Friday, 11 September 2020

YOUR BETTER NATURE – we are part of nature, not separate from it


On 2nd September 2020 we launched the “Your BetterNature series of webinars. 


The assertion in this series is that our current human story – the story we tell ourselves about what it is to be human – is toxic and false.  The idea of the competitive, selfish, consumptive, exploitative human is wrong.  It is destructive to nature and destructive to us.  “Your Better Nature” maintains that humans do have a better nature, one that is inherent in us and has underpinned humanity for the bulk of our 200,000 years of existence as a species.  We now need a new human story to replace the falsehood of the current tale that we are sold and repeat to ourselves. 


In “Your Better Nature” we look at some of the principles that we feel underpins a new human story.  One of these is that a new human story insists that, fundamentally, we are part of nature, not separate from it.  The old human story sees nature as a resource to exploit and a dumping ground for our waste.  A new human story would see nature in a very different way.  On 9th September we discussed this in Webinar 2 and you can watch the video here.


Seeing ourselves as part of nature will have many implications on our world view.  But as an illustration, I imagined a walk in the woods.  How would we perceive the experience of a walk in the woods according to the human story we tell ourselves?



A walk in the woods


Our current (old) human story holds that the wood is simply a timber production resource.  It is a crop, managed as a crop and eventually harvested as a crop.  It is a resource for exploitation.  We might call it a forest but would think “plantation”.  The only value would be the timber, looking after the forest would just be a “cost”.  Profits would go elsewhere; workers would be external contractors.  Little value would accrue to locals.  The local community would now see a devastated area of land where once there was a living forest. The old human story is one of exploitation, destruction, and conversion into financial value. 


Partial transition to a new human story would see the forest as a sustainably managed resource providing many things and if managed well, could do so forever.  But if the old human story of never-ending growth and exploitation remains, then sustainably managed forests become an ever-decreasing element within an ever-increasing demand.  Continual growth means other places get damaged.



The new human story will see things very differently. 


A walk through a wood will be a walk through a story book.


We wouldn’t be thinking “resource and profitability”, we would be thinking “place and how we are part of it”.


You would read its history in the structure of the trees, in its landform and in the plants and animals that you see.


You would see its links to products that you use day to day, you would know the people that work there and the families that are supported.


You would understand that this forest ecosystem was locking up carbon, that the soils were growing.  You would know that it was reducing our risks such as flood risk, soil erosion even disease risks.  We would know about the wildlife that was flourishing and spreading into surrounding areas.


Most of all, you would see the forest as a diverse and intricate living system.  A natural ecosystem which works and regenerates by itself forever with people cherishing it and receiving continual benefits. 


It would be seen as a system to learn from and emulate in gardens, such as in permaculture, forest gardens, productive food forests, as well as in agriculture more generally.


In this place you would see the past and our ancestors written in the forest.  You would see yourself as a good ancestor to future generations because you would be supporting a system that is self-sustaining in perpetuity.


The value of the forest would be as much in its simple existence, and as a place for re-creation, inspiration, creative arts, health and wellbeing, as it is as a place providing practical benefits and products.


The need for growth would not exist as we, our community and our society would be thriving whether or not we grow (rather than growing whether or not we thrive).




Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Your Better Nature


The world is broken. Our current story (the tale we tell ourselves of how human nature is meant to be) is toxic, suicidal and, more importantly, FALSE. 


We are sold a story of humans being inherently selfish: we are out for what we can get, we are competitive, we push others down to put ourselves first.  Our whole economic system is based on the idea of the selfish human.  This drives competition and continual economic growth.  Our relationship with nature is that of dominance, exploitation, and destruction.  That is the way it is.  Those who would have it otherwise are just “idealists”.  


This is, however, just a story.  The reality is that humans came to dominate the earth not because we are selfish, but because we are hyper-social.  We look after each other, we work together, find solutions together, and we cherish and look after the places we live in.  As a weak biped, we would not have got far on the African plains had we just led a solitary, defensive life.


Unlike what the horror movies would have us believe, when put under pressure by a pandemic humans did not turn into monsters.  On the contrary (apart from some obvious exceptions!) we turned into fine human beings.  We rediscovered our humanity and our society.  We also reconnected with our own wildlife and our local places.  90% of those asked did not want a return to the old exploitative “normal”.  We might have believed that society would break down under pressure, but in practise the opposite happened.  Society rediscovered itself.


