Author: David Parry-Davies - Publishing editor of The Enviropaedia
( Article Type: Sustainable Development )
The concept of Eco-Logic refers to the logic and commonsense rationale, that arises once one has understood and fully embraced the fact that we humans are not separate from the rest of nature – that we are completely interconnected with and absolutely reliant for our survival on the rest of the species that populate this planet – ranging from the tiniest parasitic microbe to the most magnificent, and magnanimously life-giving trees.
The ‘great forgetting’ of this important truth has been facilitated and supported by two common misperceptions: Firstly, from a religious perspective, the tenet that ‘humans are given dominion over the Earth’, has been widely misunderstood and misinterpreted to imply that we are superior to Nature - and all of Natures assets are available to us to do with as we please – in the pursuit of our own material advantage - irrespective of any damage caused to Nature.
Secondly, from an intellectual perspective, the tenet that ‘science needs to be dispassionate and objective’ has been equally mis-understood and distorted to imply that science should be conducted in a manner entirely devoid of emotion or compassion. The knock-on implication and mis-guided belief is that all our engineering, constructions, and other developments based on scientific foundations – should equally be conducted without reference to or respect for emotional or compassionate considerations.
These two misperceptions have created a disconnect between humanity and Nature and given licence and approval for people to treat Nature and her community of species as if they were inferior, unconscious and unintelligent ‘objects’ to be owned, used and treated with mechanical insensitivity. The destructive effects of these distorted mindsets are now becoming uncomfortably apparent – in a jigsaw puzzle of environmental crisis including: pollution, degradation and over-exploitation of natural resources; destruction and loss of species and destabilising climate change – collectively referred to as ‘Global Change’.
Whilst it is widely recognised that we now need to ‘fix’ this matrix of environmental crisis, before we rush off to do so, let us first ‘re-mind’ ourselves that we need to do more than just treat the symptoms of disease! At the risk of stating the obvious, it is critically important that we take the time to identify and address the underlying causes – which are the attitudes, beliefs and value systems (the mind-sets) that have informed and driven our behaviours – which in turn have caused and resulted in the negative environmental effects and symptoms we are experiencing today.
Or as Albert Einstein put it ‘The world today has problems that cannot be solved by thinking in the same way we thought when we created them’
Therefore, to get to the root of the environmental challenges that we must now solve (in order to ensure our own survival) we need to identify and highlight the specific attitudes, beliefs and thinking patterns - that have informed and motivated the behaviours - that cause harm and damage to the well-being of Nature’s life-supporting, eco-systems. With the benefit of hindsight, this is not hard to do! In addition to the sense of separate superiority and the brutally mechanical mindsets previously identified, when we look at much of the damage caused to Nature, eco-systems and the community of Earth’s species - we can easily identify further mindsets that drive destructive behaviour.
Ego-Logic vs. Eco-Logic
As the following are mostly self-serving and the results often harmful to both the human and non-human community of Life on Earth - I refer to the following as Ego-Logical thinking:
The defining features of Ego-logical thinking include:
• Short-term thinking – gratification of our immediate wants and needs, without sufficient consideration for the longer term consequences of our actions.
• Isolated and Insular thinking – aiming to meet our own specific objectives, without recognising that everything is interconnected and that therefore certain actions which may be beneficial in an isolated context or objective may actually be harmful when looked at in context of the whole (or the community).
• Greed – taking much more than is required to meet our actual needs.
• Dogma and Habit – insisting on doing things in a particular way (irrespective of the consequence) because that’s the way they have always been done in the past or because that’s the way a certain tradition or authority insists that they should be done.
•Combative attitudes – whilst competition can indeed be healthy as it encourages growth and improvement - excessive competition which involves damage to or destruction of a competitor or their resources might be beneficial to ‘the winner’ in the short term , but is not usually beneficial for the community as a whole in the long term.
• Consumerism – ‘The American Dream’ has become ‘a Global Nightmare’. The globally exported belief that owning more, bigger, better material assets is the best pathway to achieve happiness and well-being – is now self evidently a ‘bankrupt ideology’. Not only has this endless pursuit of material assets resulted in many unhappy and unfulfilled individual lives, but it has also resulted in the human species now using and consuming more of the Earth’s natural resources faster than the Earth can recover or replenish these resources. (Bearing in mind however that this over-consumption is the ‘cultural habit’ of only a small percentage of the world’s population. Roughly 20% of the world’s population are currently consuming 80% of the world’s resources. This is not only physically unsustainable; it is also a recipe for political and social instability – which has already begun to unfold in South Africa and other countries around the world today.)
• Fear and apathy – because of the scale and ‘fear-full’ nature of the threats and warnings that some environmentalists have communicated in the past, many people have come to feel overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with these huge problems. As a result of feeling that these challenges are just too big for any individual to be able to do much about, many have quite understandably chosen to stop listening to the warnings – to ‘switch-off’ and just get on with their lives as best they can – and not participate in solving the current challenges !
“If you keep doing what you have always done – don’t be surprised if you keep getting the same results.”
If these underlying Ego-logical values and mind-sets are driving our current environmental instability, it is appropriate, logical and beneficial for us to identify the equal-opposite thinking and values that can guide our actions toward creating a healthier planet and Earth-society. As the following are usually beneficial to both the human and non human eco-systems on Earth - I refer to the following as Eco-Logical thinking:
The defining features of Eco-Logical thinking include:
• Short-term thinking – is balanced by including ➝ Long-term vision and planning
• Isolated and insular thinking – is balanced by ➝ Holistic perspectives & systems thinking
• Self-centricity – is replaced by ➝ Care and consideration for the whole of Earth’s community = UBUNTU principles applied to both the human & non-human community.
