We are part of nature, but our culture leads us to think and behave in ways that deny this reality with disastrous results.
Our culture pushes us to believe that our intelligence, our science and our technology mean that the rules of the natural world do not apply to humanity. We’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that humans are so special that the world should be shaped and controlled to suit our needs and wants.
We can no longer hide from the evidence, both scientific and from direct experience, of the results of this belief. Climate change and biodiversity loss are just two of the most prominent, but there are nine planetary boundaries that life depends on, most of which we have already crossed
Unfortunately most attempts to fix the climate and environmental crises use the same thinking that caused them. Almost invariably government policies, NGO campaigns and business initiatives, argue that we must control and manage nature because of the benefits it brings us. Even when they recognise our ultimate dependence on nature, they tackle symptoms rather than the root cause of our problems which is believing and behaving as if we are separate from nature.
SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS GROUND THEIR ORGANISATIONS IN THE REALITY THAT WE ARE PART OF NATURE.
Since the industrial revolution our economy has been based on taking resources from the ground, making products and throwing them away. This take-make-waste economy has driven environmental destruction, at every stage of the process, poisoning land, sea and air, harming us all.
We must work together to transform the economy to one where we thrive while restoring rather than destroying the living world. We need to create a circular economy based on: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems.
Sustainability leaders in business, government and the third sector are working now to create the circular economy – across product and service design; procurement and supply chain management; and innovation in policy, regulation and industrial support.
Learn more about the circular economy:
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works with business, government and academia worldwide to build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.
SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS CULTIVATE A DEEPER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE REST OF NATURE.
Accepting the reality that we are part of nature goes beyond recognising intellectually that its rules apply to humanity as much as they do to every other living thing. Scientific insight and rational analysis are essential but insufficient. As leaders we also need to be guided and inspired by the compassion and wisdom that comes from an emotional and psychological sense of being part of nature.
If this is getting too flaky, let’s turn for a moment from our relationship with (the rest of) nature to our relationships with people. Whether we consider romantic love, family ties or real mutual trust with a colleague, they can only truly be known to us by actually experiencing them. Likewise, the deeper sense of being part of nature only ever develops through actual physical experience, although reading about other people’s experience can give us some hint of the importance and the potential of fully embracing this reality.
Deep relationships with other people can arise instantaneously, if we fall head over heels in love, and they also develop slowly as we discover more about each other, develop respect and learn to accept their foibles – whether in a lover, a childhood friend or a valued colleague or neighbour. In the same way, our sense of relationship with the rest of nature can not only be sparked by a transformative experience of awe and wonder, but it can also be inspired and nurtured over time, if we spend more time in green and wild places, slow down and give the world around us our full attention.
Rachel Carson, a world changing environmentalist, was not only a skilled scientist, she had a profound relationship with the rest of nature, writing “the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the Universe about us, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race”. Read more on Rachel Carson, for whom wonder was a radical state of mind.