Reflections from the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering
InterSpiritual Contributions to Social and Ecological Sustainability
“I need to find a peaceful, healthy world inside me.” These are the resounding words of Aline LaFlamme, a First Nations elder, that have stayed with me since the Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering in late October.
The conference brought together dozens of conservationists, activists, scientists, students, spiritually-minded individuals, and indigenous people from the region surrounding the waters that flow between Vancouver, Seattle, and the west coast islands that create a barrier to the Pacific Ocean. Over the course of three days, we convened to connect, listen, discuss, collaborate, and learn about the InterSpiritual Contributions to Social and Ecological Sustainability.
Hosted at the University of British Columbia campus by the InterSpiritual Centre Society in partnership with the United Religions Initiative (URI), every component of the weekend felt deeply rooted with intention and respect for the place and people that it served.
We were frequently reminded by leaders of local First Nations tribes to acknowledge and appreciate our Mother Earth and our interconnectedness with all forms of life through prayer, song, and ritual. The gathering was seamlessly framed within sacred traditions that extend back countless centuries as we considered our obligations to the generations that will follow us. Musical performances by the Daughters of the Drum and the Sisters of Mercy choir were interspersed throughout. Edward Bastian of Spiritual Paths led us in several meditative practices that integrate the ancient wisdom of various faiths.
Key highlights include:
- A panel discussion with Chief Phil Lane Jr. of Four Worlds and Rex Wyler, Co-Founder of Greenpeace, among other experts. There were several comments made about how only by working together are we going to survive and we cannot afford to trick ourselves into believing that we are better than anyone or anything else.
- A session facilitated by URI on the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which has been a cornerstone of the organization since its inception. At the most rudimentary level, AI asks the question, “What is working well here?” rather than “What needs fixing?” in a workplace or any learning environment.
- Breakout groups that focused on issues concerning water, renewable energy, biodiversity/habitat conservation, and sustainable food. In the biodiversity session I attended, the speaker discussed her work converting scientific research into practical actions and how she maintains a hopeful, optimistic outlook despite accelerating habitat depletion.
On the concluding morning, we congregated in the Longhouse of Learning where we engaged in intimate conversations about our next steps, both individually and collectively. Many expressed a reinvigorated commitment to the inner work that maintains our oneness to the beautiful planet on which we live and enables us to take inspired action in our local communities. While it remains to be seen what form the dialogue will take going forward, the gathering effectively helped us transcend the physical boundary between Canada and the U.S., and build bridges between scientific and spiritual leaders.
As a representative of Euphrates, it was meaningful for me to consider the interdependence between peace and sustainability, understanding that one cannot exist without the other. I was reminded that as we become better stewards of the ecosystems in which humans are a part, we naturally foster better relationships with the people that share life on Earth with us.