Mind-shift is the first stage in our journey towards a Regenerative future. It involves the exploration of Mindsets and Worlds views, our Cultural memes and how we need to change them. Building upon our earlier post on this topic, we will start by considering the origin of our World views and the impact they have on our relationship with Mother Earth. Let’s begin by asking a question:
Our Planet and Human Society is becoming increasingly fragile – why?
The answer lies in the way we perceive the world around us, our perspective. Usually we consider perspectives as seeing things from different vantage points or maybe a zoomed in view through a microscope or telescope. BUT – what if there is a filter which adjusts what we see, one we are not even aware is there – what we see through this filter is our World view and it differs from person to person.
A World view is influenced by our cultural background and our experiences, we create our own filter over time and we are not even aware we are doing it. It is as if we exist within a bubble and only when we become aware of our filters and someone helps us to burst the bubble do we get a chance to see other views which might matter maybe as much as, or even more than, our own immediate concerns.
So what affects our World views?
Ever since we (humans) learned to write things down we have become more and more separated from the world around us. Primarily we use our eyes and record what we see, sometime we capture sounds, but neglect our other senses, touch, taste and smell. We try to describe and explain (to rationalise) things that are far too complex for us to fully appreciate with such a limited range of senses.
How often do we learn about things that have been recorded in this limited way – as a second hand observer?
The answer is, almost all the time!
When I think back to my school days I remember learning about glaciers in geography lessons. We used a text book which had descriptions, diagrams and one or two pictures – did I know about a glacier? Not really, not until I stood on one, smelt it, heard it, felt it. Even then I only had a momentary glimpse of a small fraction of what it really was.
In the book “Original Wisdom” by Robert Wolff, the author recounts a story in which he journeys from a village deep in the jungle accompanied by a tribal elder (a shaman of sorts). They travel to the coast. The elder has never left his valley before, he has never seen the sea and yet somehow without even touching or tasting the water he knows that the sea is salty. How did he know this? No one had told him. Was it magic or some deeper sense of the world around him, perhaps he was using senses that most of us have forgotten how to use or maybe he was just paying more attention.
This separation from the world by reliance on books (and more recently films and videos) has limited our understanding of the world without us even realising it. If you ask a child – where does milk come from? They might say, from a bottle, from the fridge, from a shop. If they are lucky they might say a cow. If they are luckier still they may have seen a cow being milked. Or maybe you ask – where does bread come from? A shop? How many of us have made our own bread, seen the flour being ground, seen the wheat being harvested, planted a seed? We might have learned about all of these things at school or watched a documentary on TV but that is not the same; we don’t really know about these things – we have lost the direct link to the world around us, living within a bubble of human perception.
Why does all this matter?
It matters because our world is in trouble, things are starting to behave differently, seasons are less reliable, weather more extreme, flooding and droughts more frequent. Much of this fragility has been caused by the way we have been living, living separated from the world, not fully appreciating the way things are linked together. Forgetting that we are a part of the world not separate from it. Our dominant World view has become very Ego-centric – where people prioritise the wellbeing of themselves and the others in their social group. This Ego-centric view also conceptualises Man (and indeed commonly men) as being at the top of the pyramid and in a more important position than all other creatures and nature itself.
Seeing the world around us as other has led to us to exploit it, to believe that it is in service to us. Just because we have developed ways of describing and rationalising (explaining) our world it does not mean that we are somehow superior and in control of it. We consume resources with no perspective on how quickly they are replenished, no sense of the earth’s capacity to deal with the waste that we produce, little sense of the time frame over which the systems flow.
In contrast, an Eco-centric view focuses on the wellbeing of the whole system, where mankind is viewed as an equal component in a more reciprocal and symbiotic relationship with the rest of nature. We need to re-learn how to adopt this wider World view – to see the global systems around us.
How can we do that?
The answer is remarkably simple – by paying more attention – reaching beyond the bubble that confines our understanding.
Lets consider an example. Imagine you are out with friends, its lunch time, you’re hungry, you decide to get a bite to eat. You opt for a quick, simple hamburger, ready in ten minutes, only a couple of pounds so it won’t break the bank.
When we make choices like this we seldom (if ever) stop to ask ourselves – where does this hamburger I’m about to eat actually come from, what is the true cost of making it?
Let’s, for the sake of our story, ask ourselves that question. To go some way to answering it we need to break our burger down into its various parts, the bun, the beef patty, the tomato etc. The bun might be made from wheat flour, wheat grown somewhere like the Ukraine. The beef might be from a cow reared in the UK, probably fed on grass supplemented with soya. The soya may well be imported from somewhere in South America. Our tomato is most likely imported from somewhere warmer, maybe from Spain. All of these things, the wheat, the grass, the soya, the tomato need soil, nutrients, water to grow. What kind of soil/land, how much water? The true cost in terms of natural resources is hard to quantify.
Ok, so by now you are thinking – enough already – I don’t know. All I want is a burger, not a geography lesson, I don’t have time for this!
Now we get to the very nub of the issue. Because we have become so separated from the natural sources of things we find it hard to have a sense of their true value. Most of us don’t grow our own food, we probably don’t buy much, if anything, from a local farmer. We get it from a supermarket, a restaurant, a street vendor – the links to nature are so distant we forget they are there at all – we have become completely disconnected from the global ecosystem.
Our disconnection means we have little (if any) perspective on how robust/strong/stable that system is. Systems have flows/cycles/capacity limits – there are limits to our consumption – our Planet and Human Society is becoming increasingly fragile because we are exceeding those limits!
So what can we do?
- We need to shift our mindsets – see the systems better and understand that our relationship to the system needs to be Eco-centred not Ego-separated.
- We also need to understand the global ecosystem better – adopting a holistic view, focussing more on connections than on individual parts; shifting from control (ego view) to collaboration (eco view); thinking about flow and cycles in the system and getting more in tune with the longer term processes that sustain it.
Sounds simple doesn’t it, and yet, for some reason, we find it difficult. In the next instalment on Mind-shift we will explore the aspects of our human nature that tend to lock us into our bubbles and how we might learn to break free and Re-connect with the world.
Over the coming months we will be taking a deeper dive into some of the topics discussed here. To keep up to date with the new Regenerative Concepts resources as they are released you can subscribe here.