Author: David Parry-Davies - Publishing editor of The Enviropaedia
( Article Type: Sustainable Development )
As Publishing Editor of The Enviropaedia, and actively involved in environmental conservation since youth, I am aware of many facts about the havoc we are wreaking on our Earth and eco-systems. I am also aware that these facts have been repeatedly presented in magazines and newspapers, shouted in anger by protesters against government apathy and presented soberly in scientifically-based films that have shocked the world. Yet, despite all these warnings, the global human response to these facts and information have been consistently, hopelessly inadequate.
As a result, I found myself asking the question ‘Why?
‘Why are we not responding in proportion to the scale of threat to the Earth and it’s delicate eco-systems that affect our food security, our limited water supplies, the air we breathe and the Earth’s weather and climate?”
The profound words of Albert Einstein gave me a clue! He said something along the lines of “The world we have created has problems that cannot be solved by using the same logic that created those problems”
This means that to effectively deal with many of our social and environmental problems today – we need to change the way we think!
When you look at the information and environmental warnings that have been given to business, government and the public in the past, you will see that they mostly focus on the current physical conditions (like litter, pollution, environmental degradation, extinction and climate change) but they do not address the underlying thinking, beliefs, attitudes and values which drive our behaviours- which in turn produce the devastating effects and outcomes that we are now faced with.
Trying to solve our environmental challenges by addressing the outcomes and effects, without addressing the underlying cause (our values and thinking patterns) is like trying to fix a flat tyre by pumping in more air without first closing the hole in the tyre.
If we want different outcomes and environmental conditions, we therefore first need to identify and change the inappropriate thinking and value systems that have motivated and driven our destructive behaviours in the past. Our changed minds will then produce different behaviours which in turn will result in changed social and environmental conditions.
In looking for the thinking patterns and values that typically produce negative and environmentally destructive behaviours and outcomes, I began with a long list and gradually distilled these down to seven fundamental mind-sets that are at the root of many other environmentally illogical attitudes and behaviours. From there, it was not difficult to identify the logical opposite thinking and values that can produce a different and better outcomes. These I refer to as ‘The roots of Eco-Logic', as follows:
· Evolving from dis-connection - to: ‘Dynamic harmony with Nature’: As more than half of the world’s population now live in cities and most of the food and drink we eat is either synthetic or so packaged that we hardly recognise it as a product produced by Nature, it is not surprising that we have lost touch with the value and importance of Nature. As a result, many no longer care or see the relevance of Nature in their lives. This disconnection and lack of care has provided permission and opportunity for an exploitative few to plunder and pillage Nature and natural resources to the very edge of extinction in the interests of their own profit. It is therefore Eco-Logical to re-mind ourselves that Nature provides the very foundation of our food, water, air and climate, and to therefore begin to care for and protect Nature once again. Not only can a revitalised personal relationship with Nature improve our own physical, emotional and spiritual equilibrium (harmony) but through ‘biomimicry’ (an exciting new art/science of carefully studying the way in which Nature produces its materials and processes) we can dramatically improve our commercial and consumer products and services ( see Biomimicry website for examples ). This study and mimicking the way Nature operates has also been extended to look at the way that our economies operate and can be improved to become more effective and sustainable through nature-based ‘Circular Economy’ and ‘ Blue Economy’ (see here ) practices. The massive social, economic and efficiency benefits of actively engaging with and deliberately ‘harmonising’ with Nature can literally change our world for the better quite rapidly.
· Evolving from short-term - to : ‘Generational thinking’: Today’s demand for instant gratification, our fast moving stock market trading and the short term profit orientation of most businesses drives a predominant pattern of short term thinking. The Earth however operates in long term cycles and the effects of our actions today often only becomes evident after long periods or even generations later. Meeting our short term objectives without considering the long term effects on the Earth and its eco-systems therefore inevitably leads to a compromise of the security and sustainability of the Earth in the long term, with a knock-on threat to ourselves and our businesses. It is therefore Eco-Logical to look at the long term impact of our actions and to develop a long term strategy in our businesses to maintain the sustainability of the Earth, ourselves and our businesses. Every Director and employee should therefore have included in their ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPI’s) a specific target or objective to contribute to the long term sustainability strategy of both their organisation and the Earth (which provides the basic resources for every individual and organisation to survive and thrive).
· Evolving from specialist - to: ‘Holistic thinking’: Our education systems and employment options promote specialisation – which narrows the focus of interest and attention. However, our world consists of many interconnected and mutually interdependent parts and systems that make up the operating whole. Any decisions that are made based exclusively on a narrow or specialist focus of interest is therefore highly likely to have harmful and or unintended consequences on some of the associated and interconnected parts, which can in turn destabilise the whole. It is therefore Eco-Logical, to look carefully at the implications of our choices and decisions from a holistic and systemic perspective before implementing our plans. Before implementing any significant action or strategy, it should therefore be pre-viewed from a ‘holistic perspective ‘to avoid collateral damage to other connected parts of the system.
