My last post on the inter-monastic environmental conference has already sparked some thoughtful comments. Thanks to those who have posted.
A theme in all the comments is that what I am suggesting is a tall order.
I also suggest that it may be too difficult to require thinking of the Earth as sacred. Not many people are capable of thinking in this way. Hence again I suggest to look for intermediate perspectives between "sacred" and "not sacred" that are more easily acceptable to the mass public. Words like "duty" and "responsibility" come to mind.
I personally don't think nature has to be sacred though as brahma-vihara should cover all beings and doing what's beneficial for ourselves and all beings. It doesn't seem to me like sacred ideas about nature or even a belief in tree devas are necessary since humans and animals will be harmed by environmental damage and everyone agrees that these beings exist.(Paragraphs taken from three different posts)
I agree with Robert regarding the "sacredness" of the earth. In today's spiritual black hole, the idea of the earth being sacred would do little but invite ridicule and laughter from people who look at all of that sacred stuff as being outmoded and impractical with the materialist worldview.
I take your point, but my problem is that I don't see a real alternative to a major change of world-view. Read Lovelock and other cutting edge hard-science types and you'll see that the problem is way beyond the reach of any tinkering around the edges with new technologies. The whole search for a comfortable techno-fix that would leave our life-styles intact is a major part of the problem at this late date. Read the essay Eco-Junk by George Monbiot for a scathing analysis of green consumerism. I stand by the statement that sustainable development is an oxymoron, a phrase I adopted from Lovelock.
I think that the need to re-sacralize nature is critical. At first glance, this might seem a poor fit with Buddhism. Samsara is the broken place we are trying to escape from. But that way of seeing things is a mis-application of the Dhamma in this case. We Buddhists do see all living things as sentient beings, possessed of conscious awareness and equal to us in the sense that we are all travellers on the wheel of rebirth.
And yes, the recognition of non-human entities like tree-devas and nagas is important too. It can easily be forgotten how rare in the sweep of human history our own culture is in being blind to that level of being. Old Celtic Europe had it's fairy folk and dragons, Native Americans had (and still have!) their little people and thunder-birds. Medieval Europe had angels, and Islam had it's jinn. In rural Thailand, the existence of devas and ghosts is taken for granted. Even the hyper-rational Hellenes had their fauns and satyrs, and let's not forget Socrates' genii.
What happened to the culture of Europe (because that's what the modern world is heir to) that it took a different road? Some major psychic shift seemed to occur at the turn of the 15th-16th century; the Renaissance, the Reformation, later the Scientific Revolution and the so-called Enlightenment. We (and I say we because whatever our nationality we are all of us heirs to that) took a hard turn into investigation of the coarse material level. It gained us mastery, but it cost us our spirit.
There is a theory I encountered once in a Christian book about angels. It suggested that the invention of perspective in Renaissance painting was not the invention of a new technique, but a faithful record of a new way of seeing. By seeing this material plane more acutely, we lost the ability to see other planes at all. Be that as it may, it is only the modern world which seems to have depopulated the spirit realms.
This wouldn't matter, perhaps, if only a belief in fairies or devas was at stake. But the loss of this realm is a symptom of a much deeper malaise. Everything is reduced to a dead mechanism. In the economic application, it is world as commodity. In the spiritual world, it is man as meat-machine; the "selfish gene" and the "computional model of mind." This world-view is spiritual death, and it may bear fruit in physical death, if not of the entire bio-sphere, at least of our civilization.
Having said all this, I don't know how we can open people's eyes to the wonder and miracle of nature if they are blinded by materialism and greed. But I don't see anything else that could turn the current trend around.