Thoughts, gossip, feedback and hard logic environmentalism suggest that we must look after our whole environment sustainably, so that we can pass it on in a stable, healthy state to our children and generations to come.
That is what sustainability means. Many of our scholars have their heads in the sand. In short, reckless deliberate ignorance. Peak Oil, climate change, global population and economic meltdown will affect us all severely unless we take action now.
The environmental message often gets overlooked by those of a business-as-usual view who tend to ignore what seems to be a not particularly relevant (to them) message that is often divided up into small chunks and never seem to integrate all the differing aspects into one whole picture.
The full message as put forward here should be seen as so huge that it cannot be ignored. To those in the forefront of the environmental movement, there is really nothing very new but it is rather unusual to hear what might be called the Full Green Idea put forward so clearly.
Normally, environmental ideas get diluted by the time-span or space that the media allow us to put them forward so the public only gets a partial view of the complex whole. But we must be able to lay out the whole elephant-in-the-room situation that we face in our present and future. No-one should turn a blind eye.
The article allows ordinary citizens to make up their mind of what is the best decision to make to safeguard their ---- and their family’s ---- future.
No-one needs to take a university degree in science or be a climate expert to benefit from this article --- its basic idea is to use simple techniques of risk assessment to show what the best bet is.
It sets out the simple pros and cons of believing either side of the argument and the consequences of either taking action or doing nothing. It uses a simple, but very powerful, decision grid. We must, without doubt, become the world’s finest broadcasters, and combine a flair for language with great human insight to dialogue on some of the most significant moments of the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
We must turn our powers of observation to those great occasions and stress that sense of the long-term view which duty and stewardship depend upon.
In ordering the building of many great roads, we have effectively founded the transport networks. But road building destroys vast amounts of wood land and there comes a moment when we realize that creating our new fleet avenues does put too much strain on the natural supply of wood lands and if something was not done, the country would run out of both land and timber.
And so, we should create laws, for the preservation of wood lands which state that if any number of natural trees was cut down, twelve have to be left standing or planted in the same acre, and none of them should be touched until they are of a certain maturity.
It would be a simple and rather elegant piece of long-term thinking. What would be instinctively understood by many is the importance of working with the grain of nature to maintain the balance between keeping the earth’s natural capital intact and sustaining humanity on its renewable income.
It is this knowledge that I fear we have lost in our hurried rush to pursue unlimited economic growth and material wealth … a loss that was never more rapid than during the 1960s at which time a frenzy of change swept the world in the wave of post-war modernism.
There was an eagerness to embark upon a new age of radical experimentation in every area of human experience which caused many traditional ideas to be discarded in a fit of uncontrollable enthusiasm … ideas that will always be of timeless value for every generation confronting the realities of life on this earth. Now, I remember it only too well … and even as a teenager I felt deeply about what seemed to me a dangerously short-sighted approach, whether in terms of the built or natural environment--- housing, transport, agriculture, healthcare or education.
In all cases we were losing something of vital importance … we were disconnecting ourselves from the wealth of traditional knowledge that had guided countless generations to understand the significance of nature’s processes and cyclical economy.
It always seemed to me that in this period of change some subtle balance was being tragically lost, without which we would find ourselves in an increasingly difficult and exposed position. As, indeed , we have been.
Now, I have been trying, for some time, to point out ever since where I feel the balance needs righting and where some of the discarded but timeless principles of operating need to be reintroduced in order to create a more integrated approach.
It has turned out to be a peculiarly hazardous pastime. But I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the legacy of modernism in our so-called post-modern age has brought us to a crucial moment in history; prompting a lot of uncomfortable questions.
And I just want to ask quite a few of them in this article. What I hope to do is to give you some idea as to why these questions are so urgent, starting with what might appear to be the more philosophical aspects, and then to describe what, in practical terms, a particular change in our thinking might lead to.
The first question posed is how we have landed ourselves, as knowledgeable human beings, in the mess that we are now struggling to overcome? We have more than enough scientific evidence that proves this to be so.
But more than this, what is it that drives us on to exacerbate the problems? Why do we tip the balance of the earth’s delicate systems with yet more destruction, even though we know that in doing so we will most likely risk bringing everything down around us?
