a coherent way a collective compass with a shared vision, shared organising principles, shared values, citizen-led self-organisation. It would be a good start to begin to unite all of these diverse groups around the world. And through the research that I’d done and through the insights that I’d received, I realised that our current language, our current political, economic, ideological language often is the language that goes against life. It is a language that is disconnected from life. It puts at the forefront of our attention all sorts of human concepts of hierarchy and privilege and separateness. And that causes us in turn to live in a place of imbalanced relationships and an obsession with ‘power over’, rather than really understanding the deep, interconnected nature of our physical, emotional, spiritual consciousness reality. So the codes for a healthy Earth main framework is to put health system health at the centre of governance, such as: start with thinking, rethinking how we organise the system. Our sense was that we need to question everything. We have to go to the source of the stories that we are telling ourselves and ask, for instance, the question: what is the purpose of governance? Because from the purpose, everything else is derived. And today, I don’t think we really ask ourselves what the purpose of governance is. And if we give ourselves answers, it’s somehow to create order in society, to represent the humans in the system, to manage the country, to manage resources.

But these concepts are very disconnected from life. And so one of the first things I had done a few years ago when I was becoming so despondent about the world, I wrote an article called Deconstructing Democracy, where I understood that where we are today is a direct outcome of the way in which we govern ourselves. Whether it’s democracy or all the other forms of governance on the planet, they are all human-centred, and they all have very, very strong dangers in them, and lead to this culture of exploitation. So, part of the first piece of transforming how we relate to governance is to ask the question, and the answer that the code gives to ‘What is the purpose of governance?’ The only legitimate purpose of governance is to protect and cultivate the health and vitality of the planet and all its inhabitants, for generations to come. And it seems so obvious, but it’s so far from the way that we are living our life, and if we can just contemplate that purpose of governance for a moment, we recognise that if we can agree on that purpose, we’ve already taking a big step in moving towards reorienting our priorities, and how we how we think about governance. From the purpose, you know, it means that every decision puts the health of the whole for future generations at the centre, that key discerning principle for all our decisions. It means that when we’re thinking about decision-making, and who’s in the room to make those decisions, it can’t just be humans. And certainly it can’t just be certain humans. We have to represent all stakeholders of whom our decisions have an influence in the decision-making process.

So we need those who speak for the trees, who speak for the water, who speak for the animals, who speak for the climate, who speak for birds, who speak for all different aspects of our web of life and of the specific ecosystems of which we are part, because until we actually recognise these as consciousnesses, as stakeholders that are impacted, we will be living in a way that exploits these aspects; that doesn’t understand them. And that really puts our own immediate human needs, our fabricated needs, at the centre of our attention.

Manda: So can I interrupt and ask a question there? Because this sounds so clear and so obvious, and once you’ve articulated it, there is no going back really. But in the construction of governance systems that give voice to all of the web of life, we’re going to have to train people. To not be contaminated by the field: our earlier conversation of ‘we don’t have as much agency as we think we have because we are impacted by our projections, the projections onto us, and the projections we make.’ So if we are going to achieve this – I’m guessing you got there way ahead of me – how do we raise the people, or train the people, or give the people the space to be able to give clean, clear voice to all of the aspects of the web of life that need to have a voice in the governance system?

Shelly: So the process for moving towards eco-governance, towards the more natural, I would say, and vitalising form of governance is a whole system transformation process, and it has to come from everywhere simultaneously. So education, media, all of this needs to be very, very front and centre in the governance, because basically when you say that ‘the only purpose of governance is to protect and cultivate the health and vitality of the planet and all its inhabitants for generations to come’, this means that every aspect of governance, education, media, agriculture, all of these also have to be derived from, and serve, that same purpose. So the idea is that, yes, we need to find frameworks for governing that way, but it does involve a holistic whole system intervention that allows humanity and all the resources that we have who are already working in this way to take front and centre: the indigenous people, the regenerative ecosystem healers, the trauma healers, all of these people need to be in the centre stage discerning what are the best practices together.

So, the concept of eco-governance, it’s not that we replace our similar structures of governance today with other people in that same kind of structure. It’s a very, very different concept of how to create distributive government through councils, stewardship and expertise councils, and issue-based councils around all those issues that are challenging for us today, and find ways to discern best practises and information, rather than being subject to any one leader’s authority because he has a formal role, never mind what his capacity is for being able to understand the complexities. So it’s really about using the resources, the inspiration, the wisdom, the knowledge in the system to be able to do it, and all the change makers that are in the system. This is not a centralised process. You know, eco-governance does not have one leader. The beauty about the codes is that the codes lead in nature. There isn’t a leader: the codes lead. Now we have kind of contaminated our code. We’ve interrupted the unnatural codes with all sorts of layers of disconnection and concepts that disconnect us from our basic instinct, intuition, a capacity for engaging in in a whole system sense-making ways, even though as children we probably knew a lot more about how to engage with all that was around us. And over the years, we’ve created these disconnects to the point where many of us are walking around, you know, with tablets in front of our eyes the whole time, and so disconnected. So all of these things have to be dealt with simultaneously.