• Greed – is replaced by ➝ Generosity, resulting from an understanding of the long-term value and benefit of collaboration, sharing and a simplification of lifestyle
• Dogma and Habit – is replaced by ➝ Consensual, rational, reasoning
• Combative attitudes – is replaced by ➝ Collaboration and co-operation
• Consumerism based on quantity of consumption – is replaced by ➝ Quality of consumption whereby products and services are evaluated in terms of their;
• Cost to society and eco-systems - rather than their price of purchase
• Quality of performance
• Durability of lifespan
• Recyclability at the end of lifespan
• Fear and apathy – is replaced by ➝ Vision and participation – inspired by a positive and constructive recognition that collectively we can change the world and that whilst periods of significant change are very often uncomfortable, they also represent great opportunities for growth and development both in terms of human consciousness and in commercial and technological growth opportunities.
Eco-Logical Vision & Participation:
Whilst the qualities of an eco-logical mind may provide a useful frame of reference to begin the process of evolving into ‘eco-logical human beings’, we should also recognise that most people are not motivated by negative messages (as illustrated by the fact that health warnings on cigarette packets have been relatively ineffectual). Far more people are motivated by positive messages and images (smiling, healthy people buying …… name the brand). It will therefore be beneficial to identify positive eco-logical aims and develop a highly desirable eco-logical vision that will inspire and motivate us into action.
Whilst our collective eco-logical aims and vision will undoubtedly evolve and mature over time with much discussion needed to reach broad general consensus - we need to begin somewhere and I therefore put forward for discussion, my own initial thoughts on the qualities of an eco-logical world that I personally want to live in – as follows:
Vision: An Eco-Logical World – I really want to live in:
Sustainable consumption: Comfortably meeting my needs today, knowing that I am not compromising my own and my children’s ability to meet their needs in the future
A caring community (UBUNTU): Recognising that my own well-being is entirely dependent on the well-being of the community (human & non-human) that I live in and accordingly, treating others as I would like them to treat me.
A revised basis of social status: Recognising and appreciating people for the amount of their contribution to social and environmental health rather than for the amount of their consumption of Earth’s resources – and equally having a greater respect for intellectual wealth rather than material assets which are impermanent and can lose value
A lifestyle of ‘elegant sufficiency’: Re-discovering the benefits and beauty of simplicity in which we appreciate quality more than quantity – this will result in a reduction of:
• Amount of Earth’s resources used
• Manufacturing emissions ( which are currently driving climate change )
• Pollution of air, soils & water
• Loss of land and marine biodiversity
An absolute reduction in human population - through education
Reconnection with Nature – leading to:
• ‘People-friendly’ Cities – designed to create and support a sense of ‘caring community’;
• Cities built ‘in tune’ with Nature – waterways, walkways, trees and greenery, open spaces, refreshing clean air; • Buildings constructed of natural (non-toxic) materials in more organic (rounded) shapes;
• Localised production of (organic) food and (renewable) energy –creating local jobs and increasing security of supply through diversity
• Close proximity of home & work – enabling most to either work from home or walk or cycle to work;
• Easy access to affordable, clean & silent long distance transport;
• Equal proportion of time engaged in work & recreation;
• Recreation – becoming more creative, productive, health and nature focussed: ( to replace many of today’s mind-numbing and dumbing-down activities sold to us as being ‘fun,fun,fun’ );
• Products designed to achieve : quality, durability, elegance; efficiency; least resource intensive; recyclable (by applying principles of Biomimicry);
• Greater personal authority and responsibility for my own health through exercise and diet with less reliance on chemical-based or invasive medical treatment;
• Higher priority placed on the quality rather than the quantity of food (in the process of both production and consumption);
• Social respect for the honour and dignity of work (including de-mechanised physical labour) resulting in zero unemployment;
• Social respect for knowledge and wisdom gained through age and experience(to balance the current infatuation with ‘young and new’);
• Social status and position based on level and quality of contribution to community and Earth well-being (rather than quantity of material consumption and possession);
• Socially aberrant behaviour being mostly remediated through service to society - resulting in fewer prisons (= criminal universities)
• A healthy inclusion of both Nature and Spiritual dimensions of living – becoming a more whole and balanced human being – and acting in accordance with the role and responsibility of ‘Stewards of this Earth’.
Ready ? – Steady ? - Action !
You may choose to agree or disagree with some of my personal values and reasoning above – as each of us will have different perspectives, needs and priorities. I therefore invite you to take what you find to be useful, and find your own eco-logical response to the others. What is most important is that you:
1. Recognise your own personal authority and ability to change and make your world a better place. Understand clearly that Government and Business alone CANNOT do this for us –it is therefore absolutely essential that we all participate and contribute to constructive change in our own large or small way – remembering that people have succeeded in doing this before (The French Revolution happened, the Berlin Wall came down and Apartheid was overturned). We need mass public participation on a similar scale to address current environmental issues – and it’s up to each one of us as individuals to create it and drive it.
2. Identify specifically the qualities and features of the world you really WANT to live and work in. (Remembering that we are far more motivated by what we want – rather than what we do not want - so identify and visualise exactly what you really WANT and would LOVE to have. In this context – love really is the solution!)
3. Identify what you can personally do to make the changes and get closer to this world you want to live in (create your own Eco-Logical Action Plan).
Lastly, please do have fun and take pleasure in your Eco- Logical actions, innovations and achievements – taking the time to really appreciate and enjoy the benefits of each step along the way. Re-mind yourself that this is a journey of delightful discovery and pleasing, incremental improvement in your own life – which will be reflected in the beautiful world around you.