Entries tagged with “environmentalism”.


I am sure you’ve wondered how (or whether) the world will ever become sustainable? And I’m sure you’ve wondered what would change the trajectory of today’s civilisation?

There has been so much written and spoken about sustainability, but we seem no closer, and perhaps we are further away than ever. Why are we failing to keep our earth habitable for future generations? What is the real legacy we are leaving?

The path to sustainability is often talked about in global terms – global deals, carbon trading, UN conferences and declarations, policy shifts etc. What is not talked about much is the need for a new consciousness.

Why do we fail to talk about treating each other with love and respect as the foundation of a new society? Why are we scared to talk about our deepest needs? Victor Havel believes that to achieve the fundamental shift in our current direction, we must develop “a new understanding of the true purpose of our existence on this Earth.”

Gus Speth, Dean of Yale School of Environmental Studies, has said this about the changes needed:“many of our deepest thinkers and many of those most familiar with the scale of the challenges we face have concluded that the changes needed to sustain human and natural communities can only be achieved in the context of the rise of a new consciousness.”

There is a real need for a significant cultural change, a change in our worldviews, and a reorientation of what we value. Call this a spiritual awakening, or a new consciousness. If you prefer call it a rethinking of what is really important. (A recent report covers this in great detail – see Towards a New Conscioiusness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities).

If we treated others with respect, generosity, kindness and fairness, would the world become a better place? You bet!

We certainly won’t get there if our fundamental values don’t change, or if we keep believing in endless growth, corporations, unbridled competition, aggression, excessive individualism and materialism. To build a sustainable world, we need a more mature human society based on nature’s templates, as Bill Plotkin reminds us.

If beingĀ green was more than just turning off our lights, but also involved switching on our hearts, we would be on the way to transforming our world and ourselves.

Environmentalism has become very shallow in these “end-of-the-world” days when the garments of nature and culture are unravelling, and wearing thin. (In earlier times, these garments used to support us on our journey into, through, and out of life.)

These days we are bombarded with behavioural requests: turn off your lights, turn off the standby! These simple minded and crude attempts at being green hardly assist us to work towards healing the chasm that exists between nature and humanity.

Rarely are feelings of intimacy with nature evoked or explored. The imaginative space of wonder in nature seem to have been lost in favour of small behavioural changes, resulting in a loss of the rich history of nature as mysterious, numinous and as a guide to personal revelation. How can we heal nature when we no longer have nature in our hearts? How can we dream our lives and souls into their full existence when the dream of the earth is denied?

We are living through an impoverished story of our place in the world, mainly through the stories of reductionist scientific rationalism, and technocratic dreams of control and mastery. We have become entranced with wires, wheels and widgets. We have removed the heart and aliveness of matter and nature, and reduced it to a backdrop and resource for the everyday world of business and busy-ness. In this reduced story, humanity seems to have no idea of its how to find a grander purpose and meaning beyond the artificially constructed consumerist drive, and its narcissistic tendencies.

What we need more than anything else are stories that situate humanity as part of nature, as caretakers for a planet under siege. We need stories of being in relationship with an alive and purposeful nature. Stories that tap the roots of our deep imagination so we can re-imagine ourselves ecologically, where nature is revered for its role in supporting our very existence.

Where are these stories? Have they been lost forever? Will you share your story with us?

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.