And, you know, I don’t have all the answers, but I do trust the answers are in the field. And where I feel like we are contributing at the moment to most is being able to sense into the meta principles that can bring all of these different forces for regeneration together in a good way and amplify their voice, their efficiency and their capacity, by seeing where it all fits into the collective puzzle. So it’s almost like in order to heal the system, we have to see the system, and in order to see the system, we need to give voice to the different parts of the system. And so there is a concept of an online community platform where we can gather all of these different voices, and create discerning councils. And these councils don’t necessarily have any authority or any status. They’re service, they’re in service of saying ‘How do we discern the best information for the whole?’ And then, you know, the way that the shift towards eco-governance is going to happen is a mystery to me. But as as we dive deeper into the rabbit hole, and we see what’s going on in the world today, and we see that we’re on the verge of a choice point at a bifurcation moment where we can either surrender to the those forces that are really working to try and control the resources of the planet for the benefit of a few. Or, we can unite those that are ready for it around a shared vision for a thriving world, for all of life. And in doing so, the codes provide a wonderful foundation for holding in mind. And for offering certain pieces that we can collectively focus on, so that’s part of it.

And then, you know, the vision for the World Water Law came. And when the vision for the World Water Law came, I began to see how these ideas that are emerging in the collective consciousness at the moment, like a World Water Law, are showing the way forward in the most extraordinarily creative, holistic, healing ways. Because they can actually, through one idea, create a groundswell, a global movement; because the idea, the time of the idea has arrived at such an obvious idea. You know, sometimes I just feel like something has been unveiled, and I’m stating the obvious.

Manda: Can you tell us what the World Water Law is?

Shelly: Yes, absolutely. And so when you are able to name an an obvious idea that somehow has been hidden from us for so long, it catalyses a lot of energy around it. So the same way that I said to you around ‘What is the purpose of governance?’ You know, it’s a simple idea. And yet it makes so much sense. It’s been around forever. It’s not original. It’s the indigenous wisdom. And I think it was the Iroquois who are famous for talking about it. We have to govern for the next seven generations.

Shelly: So, the World Water Law. This year, when Covid broke out, I became very aware that something was shifting in the global field that I keep talking about; that there was a new awareness about our fundamental interconnectedness with each other, and with all of life. There was a new way of putting health at the centre of our consciousness. And there was also a strong awareness that this pandemic was catalysing radical changes in many things that we’d taken for granted, and not always in a good direction, because the mechanisms of control were in many ways using the pandemic as a way of tightening the grip on security, on information, on many other things. And at the same time, there was this opening, because people were talking about a reboot of the system. Many people have lost their jobs, the economy is changing. Many of the professions we thought were self-obvious are not so self-obvious anymore. So this unique opportunity for this incredible crisis was also, in some ways an opportunity to bring forth a whole system healing idea, which has really inspired me so much to act in the world.

And so, what I saw was the vision of a World Water Law. And what came to me was that in this state of immense fragmentation and conflict and exploitation and confusion in the world, there’s one thing that can unify us. There’s one thing that we can all agree on, and that is that we all need water. You know, we all have that same shared need.

And, you know, fundamentally, we all are water. You know, people say that we are 50 to 70 percent water on a molecular level. Apparently, we’re more than that. So here we are, focussing on differences in race, and gender, and nationality, and colour as things that separate us. And we’re 50 to 75, if not 99 percent water. So water is the source, the sustenance, the medicine for all of life. And we were becoming more and more aware of the importance of water in this healing process of Covid. You know, it’s about you have to be very… you have to drink a lot. You have to wash yourself, wash a lot. And we also understand just how water travels from one place to another. The moisture in our bodies travels, moisture in the sky, travels, the water does not have boundaries.

Manda: Yes. So we’re heading towards the end of our time. We will definitely take up this conversation again and go more deeply, because there are so many areas that are so relevant to all that you’re doing and all that we’re trying to do with Accidental Gods. But I’d like towards the end to go through what the World Water Laws, the component parts are, so that we can pick up from that when we meet again. So can you tell us the four parts?

