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 people do care about our environment.
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, so little change has 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:
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 focused 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, and our behaviours are an outcome of our thinking and values. (Please read this statement again – and again. It 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 into it, without first fixing the leak!
To successfully address today’s environmental challenges, we first need to identify and correct the thinking patterns and value systems that drive the behaviours that produce the unhappy outcomes (the 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 up with a very similar list to mine. The problem is 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 include:
The Seven Virtues of Eco-Logic
|ECO-LOGICALLY DESTRUCTIVE THINKING||ECO-LOGICAL V.I.R.T.U.E.S.|
|1||Fear (doom and gloom), anger and apathy – Far too much of this has already been spread around, resulting in people feeling overwhelmed and unable to make a real difference to the state of our home planet, Earth.||Vision and purpose – Fighting against wears you down, but fighting for stimulates, invigorates and excites. We need to identify a clear vision of what we do want in order to motivate and give us positive direction and purpose to create the beautiful, healthy and sustainable world we would like to live in.|
|2||Insular/silo thinking – A lack of awareness and consideration for the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of Earth’s systems and the potential effects that any individual action can have on the whole system.||Inclusive, holistic perspective – Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ of our impact on society and the Earth’s eco-systems. Taking into consideration the potential (beneficial or destructive) knock-on effects of our choices and actions.|
|3||Disconnection with nature – Significantly due to urbanisation and packaging of our daily foods, many have forgotten that we are absolutely dependent on nature and healthy eco-systems for our physical health, emotional wellbeing and sustainable economic development.||Reconnection with nature – Recognising the importance of nature and the value of her eco-system services for our physical, emotional and economic health. We must learn from and build a regenerative (rather than extractive) relationship with nature in order to gain the material and economic advantages and benefits of biomimicry and circular economy efficiencies.|
|4||One-dimensional (exclusively intellectual) thinking as a basis for decision-making in business and science – A lack of emotional and intuitive intelligence results in a brutal, mechanistic, commodity-based view of nature and people. This causes waste, destruction and loss of natural resources and eco-systems as well as the cruel abuse of individuals and communities.||Three-dimensional intelligence – By integrating intellectual intelligence with emotional and intuitive intelligence, we reach more balanced and compassionate (wise) conclusions and decisions. We then view and treat people and our planet as if they are just as important as intellectual and material property and profits.|
|5||Ego-centred focus results in a lack of social cohesion – Climate change and the many other environmental challenges we are currently facing are far too big for any one person, community or even one nation to solve on their own. We need to unite as humanity to act against the biggest challenges facing our people and planet today. Yet we have allowed ourselves to become divided by selfishness; racism; nationalism; religion; politics; and other superficial differences that prevent us.||Ubuntu, care for community – Recognising that humanity is threatened by the same environmental challenges; we need to put aside our differences in order to ensure our future survival. In an ubuntu society that recognises our mutual dependence and our common humanity, the minor differences of race, religion, politics and so on become less important. By actively promoting and building an ubuntu consciousness in business and society, we increase our ability to collaborate and utilise our diverse skills and knowledge to meet and overcome our common social and environmental challenges|
|6||Materialistic focus drives unsustainable Consumerism –Unbridled material self-gratification results in about 20% of the (richest) world’s population consuming about 80% of the world’s resources. That’s a recipe for social and political instability.
Driven by a shallow, immature and misguided value system that believes that the more (money and stuff) you consume and own, the more important you are in society. This thinking drives unsustainable levels of consumption, breeds corruption and diverts us from the non-materialistic things in life that bring about far more meaningful and long-lasting fulfilment and self-actualisation.
|Ethical focus to drive a quality based approach to consumption – By increasing attention on our non-material virtues and assets (including arts and culture or spiritual and psychological self-development), we reduce the need for material goods to define and maintain our sense of self-worth.
And if, when choosing goods that we actually need, we opt for high quality goods that last longer instead of disposable or short-lifespan goods, we can reduce the overall quantity of the world’s resources that we are consuming.
When we actively choose to be an ‘ethical consumer’ (buying from those organisations that choose to reduce their environmental impact), we can further drive down the levels of environmental destruction, waste, pollution and climate change caused by wasteful and unsustainable production processes.
|7||Short-term thinking – Being motivated by profits today and instant gratification of our wants and wishes, without due care and consideration for the future.||Sustainable long-term thinking – This is most especially relevant to economic and political strategy. We must balance our short-term wants and wishes with our ability to meet our long-term needs.|
So these are the footprints of the 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 right. And the time is right 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.
Every year, myself and a select panel of business and environmental senior executives judge and present the Eco-Logic Awards. I hope you are as inspired by the entries and winners as I am. Find out more here.
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 beautiful Earth.
We have the potential – do you have the will?
What do you think?
– David Parry-Davies
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Cheetah Outreach campaigns to bring the plight of the free-ranging cheetah into full focus within the communities of South Africa through financial partnerships with the Cheetah Conservation Fund and the National Wild Cheetah Management Programme to support in-situ conservation, Environmental Education programmes and workshops, and training of cheetah ambassadors. To date, The Enviropaedia has donated R17 000.00 from book sales to Cheetah Outreach. The funds have enabled them to visit many more underprivileged schools and also pay to send a teacher to the United States on a two-month Fellowship in Environmental Education.
Dolphin Action and Protection Group (DAPG)
Founded by Nan Rice in 1977, with the express aim of campaigning for the protection and conservation of dolphins and whales, DAPG has since broadened its role and activities and has run many successful national educational and fundraising campaigns. To date, The Enviropaedia has donated R10 000 from book sales to DAPG.
Ecolink is a training and development NGO, founded in 1985 by Dr Sue Hart, Executive Director. Ecolink’s mission is: ‘To enhance the quality of life for people in their own environment in a sensitive manner and create an awareness of how they interact with their natural resources.’ EcoLink is committed to offering new opportunities for sustainable self-development through environmental education and skills training. To date, The Enviropaedia has donated R16 000.00 from book sales to EcoLink.
Food and Trees for Africa
Food and Trees for Africa, established by Jeunesse Park in 1990, is a national greening NGO facilitating a healthy and sustainable quality of life for disadvantaged communities through the promotion of tree planting, permaculture, urban greening and environmental awareness. To date, The Enviropaedia has donated R16 000.00 from book sales to Food and Trees for Africa.
Make a Difference (MAD)
MAD was borne out of a dream that Francois Pienaar and his friends had of making a difference in South Africa by providing educational opportunities for less-privileged children. The Enviropaedia has supported the MAD Echo Training Youth Programme by donating 200 copies – one for every child and educator on the programme.
Promoting and Sponsoring Non-Profit NGOs
In addition to donating cash to selected NGOs, The Enviropaedia also has a standard policy of providing free listings in the Directory section for non-profit NGOs. By sponsoring their listings, The Enviropaedia provides these NGOs with much-needed publicity and exposure – without depleting their limited financial resources.
Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)
Founded in 1968, SANCCOB has responded to every major oil spill along the South African coast and has saved the lives of over 81 000 oiled and injured sea birds. The Enviropaedia began a relationship with SANCCOB in 2005 by supporting their annual fund-raising Penguin Festival in Simon’s Town and donating R2 000.00 from the sale of books at the festival to SANCCOB.