Today’s blog is the latest in a series from Richard Jurin who, before his retirement, ran the Environmental Studies programme at the University of Northern Colorado, launching a degree in Sustainability Studies. His academic interests are environmental worldviews and understanding barriers to sustainability. As ever, with our blogs, Richard’s views are not necessarily shared by NAEE.
We have a lot of great teachers educating about the environment and how the planet works ecologically like a single organism, but with humans acting as though they are outside this complex system. The publics we work to educate about our environmental, ecological, social, and economic crises seem addicted to quick and easy fixes that would still permit everything to continue as before. But what we had before is the problem for why we are in the crises we are experiencing. I recall in the 1990s, a short booklet by the Sierra Club titled, 50 things to do to Save the Planet. It was a good little book packed with simple things on how to live with more environmental sensitivity, and I’m sure a lot of people read it, and many even continue to adhere to its advice ideas. Yet three decades later, despite endless meetings by elites (e.g., COP 1 through 26 to date), any changes have been incremental.
Philosopher and novelist, Daniel Quinn states, “One day, sooner or later, [our current way of living] is going to collapse, and the penthouse is going to come down along with all the rest.” Like many modern environmental prophets, we have a chorus of voices warning us of what will come if we fail to heed the warnings. We talk about this programme and that program, and debate a lot about government policies, but the elephant in the room is our addiction to consumer living, that drives us farther and faster to a seemingly unavoidable collapse. Whatever the reasons for non-action, if we’re not careful, we are going to end up exactly where we are headed. If you leave Manchester, intending to go north to Glasgow, then turn south to Birmingham, it doesn’t matter what speed you do, or whatever technology you create along the way to make your vehicle efficient and environmentally friendly. Unless you stop, turn around, and head north, you will never get to your destination.
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. … It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.” David Orr. Our problem is that we have an ideological divide, not a technological one. As I said in my Waiting for Superman post, we cannot tweak our way to a sustainable world In any big change, deconstruction always precedes reconstruction. We don’t have to destroy the old world but we do need to let it go, and with it many of the notions of what life was and instead focus on what life could be. Hanging onto the scientific worldview and letting technocrats run the world is what got us to where we are. We need to reconnect the humanities when looking at any major choices.
Our world is predominantly run by our left brain. The left brain is about things, data, and analysis. The right brain is about relationships and how things are interconnected. Let’s stop solving problems through regulation and work on changing culture. It’s the difference of thinking about the world, through a reductionist model of thinking as something you must control, instead of reflecting on the world as more than the sum of its parts with more Gestalt thinking about it. And that includes humans merely being a part of the planet and not the controllers. As long as we believe that technology can control a problem, we will always inadvertently create more problems. This is as true for a virus as it is for a whole planet. The Medieval Renaissance helped us move out of the ‘dark ages.’ It is time for a ‘Nova Renascentia’ to move out of the technological age into a new sustainability age.
Richard can be contacted at: Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org