I don’t need to tell you about the wriggly eco-worms that have spilled out of the can and are rapidly spreading out across the floors of company boardrooms, government corridors, and scientific think tanks. If you are reading this magazine, you probably already know their names and labels: Climate Change; Plastic Pollution; Poaching and the Sixth Extinction – the list of these slippery troubles goes on and on.
But what is missing from the conversation – about how to deal with them?
As editor of The Enviropaedia, (An environmental encyclopaedia designed to educate and empower South African consumers and businesses to address today’s environmental challenges) this is a question that has kept me awake at night. Why is it that even though global leaders got together in Rio in 1992 to identify the worlds rising environmental challenges and agree on appropriate solutions to these challenges – why has so little change happened since then? The same problems they identified then persist today and have grown in scope and scale.
Fed up with sleepless nights, I took to digging for answers and came to a few of my own conclusions:
- It’s not for lack of information: Environmental organisations, governments, and Al Gore amongst many others have spread the news far and wide – especially to those most responsible for causing these crises.
- It’s not for lack of care: scratch the tough surface of the most hardened capitalist and you will find that they enjoy being in nature and most do care about our environment.
So why the lack of progress in dealing with these environmental challenges?
Albert Einstein’s words provided me with the key to an answer – a ‘Eureka’ moment for me! He said something along the lines of “The world we have created has problems – that cannot be solved using the same logic that created those problems in the first place”.
The critical issue he points to – is our thinking.
We have been focussed on the wrong end of the problem, by trying to treat the conditions, instead of addressing the underlying cause of these conditions.
Climate Change and our other environmental challenges are an outcome of our past behaviours, which are an outcome of our thinking and values. (Please read this statement again – and again. This is the key to understanding and dealing with these eco-worms)
Trying to fix our environmental challenges without first fixing the thinking and values that create these challenges – is like trying to fix a punctured tyre by blowing in more air, without first fixing the leak!
So to successfully address today’s environmental challenges, we first need to identify and correct the thinking patterns and values that drive the behaviours that produce the unhappy outcomes (environmental crisis) we are currently experiencing.
This is not so hard to do – and I am willing to bet that if you sit down and write out your thoughts on this, you are likely to come to a very similar list as mine. The problem with this was that the list soon became too long to handle. So I set about distilling the list down to the seven most basic root causes of behaviours that result in negative environmental impacts. They included:
- Short-term thinking
- A materialistic value system (that drives unsustainable, overconsumption of Earth’s resources)
- Insular, disconnected, silo thinking (encouraged by our educational systems that promote specialisation of knowledge and career pathways)
- A cold-hearted lack of compassion for people and planet (this is strongly encouraged in business and science where they promote and praise ‘dispassionate’ thinking and behaviour)
- Disconnection with nature (quite understandably as a result of the fact that the majority of us today live in urban environments with little interaction with nature)
- A flood of negative ‘doom and gloom’ messaging and predictions about our environment and future of the Earth (resulting in people feeling overwhelmed and unable to effectively do anything about the situation – therefore becoming apathetic and ignoring the situation)
Having identified these seven root causes that drive negative environmental outcomes (fully recognising that these are not the only causes – but they are to my mind, the most common) – the next task is to look at the logical alternatives to these mindsets and values. To my delight I found that if I rearranged the order of these alternative ‘Eco-Logical’ mindsets and values, I could create an acronym to define them as V.I.R.T.U.E.S:
- Vision – to inspire us and counteract any doom and gloom expectations
- Inclusive and integrated – to bring insular and specialist thinking together to see and understand the ‘big picture’
- Reconnection with nature – creating benefits and innovations through ‘Biomimicry’ (copying and ‘mimicking’ nature – which is proving to be an exciting and highly effective way of improving today’s products and technologies).
- Three-dimensional thinking – including instincts, intellect, and intuition to achieve more kind and balanced (wise) decision making in business and science.
- Ubuntu – recognising the value of community and the benefits of diverse, collective knowledge and intelligence to address our common environmental challenges.
- Ethical consumerism – appreciating our less materialistic qualities and assets (like intelligence, arts and culture, love and caring contributions to the community we live in) over and above materialistic consumption (and promoting quality and durable products rather than cheap, disposable and wasteful consumer products).
- Sustainability – demanding that our social, political and business leaders include a long-term perspective and consideration when planning for today’s needs, and the future.
So these are the footprints of the invisible Elephant in the room. When you look carefully at each one of them, you begin to see the increasingly beneficial potential they each produce. They are pleasing, practical and profitable.
They can motivate very different human behaviours which will result in a much kinder, safer, fairer and more sustainable world.
This evolution to a more eco-logical way of thinking and being, need not take generations to achieve. I have seen radical changes happen fast in social thinking, values and behaviour– almost overnight when the time is ripe. And the time is ripe today. Proof of this is evident to me as I receive startling, delightful, brave, innovative and profoundly practical entries into the annual Eco-Logical Awards hosted by The Enviropaedia. This year, myself and a number of businesses and environmental senior executives will judge and present in June at the new super-eco-friendly Sun International Hotel in Menlyn Maine. I hope you will be as inspired by the entries and winners as I am. You can view them on www.eco-logicawards.com. And if you would like to engage further with this concept of Eco-Logic visit www.enviropaedia.com.
I have no doubt that we have the intelligence to evolve beyond current dysfunctional mindsets, values and behaviours – to become happier, healthier and wealthier eco-logical human beings living sustainably on this beautiful Earth.
We have the potential – do you have the will?
What do you think?