Life can sometimes seem so complex that it is easy to lose touch with the greater picture. In essence our culture has done just this and has foolishly constructed an entire economy and its society on a very foolish precept – that we can continually use our capital assets (the resources of this planet) to create income, by turning them into products and then throwing them into big holes.
Contact with nature is one of the greatest gifts to combat the dis-eases of modern culture. It links us back to natural organic cycles. The answers are all there just waiting to be seen. Nature’s cycles give great clues about how to manage land, environment, society and even economy in a sustainable manner.
Its really very simple. In modern terms every ‘output’ in nature creates a new ‘input’ elsewhere. New life thrives on decay, the energy always recycles. Our modern investment processes are based on exploiting the capital assets of the earth and using them for income. Its short-term products become polluting waste that are downgrading our environments and poisoning us.
In our society we waste people, products, energy, resources. As a result the very fabric is starting to crumble and the earth is full of toxins. There is another way – just let the woods teach you.
In the rich First World where we generally have enough to eat, the cultural paradigm is shifting from ‘Anthropmorphic’ to ‘Gaian’. Anthropomorphic thought is central to the philosophy of Darwinism and others who helped set humans as ‘apart and above’, or at the head of other life forms. Humanity is the supposed crown of creation, we are created to lord it over every other creature as ‘head of the food chain’. The planet is ours to dominate and exploit to our own demands. We must conquer every mountain and battle against disease. We are the most evolved and dominant species in a process of natural selection. We exist for no purpose and have just evolved through sheer luck.
In this world our media fantasy industries create pigs and fish that can talk human. Animals are anthropomorphised through culture to have the same needs, desires and dreams as humans. The animals, forests, oceans and environment around us exist purely for our convenience. This paradigm is human self-centred and exploitative to the environment and to ourselves.
The Gaian paradigm started with Einstein and the science of energy. Its inception combines an age when we saw the first images of the Earth as a whole entity from space. James Lovelock and his search for life on Mars is a central figure in its development through his identification of the Gaia Hypothesis regarding Earth as a self-regulating system.
This planet we inhabit is a self-balancing, homeostatic system similar to our own as single biological entities. It maintains the optimum conditions for life despite, seemingly, our best efforts to pollute it. Our bodies are a miracle of biology, constantly flexible and adaptive but easy to harm. Anything we do to it or each other, we do to ourselves as we are part of the same ‘web’ or ‘circle’ of life. We are part of an evolving cycle of life, a happening miracle. Ourselves, and the environment in which we live are inseparable.
A shift from anthropomorphic thinking to Gaian is a shift from the linear thinking of extract → use → dump to more cyclical thinking that values the web of life around us. For example the negative environmental impacts of the largely linear production of food are huge. Harmful impacts arise from fertiliser and pesticide use, irrigation, soil erosion, processing, refrigeration, food miles, packaging, supermarkets, cooking and disposal.
The waste and pollution arising from these negative impacts include Climate Change, ozone pollution and depletion of the ozone layer, water pollution, soil loss and degradation, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, human health and so on.
There are many natural cycles associated with food production. But, as an example, take just one – the carbon cycle. When you bring in a compost heap, or even better, a wormery, to a household and use the soil it produces to grow more food, you close the cycle and shift to a new paradigm.