In the last thirty years or so that I have been attempting to understand and address the many related problems, I have tried to dig deep and ask myself what it is in our general attitude to the world that is ultimately at fault.
In doing so, of course, it must have appeared as though I was just flitting from one subject to another … from agriculture to architecture, from education to healthcare … but I was merely trying to point out where the imbalance was most acute; where the essential unity of things, as reflected in nature, was being dangerously fragmented and deconstructed.
The question that should surely keep us all awake at night, as it still does to me, is what happens if we go on deconstructing? And I fear the answer is all too plain. We summon up more and more chaos.
Now I have also spent a long time wondering if we could identify the key fault; would it be possible to fix it. And if we could, what would that fix amount to in practical as well as philosophical terms?
Philosophy is just as important as practical solutions. In fact the right solutions will come more readily if the philosophy is first of all framed by some right thinking. What worries me is that at the moment there is not a lot of attention given to the way we perceive the world.
We take our mechanistic view of it for granted and believe that the language of scientific empiricism which so dominates our discussion is the only form of language we need to guide us. We seem not to worry that we have lost much of the discourse of the philosophical and the religious.
Either that or the empirical has chosen to claim that discourse for itself. So let us be clear … whereas the empirical view of the world makes observational deductions about the laws of nature, the philosophical deals with the meaning of things; and the religious concerns itself with the sacred presence in things. They each have a role to play and they enjoyed much more mutual respect in former centuries because, and this is most important, they each open up different aspects of reality.
They can each be misused, too, if they are called upon to tackle questions that lie beyond their scope. And, in this, it has predominantly been empirical science that has come to claim the ground that is not its own.
The way in which empirical enquiry has developed to this position of dominance since the enlightenment era has certainly enabled us to improve the material realm of the human condition.
But let us also recognize that this progress was only possible because of an earlier and crucial shift which took us away from a traditional sense of participation in nature to the claim of mastery and exploitation over the natural order that has reaped such a troubling and bitter harvest.
That earlier shift, away from seeing ourselves within nature to us standing apart from it, gradually undermined what I have always felt, deep down, to be the true situation or that if we wish to maintain our civilizations then we must look after the earth and actively maintain its many intricate states of balance so that it achieves the necessary, active state of harmony which is the prerequisite for the health of everything in creation. In other words, that which sustains us must also itself be sustained, and I am afraid that I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that we are failing to do that. We are not keeping to our side of the bargain and, consequently, the sustainability of the entire harmonious system is collapsing, and in failing the earth we are failing the entire humanity.
So, I wonder, is it the case that the problem lies first and foremost not in what we do but in a fracture within us that leads to a limited view of what and where we are in the natural order ….and that, therefore, we need urgently to look deeply into ourselves and at the way we perceive the world and our relationship with it?
If only because, surely, we all want to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren something other than the nightmare that for so many of us now looms on the horizon. But that threat will not go away just because we deny it.
We are standing at a moment of substantial transition where we face the dual challenges of a world view and an economic system that seem to have enormous shortcomings, together with an environmental crisis ….including that of climate change ….which threatens to engulf us all.
Of course, we have achieved extraordinary prosperity since the advent of the industrial revolution.
People live better and longer, have access to universal education, better healthcare, higher incomes and the promise of long-term pensions. We also have more leisure time; faster communication, and an opportunity to travel faster and further ….the list is endless.
But on the debit side, those in the industrialized world (and others in many other areas) have increased their consumption of the earth’s resources in the last sixty years to such an extent that, as a result, their collective demands on nature’s capacity for renewal are being exceeded annually by some twenty-five per cent.
On this basis, last year they had used up what they can safely take from nature before the end of September. Between then and the next New Year they are expected to consume capital as if it was income.
And, as any investment advisor will tell you, confusing capital for income is simply not sustainable in the long-term. What is more, countries that are undergoing rapid development are all assuming Eurocentric consumption patterns.
By 2050 not only will there be nine billion people on the planet, but a far higher proportion than now will presumably have Eurocentric levels of consumption. These are facts, which we really cannot ignore any longer.
But we do so because we hang onto values and a perception of things that had developed before we realized the consequences of our actions. (To be continued)