Entries tagged with “worldviews”.


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.

Freya Mathews has written that every aspect of a culture takes on the colour of its basic attitude to reality.

So what is “our basic attitude to reality”? And is it time we brought our attitudes fully into our awareness so we can consider whether they remain appropriate to the current world situation? Are there alternatives that would assist us in the task of building a more life-enhancing and life-sustaining culture?

Our modern world-view draws a distinct boundary between humans (as subject or master) and world (as object or slave), and treats the world as non-living matter ready to be exploited for the sole benefit of humans. As a result we have created a lonely, meaningless world devoid of spirit and living presences. How we all long for a world of meaning and connection!

Earth wisdom teachers such as indigenous elders, eco-philosophers, eco-psychologists and holistic scientists, can provide us with an array of considered alternatives. They show us how we can tune into our own inner nature, as well as outer nature, and by doing so reveal to us deeper, richer and more varied ways of experiencing our selves and our world. It is a radical re-orientation to reality.

A day I spent with Uncle Max Harrison (Dulumunm), a Yuin Elder and teacher, revealed a radically different attitude to the world, one that is both respectful and very, very, slow. To walk a few hundred metres with Uncle Max can take hours as he teaches the way of nature, seeking out signs and listening for the voice of nature and/or spirits. He said that we need an attitude that allows nature to re-arrange us, in radical contrast to the modern way of re-arranging nature without listening to place, or respecting the voice of non-human others.

The alternative attitude being proposed by all these earth wisdom teachers is a world that is animated (all things are alive), radically ensouled, communicative and purposeful.

What a radically different world we would live in if our attitude to reality changed like this. It would challenge many foundational aspects of our culture, including the scientific interrogation of our world, our exploitative economics, our consumer lifestyle, our religions, our politics, and even the way we relate to others.

So, if you want to be truly radical, try going outside and really be in the world, just as it is. Imagine for a momentĀ that the world is alive, and speaks, and all we need to do is stop, be quiet, listen and wait. and feel what comes. See the clouds, the sky, a tree, not as a spectator, but a participant. Feel the wind on your body. Take off your shoes and feel your feet connected with earth. Quietly sense and feel into your body (not your head). There might be a message in there. It might surprise you.

There is much talk, perhaps too much talk, about climate change these days. There is also associated talk about using a lot more renewable energy, as if this will avert or reduce the damage we are doing to the earth.

There is no doubt that renewable energy in its modern forms (solar, wind, wave) will be a necessary part of the future. The danger of emphasising renewables as a solution to our ills is that western civilisation has not been a good steward of cheap, abundant and dirty energy (coal, uranium, oil etc). Why would we be good stewards of abundant, but clean, renewable energy? We seem to miss the point that we can destroy forests and oceans (and ourselves) just as easily with renewable energy as with oil based energy.

What needs to be examined closely is our worldview (our foundational assumptions and metaphysical beliefs) that has resulted in humans being such poor stewards of energy. And why we have used so much energy to expand and extend the reach of the human enterprise with such callous regard for its impact on others (human and non-human).

Perhaps one reason is that we have over emphasized and privileged mental work, and inferiorised, backgrounded and denied the work of the body and the earth. We have substituted abundant but non-renewable pre-historic solar energy for human muscle power. Human labour as a renewable energy source is never talked about these days, even though we have an abundance of people.

We have created a caste of energy slaves, both bodily labour (especially people in poor countries, who make most of our stuff), and the labour of nature (ancient solar energy stored as oil and coal). Some research that I have seen suggests that we have some 80 energy slaves working for us to maintain our modern lifestyle. Perhaps, as Val Plumwood has argued, it is time we restored honour and meaning to physical labour, and to question the dominance, and privileging, of mind work. Perhaps we need to live within the level of (contemporary) solar energy the earth receives.

And it’s time we got rid of some of our slaves.

At this time on earth, we seem to be rushing mindlessly into the abyss. We are now experiencing (or, through denial, failing to experience) symptoms of our discordant and indulgent lifestyles (symptoms such as global warming, species extinctions, extreme poverty, war, terror, mass starvation – should I go on?).

While many may view these symptoms as problems to be solved, there is an alternative view of of symptoms as indicating something to be experienced and felt on a much deeper level. I would like to expound an alternative idea of these symptoms, influenced by the thinking of Robert Romanyshyn.

Rather than our typically modern approach of wanting to evaluate and diagnose the symptoms in order to “cure” them (and cure them quickly), our task, I believe, is to treat the symptoms as a call to listen and give voice to what would otherwise remain silenced, to challenge us in remembering what we have forgotten.

Perhaps the symptoms are revealing that our societies need to listen deeply to what is, at core, an ethical and moral problem (dare I say “spiritual”?), and not a technical problem. That is, it is the way we live on, and our attitudes to, this earth, (our one and only home) and our failure to imagine an alternative to mass industrial society and consumer culture that is the root cause of the symptoms.

While there is much talk of sustainabilty these days, there is little talk of what it means to be human, in an authentic way, in these perilous times. While the end of the world may indeed be nigh, that does not mean we can escape the injunction to live an authentic life, even up to the end. And remember, the end is also a new beginning. So, in a sense, the world does not come to an end.

We need to make visible the pathology of the current age by challenging current dominant values, such as: rationalism; disembodiement; privileging of certain ways of knowing;domination of women, nature and other animals; belief in infinite progress; industrialism; individual privacy; hyper-seperation from the earth; scientism; and many others. We need to challenge the concept of the earth as inanimate, as resource for our use, rather than the knowing the earth as alive with intentionality, meaning and purpose.

It is our industrial way of life, and our industrial way of thinking, that needs to be challenged.

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.