Nature’s great strength is its diversity of plant and animal species

Anthony Rodale's latest blog discusses diversity and the need for a rediscovery of harmonious personal relationships with the natural world in order to achieve a holistic way of living and being.

We are living in one of the most uncertain times on planet earth, witnessing extreme climate shifts, environmental breakdown and social struggle. It is a period of great planetary discord, with annual and seasonal cycles of severe hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and extreme temperatures. Yet amidst this uncertainty, there is something persistent and sacred which unites us: a transcendental bond or “congruent interconnectedness” often found in Nature.

When I run, my senses awaken to Nature’s diversity and are intensified. I find, when visiting a new place for the first time, it’s easy to see the differences or similarities between place and culture. It’s much more difficult to be so open and aware when I’m repeating the same routes again and again. It takes much more effort to fire the senses when I am in a routine. The same could be said for the domestication of human lives. Due largely to agrarianism and sedentism, our lives have become what many would call ‘domesticated’ – resulting, perhaps, in a loss of diversity. Rediscovering and developing harmonious personal relationships with the natural world in order to achieve a holistic way of living and being, is something I feel we must strive towards if we are to tackle some of the crises facing the world.

“Whatever we look at today, may we see it with fresh eyes.” Lara Hassan

When I run, I am a both a witness and a participant in the diversity of a very large global running community, with over 60 million people participating in running or jogging in the US each year. Every time I stand on the starting line of a race, I can see and feel that while I am unique, I’m also a part of something much bigger. One of my most powerful running moments was standing at the starting line of the New York City Marathon on top of the Verrazzano Bridge with 50,000 other runners from all over the world, people of all ages and abilities, each full of different emotions, dreams and goals, but each sharing the same experience – running a marathon! Human diversity at its best.

Open heart and open mind

Growing up, the best advice my parents gave me was, “Travel is the best form of education!” I grew up on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania, the iconic Organic Gardening Experimental Farm. We had visitors come from all around the world, and they inspired me with their diverse cultures, languages and professions. These people shaped my mind and attitudes, and made me who I am today.

I run with an open heart and an open mind. I choose running events that are more than just a quick race. I look for a race with a vibrant cultural experience. My first marathon was the Marathon du Médoc in France. Running through some of Bordeaux’s most iconic vineyards, drinking wine, was an adventure on all accounts! My first ultra-running adventure was the Marathon des Sables, held in Morocco. I have never had such a positive cultural experience, living and running with over 1400 participants from 30 countries for a week in the southern Sahara Desert. The Trans Atlas Marathonis entirely organised by Moroccans. The 2019 edition will include runners from 13 different countries, living and running together for a week, high up in the remote Atlas Mountains, experiencing diversity in the landscape, people, plants and animals. Much like my experience as a child, the race encourages us as a running community to learn about place, self, adventure, emotions, hospitality, food, music, and crucially, each other.

Diversity in us, diversity in me

“The notion of an ordered cosmos is apparently common to all human societies, albeit that their expressions of this order vary.” David Cadman

As I learn more about the Sustainable Food Trust’s Harmony Project, I am discovering the importance of asking questions, in order to ‘look at the world in a new way’. When considering the Harmony principles, outlined by The Harmony Project’s Richard Dunne in his Teacher’s Guide, I am reminded to seek, discover and learn wherever possible.

What does diversity look like to me? Who are we? Who am I? What makes us unique? What are my passions? Despite the principles of Harmony demonstrating order and balance, as well as right being and correct practice, Harmony doesn’t mean uniformity. From the tiniest parts of us, in the universes of our individual cells and DNA, to the invisible and unknown energies that make everything work in harmony or discord, across the universe, we are all a part of something bigger than us, tugging and pulling in constant motion.

Photograph: Anthony Rodale 

Anthony Rodale is Chair of the Sustainable Food Trust Board, an advocate for sustainability, endurance athlete, and keen photographer. He is 3 time finisher of the ultra Marathon des Sables. Anthony has spent years travelling the world visiting sustainable and organic farms, learning about successful practices in soil regeneration, crop production, plant diversity, carbon sequestration, economic viability, food security and community health. He has been President of the Sustainable Food Alliance since 2011. Before that served on other Boards such as the Rainforest Alliance, Friends of the Soil Association, and Board Chair of the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania.

Anthony is running the Trans Atlas Marathon to raise money for The Harmony Project. Visit his JustGiving page to sponsor him.

This article was first published on 22nd February 2019 on the Sustainable Food Trust website. 

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