Are we disconnected from nature? Do we control nature? Do we make nature adapt to us? Or do we have these ideas very wrong? Today we will examine a quiet, but fundamental question- are we nature?
We can trace things to the period around the Industrial Revolution of 18th Century, when thinkers such as John Locke, religious institutions, legal scholars, and the law presupposed nature was separate to us. It presupposed we had dominion, control over nature. Through legal property rights we owned property, we controlled land, it was seen as separate to us- a simple possession. It became the foundation for wealth creation for much of the subsequent centuries. But do we really own land based merely on legal rights and other fictions? Even if we do have rights over land, then we surely also have responsibilities. We surely must manage, protect and steward land not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Today, most people would agree with the idea of land stewardship. It is a precursor for foundational ideas around the more modern idea of Sustainability. Stewardship and Sustainability bring us closer to seeing ourselves as part of nature.
If we think about technological history, the story is similar. The ideas that underpin technology also assume we are separate from nature. We can control nature and its resources. They are there for us to simply exploit, to create material wealth for us, our family and our stockholders. We assume we control nature, nature does not control us. We believe we can control nature through technology. From the automobile, to buildings, to digital technology, we believe we adapt nature to suit us, not the other way around. We are prepared to accept it is the opposite for the rest of the natural world- other living things adapt to nature or natural forces. Can we have it both ways? Can we except ourselves from Darwinian Evolution? Or we are just beginning to see this error in our thinking? Are we just beginning to see, like all living things, we are part of nature, and we must adapt to nature?
Sustainable housing, Biomimicry and other advances are exciting new areas of innovation today. They are examples of us returning to consistent, better thinking about nature. For example, a sustainable housing project today produces buildings that can be carbon neutral, perhaps even a carbon sink. Or a building that minimises or eliminates waste. All of these design elements fit and adapt to natural elements. Biomimicry is simply learning and then using natural systems and design elements in our technology and products. These advances are clear evidence of us slowly returning to nature, seeing ourselves as part of nature, adapting to nature, just like all living organisms.
This movement is also evident in recent, broader ideas, including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental Social Government (ESG), Jeremy Rifkin’s Biosphere Consciousness (Rifkin 2013), and of course, Ecological Sustainable Development, or simply Sustainability. They are now collected in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due in 2030. All of these ideas have one key idea in common- ‘we are nature’.
I wrote the simple words, ‘we are nature’ a few weeks ago and shared it with others online. Many agreed, and it seemed to strike a chord. Its simplicity stopped me in my tracks when I first wrote it. Perhaps we have forgotten something very fundamental, despite the exponential growth in our knowledge, despite our technological advances. It is if we have forgotten part of our common identity, forgotten a part of a collective consciousness. Only in recent years have we begun to re-think things. Issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, air and other forms of toxic pollution have reached tipping points. They are emphatic proof that separating ourselves from nature simply does not work. They are emphatic proof that thinking we are separate or above nature, will destroy us and many other living organisms. They are emphatic proof returning to the core idea, ‘we are nature’ is essential. From this mindset, from Sustainability Consciousness, we find inclusion. We find authenticity. We find a way to build higher forms of value and wealth. We find a clear road towards the Sustainable Economy.
“Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so called scientific knowledge.” – Thomas Edison.
By Lee Spano, Creatness International www.creatness.com
Rifkin, J 2013, The Third Industrial Revolution, Griffin Charles & Co Ltd, Great Britain.
© Lee Spano / Creatness International. All rights reserved.
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