The story guiding society today is a falsehood.  Ecological and climate breakdown means the lie has run its course.  It is not possible to go on as we are.  Continuous economic growth has destroyed much of the nature on which we depend, but it has not delivered the dream world that was promised.  Growth, consumption, and consumerism has not even satisfied those who were successful.  We must now re-write our human story.  

YOUR BETTER NATURE is a new group of committed environmentalists from West Sussex. Tony Whitbread, Ecologist and President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust together with Paul Hannam, Author and Environmental Leader discuss some of the most important issues of our time.  Conversations are directed by Jane Mote, presenter/film producer and ex-BBC journalist. Viviane Doussy moderates the discussion, drives the social messaging and helps bring everything together.  We will be investigating how changing our human story at a systemic level will improve our lives and nature too.  


YOUR BETTER NATURE offers a visionary discussion programme on ecology, environmental issues and behavioural change to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse. In this group we are committed environmentalists.  We aim to create a global interactive channel through which we explore transformative strategies around the central theme that humans and nature can flourish together.


Join us for free, to participate in these 5 discussions using the zoom online platform for this particular series.  Recordings will be made available afterwards on our YouTube channel


Please keep Wednesday evenings 7-8pm free in your diaries for the whole of September.  Book your tickets ASAP viaEventbrite as these events are anticipated to get over-subscribed.  



Saturday, 4 July 2020

Climate and ecological breakdown – THE WORST CASE OF RACISM

We may not think of ourselves as racists.  Maybe it is true that in our day to day lives we do treat people, whatever their background, with equal respect.  Yet our privileged lifestyles rely on a world system where we create devastating problems, and it is people in other countries (generally those who are least responsible for causing them) who suffer most.  We therefore benefit hugely from a society that is inherently racist. 

Our lifestyles are driving climate and ecological breakdown.  This statement is not even scientifically controversial, it is a matter of fact. 

In Britain we are noticing changes: more floods, droughts, storms, rising seas, wildlife collapsing, soils washing out to sea and fish populations plummeting.  But these are tiny compared to the devastating effects that impact other areas.  Low lying islands will disappear under the sea, some people are already having to relocate.  Forests are burning, indigenous peoples are displaced, sometimes even murdered.  Floods and monsoons will flatten vast areas.  Crops will fail in regions made more arid by climate change.  Millions will starve.  It will not be long before parts of the globe will be uninhabitable, temperatures having tipped over a point where humans can survive.  And this is in places that are populated today, so where will the inhabitants go?  Oxfam has estimated that there are already 20 million climate refugees – people made homeless by climate change - probably a huge underestimate.  The worst drought in 900 years was one stimulus to the problems in Syria.  Wars and conflict are almost inevitable. 

And it’s only just the beginning. 

People forced into destitution by climate and ecological breakdown happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most have played little part in this devastation, yet they will suffer most from it.  We cause the problems – they suffer from them.  And we are “fine” with that!? 

There is a horrible tendency to dismiss “other” people – they are often black or brown, live a long way away and are not like us, so we care about them less.  “Othering” people is a justification to treating them differently.  Our lifestyles cause devastation to other people but we are not prepared to give up our luxuries just because it affects those “others”!  Racism at its worst!  Maybe we’ll send a patronisingly small amount of oversees aid to make ourselves feel better.

But is this the worst case of racism?  How about historic racism – stealing other people’s lands and forcing them into slavery.  Surely that is worse?  But, put to one side that our current global economic system was fuelled by past racist exploitation, perhaps we can’t take responsibility for the past.  However, this same economic system is driving environmental collapse today and will disproportionately impact hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people globally before the end of the century.  Being part of a global system that is inevitably causing the death and destitution of millions of “other” people of colour far away surely is the very definition of racism? 

In our defence, this is not about individuals.  It is very difficult for an individual to recognise the problem, let alone change something that operates on a global systemic level (even more so when that same system deliberately aims to isolate us from the consequences of our actions). 

Some paint concern about the ecological and climate emergency as a luxury that just concerns the white, rich, middle class.  They imply you are racist if all you are bothered about is tree-hugging!  The very opposite is the truth – it is failure to address the ecological and climate emergency that is racist, catastrophically racist, unforgivably racist.  Inactivity leaves us complicit.