In Memoriam: Suzanne Duarte (1944-2015)

by Michael Sawyer

Photograph of Suzanne, 2015; courtesy Jan-Paul Vroom

We mourn the loss of our Natural World editor Suzanne Duarte, who died suddenly of natural causes on December 5, 2015 at her home in Boulder, Colorado.

Originally from California, Suzanne lived for most of her life in the western part of the country where she first came to know and love the wild places of the Earth – the Redwood Forests of northern California, Yosemite National Park, the Colorado Rockies and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado. They were for her the true mentors teaching us about our interconnectedness with nature, which she later recognized in the deep ecology theory of Arne Naess.

Suzanne was first and foremost a teacher, a sharer of her own life’s journey with ecology and the Tibetan Buddhist path of Chogyan Trungpa so central to her life, a journey that would lead her to become a lecturer in Contemplative Ecology at Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado). But Suzanne was also an educator in everyday life. Her passion and conviction to speak for those without a voice, the animals, plants and wild places, caused her to advocate continuously on their behalf. Whether via her website and Facebook page or in person, Suzanne was always there to raise our consciousness and challenge us to live in a way that respects all sentient beings.

I came to know Suzanne during the years she lived in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and am grateful for having had this guide in my life who helped me to refine my own vision of kindness toward all creatures, and the ahimsa to do no harm to the natural world – to which we all belong. We have lost a great teacher and a dear friend. She is survived by her husband, Jan-Paul Vroom, who still maintains her excellent website, Dharmagaians, linked here.

But let the last words be Suzanne’s own:

The desecration of nature has deeply impacted me throughout my life. Even as a little girl, I felt pain as I watched bulldozers scraping the ground of trees, plants and animals beyond the suburb where we lived. When I hear of “development” projects, I always think of all the creatures who are killed and displaced, poisoned and starved by the expansions of human activities, and I mourn the loss of delicate ecosystems that bind life together.

Grief can be a powerful doorway to a sense of belonging within the web of life, to the energy and strength that comes from the release of deep feelings, and therefore to paradigm change, a change of consciousness that blossoms into passionate love for the Earth. Once a person begins the process of conscious paradigm change, otherwise known as the Great Turning, there is no going back. Bit by bit, the scales fall from one’s eyes and the socially conditioned fears and constrictions loosen and dissolve as one’s heart for the world expands.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Sawyer is our Natural World editor. An agroforesty expert he lives and works in Queensland Australia where he is developing his own experimental land project and building an eco-friendly home. He may be contacted through our Contact page.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi