Spiritual practices that harm the Earth need to stop. Here are 5 of the worst
By Nastassja Salem
More and more of us are using crystals, smudging and essential oils to cleanse our space. Increasing numbers of tourists are downing ayahuasca like champagne. But did you know these are among some of the worst spiritual practices that harm the earth?
It’s highly ironic. People are grasping crystals in their hands, hoping to gain positive energy and healing from stones that may well have been mined by small children, and which may well have polluted many a river, killing much aquatic life in the process. They’re healing their bodies the frog poisons, but give no thought to the frogs. In fact, there are many so called spiritual practices that harm the Earth – quite badly, in some instances.
I wrote this article as a wake up call to anyone who may be blindly engaging in these practices. And in the hopes that they will stop. After all, what’s the point of destroying a rainforest so you can clear your chakras, or hurting animals so you can cleanse your lymph system? If you’re doing harm to the planet – even unknowingly – you’re also doing harm to yourself.
Truly spiritual people, take note!
Spiritual Practices That Harm The Earth
1. Using Crystals
Crystals are millions of years old, and are part of the formation of the earth. In terms of their healing powers, they are structured in such a way that they emit vibratory frequencies that have the ability to interact with the human electromagnetic field.
It is for that reason that humans have worked with them as spiritual tools since the dawn of time. It is also no coincidence that a diamond, the most indestructible substance on earth, has come to be associated with marriage and the binding of two people together.
However well-intentioned they may be, the rise of healing crystal use in popular culture over the last decades has not correlated to a protected industry. Crystals are often (unethically) extracted as a byproduct of gold and other more lucrative stones, in places like Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These are countries with typically fewer environmental regulations than most. And even if these are present, they may not be enforced.
In fact, large-scale mines where healing crystals are typically found are responsible for contaminating water systems and damaging wildlife. An example of this is the mining of blue chrysocolla in New Mexico, a gem said to support goddess energy and help you communicate in a clear and loving way. The extraction process by all the mines in that state is estimated to have leaked 2 billion gallons of acid and heavy metals into surface and groundwater to date, as reported by the environment organization Earthworks. How very ‘spiritual’, right?
No ethics, no regulation
The reality is that the healing crystals industry is currently unregulated by any international bodies. This means that not only are there environmental ramifications, but labour exploitation too. In the mining process, conditions can be downright horrifying.
One example is jade excavation in Myanmar where there are several documented instances of human rights violations. Children as young as the age of seven are forced into mining. Unfortunately people in these communities will go to life-threatening lengths to survive because of the poverty they suffer from. But it’s not even mining alone that threatens the lives of workers. The polishing process is just as bad.
After the crystals are mined, they are taken to be cut and polished, where workers are exposed to dangerous processes and fumes. In wealthier nations, this part of the process is often outsourced to poor countries like China and India where worker safety regulation is much more lenient.
As there is no fair-trade framework currently in place, it is virtually impossible for not only consumers of crystals, but retailers themselves, to understand where the crystals come from and where they have been processed. Transparency and traceability information is very difficult to attain.
Reputable suppliers will most likely be working directly with producers and will know or have detailed information around their source. They will likely be working to safeguard working conditions of the employees and the local economy of these communities. If the packaging includes the name of the mine or exact location, this is a good sign.
The best that we can do when it comes to purchasing healing crystals is to ask the right questions and do our research. Chances are, if the brand is doing the legwork to support a better and cleaner industry, and if they speak to the ethical nature of the mining, cutting and polishing processes they partake in, they must be operating with higher consciousness. See below for a few ethical crystal shops we recommend.
2. Burning Palo Santo
Palo Santo smells amazing. For that reason, the branches of this mystical tree native to South America are often used to cleanse and heal your energy and space. But perhaps they shouldn’t be.
Over a decade ago, Peru and Ecuador listed Palo Santo trees as being endangered. Buying your sticks from an unethical source could mean you are participating in the decimation of entire habitats in Central America and the Galàpagos.
Why? Well, South American shamans have always taught that these trees should be treated with respect and reverence, and must never be cut down. But they are.
Ethical shamans insist only the wood of trees that died naturally and branches that have stayed on the forest floor resting for four to ten years can be used in ceremonies. This shamanic teaching is practical as well as traditional, since the highest aromatic and therapeutic qualities of the wood can only fully develop in aged heartwood that is harvested from naturally fallen trees.
Ignorance and exploitation
But most people don’t follow this ancient wisdom. Those who sell the wood for immediate economic gain will harvest from dead and living trees alike, with no regard for a resting period. This has led to severe deforestation, and the real threat that if we continue to over consume this wood, someday, there will be no more Palo Santo trees left for future generations to enjoy at all.
No wonder the tree has recently been added to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II, which includes species that aren’t necessarily threatened with extinction, but due to a certain level of popularity in international trade, must be controlled in order to prevent becoming threatened, endangered or extinct
Sure, improper harvesting is the main problem. But the tree’s habitat, the tropical dry forest, is also currently threatened. The upside to this is that if you buy from an ethical supplier, this can actually offer incentives for farmers to plant and harvest the tree. Be sure to avoid the larger retailers and go for the small business. Opt for a brand that is being clear with its sources and is transparent about the origin of the product.
3. Taking Ayahuasca
It was once a rare experience, reserved only for curanderos in the Amazon. But today, drinking Ayahuasca has become a mainstream tourist attraction.
According to research by Carlos Suárez Álvarez, Amazonian studies expert and author of Ayahuasca, Iquitos and Monster Vorāx, in Iquitos, the largest city in Peru’s Amazon, 10 of the 40 biggest retreats here earn nearly £5m annually by hosting foreigners at well over $1,000 per stay.
This has led to the banisteriopsis caapi vine, which is the raw ingredient in ayahuasca, to decline in availability and more than treble in price over the past six years. In fact, the declining supply of ayahuasca ingredients was identified as a major botanical issue in an industry-wide survey conducted by the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC) in 2014.
Ethical Brands We Like
If you want to end spiritual practices that harm the Earth, you need to know where to shop. We’ve found these places below, which are much more conscious than anything you’ll find on Amazon!
This shop offers items like Palo Santo, sage and crystals. It has partnered with Camino Verde with the aim of preserving the Peruvian Amazon.
We love that Sacred Wood Essence is working with partner communities to plant thousands of Palo Santo trees, which will be responsibly harvested.
This shop is working hard to restore several areas of the endangered Dry-Tropical Forest Habitats that have been damaged by the Palo Santo trade.
This is a small batch, “slow beauty” line from the mountain forests of Oaxaca, Mexico. By using ethically harvested Palo Santo in some of their products, they support 300+ indigenous families and employ local Zapotec women.
Looking for ethically sourced crystals? This is the shop for you! They ensure no environmental destruction, child labour or worker exploitation is the result of their crystal mining.
Do you know of any other spiritual practices that harm the earth that we missed here? Let us know in the comments, below!