Shelly: Sure. So the actual proposal for the World Water Law has four main principles. The first principle is to immediately ensure the restoration of all our planetary waters, watersheds, water sources, all of the planetary water bodies. The second principle is to ensure the restoration of the planetary water cycle. So it’s not enough just to restore the watersheds. We also have to restore the entire climate, and to restore the climate, we have to restore the ecosystems that are an essential part of regulating the climate, and the planetary water cycle, in a way that is life-enhancing. The third piece is to ensure that all humans and animals have guaranteed access to natural, uncontaminated water. So when I say all humans and animals have access, what I’m saying is that it’s not enough to focus on humans having water, because the fact is that there are many investments now in extractive technologies that are almost accepting the fact that humans pollute the water, and are contaminating and owning and interrupting the water cycle, for all we need to do is create technologies for humanity to have access to water.

But this denies the reality that it’s not only humans that need water, it’s animals, it’s trees, it’s plants, it’s the entire ecosystem. And beyond the issue of real compassion that all humans and animals need guaranteed access, is the law of nature. Water provides for all. This is the original law of water. And so when humans interfered with the flow of water that provides enough for all, and began to own water, and tamper with it, and contaminate it, we have actually violated the source of life – that source intelligence.

And I’m not sure if people are really aware of the extent to which all our planetary waters are threatened at this moment through contamination, dams, etc. So this understanding is that we all actually have to look after our own water sources on behalf of the whole. Water does not have any boundaries. The water from one place moves very quickly to another place. So when we contaminate water in one place, it can contaminate an entire ecosystem. The waters from Fukushima are spreading rapidly throughout the planet, so the focus of nations and corporations and communities to own water sources is a contradiction with the laws of nature itself. So when we talk about guaranteed access of all humans and animals to water beyond the compassion aspect of it, there is this understanding that the entire web of life is part of the water cycle, and so for the water cycle to be intact and for us to have access to this fundamental need, that we use in so many different ways every day and take for granted, the entire planetary system has to be healthy and intact. And it starts with the quality of our water. So just putting this in as an additional piece: when you contaminate water, when you undermine the capacity of humanity and animals and ecosystems to have access to water, you set in place a domino effect, which then undermines all other aspects of life, from agriculture to education to health to the economy. It undermines every aspect of life.

And similarly, when we come together to heal our planetary waters, the cascading effect of this one intervention on all aspects of life is infinite, because when you begin with water, when we come together around the source of water, when we collectively invest our energies and focus on water, all of life benefits. And ultimately, we are activating this whole system healing intervention through tapping at source and working with a source, with where we have tampered with and interfered with our health, and with where it can be healed. So restoring right relationship with water will then help us to learn about interconnectedness. It will help us to learn about life. So the education piece that is implicit in the World Water Law, because in order to do this, we have to learn about water. And in learning about water, we actually learn about about the entire lifecycle. And interestingly enough, it also relates to another question that you brought up earlier around consciousness, because water has a very powerful consciousness, and many are already studying it. When we engage with the consciousness of water, and we look at how water informs and nourishes and cleanses all of life, we can learn so much about life itself and about ourselves as water beings. And the fourth principle of the World Water Law is that everybody is held accountable for their impact on water everywhere.

So much of the threat to water exists because there is no accountability in the system. And there is this strange concept that people who have power and money are allowed to do what they want with the water sources of the planet – with a source of life. And this is enabled through all sorts of laws and regulations that are put into a system which is disconnected from life, and it’s enabled by the lack of accountability and the lack of transparency around it. So when we all understand that, rather than asking for rights to water alone, we actually work with our responsibility to water: that every watershed needs stewards who are responsible for the quality of that water on behalf of the whole, because the quality of these watersheds and water bodies impact the whole. So rather than water being considered to be owned by locals or owned by corporations, those who are stewarding those water sources. It’s not about rights to the water only, it’s about the responsibility to maintaining the integrity of the water and that water body on behalf of the health of the whole. So those are the four principles. And together, it’s a very holistic intervention, helping us focus on the diverse areas that need to be focussed on for the healing that we so desperately need at this time. 

Manda: Yes. Because I’m understanding much more, as you’re speaking of it, that this will be foundational to a whole new way of being. It is impossible to continue the current system and hold to these laws. So, my understanding is that 2021, your intent is that that’s the year of the World Water Law. Have you got people around the world who are going to try and create this within the legislatures that exist, or are we creating separate systems that will then create a movement towards this?

