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).

 


 

 

3 comments:

Caroline said...

I always find it interesting when we travel we tend to see a forest or other habitat through something much closer to the relationship you describe. We hunger for knowledge of the wildlife who inhabit it, the local communities, the arts that either celebrate it or integrated with it. It is as though this lense / or desire is something we pack! Maybe this is us seeking the temporary connections to something we have lost in our new day to day lives. If we can unlock it, even temporarily, there is so much hope for this sustained change and the breadth of people who could think, feel and act in this way.

Tony Whitbread said...

Hi Caroline. Interesting comment. Maybe we're more alive to "our better nature" when we go on holiday, as if we give ourselves permission to reconnect. Maybe there should be more of that reconnection where we are and the place we chose, as well as in the places we chose to go on holiday. A main theme in my mind is re-localisation. We've moved away from the local over the years and don't cherish where we are enough. Traditional societies say you need to be there for 3 generations to get to know a place - so it would be good to start soon!

Viviane Doussy said...

Travel elsewhere and unfamiliarity indeed somehow helps us look at things afresh. Back home we are often locked into habituation to a toxic world. We need to remove the barriers that prevent us from our full experience of the immediate local place around us. I really like the 3 generation-thing that Tony mentions.