This post takes a quick look at how environmental problems are constructed and viewed, and whether the conventional approach to changing society is up to the task.

Typically environmental problems are constructed through a scientific, technology and policy lens. Such a lens minimises the need for societal wide transformation and adopts a minimalist, incremental and shallow approach, mainly through policy and advocacy (legislative change) or populist campaigns (turn off or change the lights campaigns). It fails to argue for a radical transformation in societal governance, institutions and culture. This approach adopts the mainstream values of dominant society, which are a rationalist, detached and scientific view, often failing to recognise the social, cultural and psychological dimensions of issues.

The shadow side of the rationalist approach is that it reinforces the dominant culture instead of challenging it. We have backgrounded alternative ways of being in the world, based on engagement, connectedness, emotion, relationship and nurturance. It is no accident that these backgrounded values, emanating as they are from the feminine, are hidden or denied by patriarchal approaches. We need to address the anthropocentrism (human-centredness) of western ethics and practice, and the dualisms (mind-body, nature-culture) that create fault-lines and hierarchies in our society.

If the detached observer view of the world dominates, it creates a lens, both literal and metaphorical, through which the world is viewed. This view is one devoid of sensory engagement, or in other words a disembodied one. This is a way of thinking that has taken leave of its senses (literally and figuratively) through the denial of a bodily way of knowing the world (through both the senses and a felt sense). It results in a consciousness that creates a body fit only for amusement (since it does not have a role in knowing the world), a body insatiable in its demand for pleasure, distractions and stimulations. Are our overly rationalistic approaches giving rise to lifestyles (and bodies) that are inherently dangerous to the earth? How can people think of themselves as green, when they have little or no sensory engagement with nature, and the world around them?

What we really need is for people to love and be in the world, and not treat the world as a “resource” for our trivial needs and wants. The world is NOT a resource; it is NOT there to be used (how do you feel when you are used?). It is home for other lives that should have moral and ethical standing. Other lives that have been forgotten, minimised, and trivialised.

Can we work towards a transformation of our (ego) consciousness from one that seeks domination and control, to one based on an engaged planetary consciousness, in awe of the mystery and magic of the universe? We desperately need people to see the world and all other beings with loving eyes.