Shelly: So, yes, there are people around the world who are already involved. The idea for the World Water year came, again to say: how do we best offer this concept to the system? And yes, you’re absolutely right when you say it changes everything, because this one water law as a primary law, the source law, means that every other law has to be in alignment with us. So, it encodes for a healthy Earth in this whole system framework. One of the principles is that we need to delegitimize any law that goes against Life, or enables us to go against that, and legitimise only those laws that are in service of Life. And this is an example, a primary example of such a law that is in service of Life. So how do we get the World Water Law activated? How do we enact it? And that really is a very good question, especially within a context where our political and legal systems are almost built to defend against this kind of radical common-sense law that helps us realise just how disconnected from nature, and from health, we are. You know, it’s a bureaucratic, technocratic, agenda-based, profit-based, power-based system that is invested in controlling resources, rather than enabling them to be maintained, and their availability for all.

So there are no existing channels to put the World Water Law through. If you go to an individual government or to the United Nations, none of them are able to put this through in a smooth and uncompromising way. So we have to be creative about it, because that doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean that we can’t implement the World Water Law. Humanity’s incredibly creative, and we’ve managed to do many things. It’s about bringing our collective creative resources together, to figure out how to make this commonsense law a global reality. And our belief is that when enough human beings from diverse cultures, from all over the world, come together to put our heads to this, we can do it.

There’s an enormous citizen led process going on at the moment with citizens across the world are rising to say “No” to what is, and are now taking also the initiative as to saying what are the alternatives, because as I said at the beginning, the World Water Law is something that can unite all of humanity around one particular area of focus: the idea that citizens from all different sectors and walks of life and cultures all over the world rise simultaneously, with their diverse expertise, to ask the question: how do we make this happen? What is going to make it happen? In other words, it isn’t a pre-existing answer for us. It’s an infrastructure that invites the creativity of all. We don’t see ourselves as leading the system. So amazing people are already doing this incredible leadership around water across world and so many, you know, so many amazing initiatives. What we are leading or offering here is the support, and the support means initiating some processes that can support this collective process, this collective journey.

So World Water Year is an idea that we are launching, which is to say let’s take the year to create momentum around building citizen-led global focus around this question: how do we implement the law globally? And that this process of building momentum over a year, where all are invited in to bring their particular offerings, and where people can begin to see the whole, and find creative ideas of connecting the dots, will work not only towards implementing the creative ideas for transforming the way in which we organise ourselves as a species, and implementing such a radical new way of thinking about justice and law. It will also be the by-products the secondary benefits of working towards the World Water Law are infinite, because it’s bringing awareness to health, to life, to water, to interconnectedness, in every sector: to all the existing solutions, whether it be in harvesting water, or in water friendly agriculture, in water friendly economies.

All of this can be in the same platform, and that focussed energy, that ability to bring everybody together, with a common vision, a common goal.  It’s almost unheard of that humanity can all unite around one thing.  I believe that much of humanity can unite around this understanding that there are also going to be a lot of challenges and resistances in the field. So, for instance, people whose job depends on a job that actually does impact water negatively will be under incredible stress: between choosing to support the World Water Law or, how does one live in integrity, in a job that they suddenly understand is having this impact on water? So, there needs to be also this whole system: transition processes that support from the most pragmatic ways of finding ways to support people in transitioning to healthier jobs, in supporting organisations to transition to water-friendly practises. These kinds of initiatives can be developed by people in the system who are called to do so on behalf of the whole. And in this way, we each hold our different offerings, whether it’s the water ceremonies, or the water solutions, or the political activism. We can all do our part and find friends all over the world who are working similarly, and come together across all our differences in order to activate the theoretical and exponential whole system. Healing through this one organising principle.

Manda: That is amazing and a brilliant place to stop. So I will put a link in the show notes to the website with all of the details of the World Water Law, and we have time after this goes out before 2021 kicks off, for people to really have a good look at those, and decide how they in their communities, singly and collectively, can begin to work towards this. Because you’re right, it it will create exponential change if we can gain enough traction and get people to really buy into it. That’s fantastic. Thank you so, so much for your time, and for the integrity of everything that you said.

Shelly: Oh, thank you, Manda.

Manda: So that’s it for another week. Huge thanks to Shelly for the astonishing depth and breadth of her vision. I will put links in the show notes to all of her initiatives, so please do go and visit them there: explore the codes for healthy earth, see what you can do to engage with the World Water Law. we are at a time of such transformation, and we have to begin to reorient our lives towards the vitality and flourishing of the whole web of life. And these initiatives are amongst the most coherent set of responses that I’ve come across that arise from the core understanding that we need to go back to the Earth, that we need to learn how to listen to the whole web of life, to ask the questions that matter, and hear clear, constructive, coherent answers. And yes, that is familiar, because that is what Accidental Gods is all about. So I really like the connectivity of this. Anyway, links are in the show notes; go and explore. What else is life for, but transforming the world so that future generations of all life can have a home in which they can flourish? That’s not intended to be a rhetorical question.

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