· Evolving from ego-centric – to an: ‘Ubuntu society’: The western culture exported and promoted worldwide through media, sports and entertainment, glorifies and encourages; independence, individuality and self-expression. Whilst these qualities have indisputable merits, an over-focus on the individual has significantly eroded our awareness that we are all part of a co-dependent community. When we lose perspective of our individual responsibility for sustaining and supporting the community we live in, we lose many highly valuable benefits of a mutually supportive Ubuntu based society (see here), with disastrous social and economic consequences that are being witnessed on a worldwide scale today. This applies to both the human and non-human communities on Earth. It is therefore Eco-Logical for us to re-invigorate an Ubuntu and Eco-Ubuntu consciousness and culture wherein we honour and respect individuals rights provided that they do not negatively affect or compromise the stability and well-being of the collective society we live in. This should apply to both the human society and the non-human population of the Earth – as we are all absolutely mutually dependent on each other to survive.
· Evolving from consumerism - to a ( socially and environmentally ) ‘Creative culture’: The relatively recent cultural habit of consumerism is driving our consumption of the Earth’s material resources faster than the Earth can actually replenish them - and the processes used to produce such excessive amounts of goods are polluting and destroying our planet (see here). The sales and marketing messages that drive such insatiable material consumerism have misled us in our search for self-fulfilment and diverted our attention away from the non-material qualities and assets that give us ‘quality of living’ as opposed to ‘quantity of assets’. With an increased focus and appreciation of non-material qualities and assets that create or add to the quality of our society and environment ( including ; beauty, harmony, elegance, intelligence, knowledge, skills, innovation, spiritually and culturally uplifting practices), we become less dependent on material consumption for our pleasure and personal fulfilment, resulting in less depletion of the Earth’s finite resources. It is therefore Eco-Logical to free ourselves from the Earth-destructive treadmill of consumerism and to respect most those who create and contribute most to our society and environment (rather than those who consume most of the Earth’s limited resources and give little back ). However, in recognising that we do all need to consume to some degree, it is also Eco-Logical for us to choose goods and materials of the highest quality as in general, they will last longer and thus deplete less of the Earth’s resources in the long term.
· Evolving from knowledge – to: ‘Wisdom’: To be truly Eco-Logical, we should utilise the full extent of our physical, mental and emotional human capacities. In recent years however, both business and scientific schools of thought have all but dismissed as irrelevant anything other than our intellectual capacity and knowledge based information. This has resulted in a lack of care and compassion with devastating outcomes and effects on both people and planet. In contrast to this limited perspective of ‘intelligence’ there is abundant evidence to demonstrate that we humans, like our cousins the animals, have a very important and practically useful capability of intuition, sometimes referred to as ‘heart based’ or ‘emotional intelligence’. This form of intelligence adds a ‘qualitative’ dimension to the intellectual ‘quantitative’ basis of evaluating facts and information. When consensus is reached between intellect and intuition (when it is both intellectually ‘logical’ and ‘makes sense’ using our intuitive senses), then the outcome is likely to be more balanced, compassionate and sustainable (wise). It is therefore Eco-Logical to embrace and utilise all of our natural and valuable human capabilities in order to achieve a more ‘wise’ perspective and basis for our evaluation, decision-making and planning.
· Building an Eco-Logical W.I.L.L (World I would Love to Live in): Currently there is a lot of public and media attention on what we don’t want (Climate change, environmental devastation and social unrest) but very little on what we do want – so it is worth remembering that we give energy and power to that which we focus our attention on. I also observe that whereas struggling ‘against’ something is divisive and exhausting (it slowly wears you down), when fighting ‘for’ something together with others (like political freedom; equal gender rights; saving people or planet), it is more stimulating, invigorating and exciting. It builds unity and power. Therefore, in order to transition into a more Eco-Logical community and environment, it will be highly beneficial and empowering for us to identify and create a clear goal and definition of the society and environment that we would really love to live in and are willing to work and fight for. Beginning with identifying our own, personal Eco-Logical picture of the world that I would love to live in, we can then share this with others till we achieve a collective vision that is so (physically, emotionally and financially) attractive that it inspires and motivates us all to work together, in our (wonderful and desirable) diversity to achieve it despite the apparent odds – remembering Madiba’s words “It always seems impossible – until it’s done”. There are some great sources of inspirational ideas here and here – enjoy re-creating your own reality!
Growing out of these seven roots, founded in the logic of our inter-connectedness, focused on a long term vision of a harmonious, Ubuntu society, inspired by Nature, utilising the full extent of our intellectual and intuitive capabilities, and driven by a socially and environmentally creative culture, we can evolve to become 'eco-logical human beings’ living rich and rewarding lives today whilst building a firm foundation to support the well being of our entire Earth community tomorrow.