November 2, 2011 - This talk one was a bit out of the ordinary! My grade 3 and 6 teacher at my catholic primary school, my year 12 religion teacher, my godfather uncle and auntie and mum and dad were in the crowd to hear my thoughts on the links between sustainability and spirituality. I was asked to put some notes together on what I said. I don't use notes, so this is what I remember about what I said, in shorthand, for what it's worth, here it is for the whole world to see ...
1. We are the earth
The Earth in Space Pic: The most published picture. All we can see is air, water and soil. That’s all life needs to survive. Life is interdependent and interconnected. Let's redefine what life is ...
Air: The atoms from one breath today spread around the globe so that a breath taken in one years time contains atoms from that breath the year before. Take a deep breath and hold it in. We just breathed atoms from the breath of every human being who has ever lived. Breathe out - atoms from that breath with be breathed by every human being who is yet to live. The surface area of our lungs is the size of a tennis court. There is no one point where we can say the air ends and our bodies begin. We are air. (David Suzuki on Harlow Shapley's air maths)
Water: Our bodies are 70% water by weight. That water is the same water that has cycled the earth for millennia.
Soil: The structure of each of every cell in our bodies comes from the food that we eat, which comes from the soil. We are what we eat!
Sun: Our bodily energy comes from the sun through our food.
Life: Paul Hawken says that the human body is made up of 1 quadrillion cells, 90% of which are bacteria, microorganisms and fungi. So 90% of what makes us human is not human. Our bodies are a community of living organisms. Every second 1 septillion cellular events are taking place in our bodies - that is a number greater than the total number of planets, stars and asteroids in the known universe - in our bodies, in this instant - that is what life is.
Can you feel that?
Who is in charge?
(For more on "we are the earth" see David Suzuki's Legacy project, including movie and incredible book)
2. Being There
We shared a story of personal connection in nature to remind ourselves of why we go to the river, the ocean, the forest and the beach on our holidays. This is a brilliant Vox Bandicoot environmental education activity best summed up by Peter Dombrovskis:
“When you go out there into the wilderness you don’t get away from it all, you get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself.”
Jane Goodall is often asked how she manages a 300 talks a year schedule. She replies that she carries the peace of the forest inside her.
3. Making the Connections
If we are the air, water and soil and that is what life needs to survive, then surely we should view these things as sacred. This certainly puts a different light on that weekly chores, like putting out the recycling. If we look at the earth in space we have to admit that there is no "AWAY". Everything we throw in landfill ends up in the air, the water or the soil. There is no away. Our use of energy, water, our creation of waste and our pollution of the air, water and soil are destroying life. We need to make the connections.
Richard Louv's book brings these lost connections into real focus. "Last Child in the Woods" pulls together the research about an entire generation of children that are not going outside. They are bombarded with instant gratification on theTV, video games and plastic. Social skills, mental health, wellbeing and personal development are all suffering. Aldo Leopold once said that "we will never save what we do not love and we will never love what we do not understand." We need to reconnect.
We also need a bit of humility. Nature has already solved a lot of our problems. The new science of Biomimicry is now sweeping the world. We are learning that while we make bullet proof vests at 2000 degree temperatures and sulphuric acid, spider silk is a stronger product and it is made while looking after the place that will look after the spiders offspring. This is what all other species of life do. Life creates the conditions conducive to life. What other maxim do we want? If what we are doing is good for life, we should keep doing it. If not we need to change.
4. The Golden Rule
In Paul Hawken's 2007 book Blessed Unrest he documents the size and scale of the biggest human movement in history. Over 2 million community groups across the world in every city, country and political system on earth are now reshaping our relationship with each other and the earth (click Blessed Unrest above to watch Paul talking through the list of groups I played at the talk).
Media and politics don't get it because it is not about taking power and media and politics are owned by the current power paradigm. It is spreading from group to group, from person to person, from conversation to conversation. It is leaderless, classless and varies hugely in it's goals. When the mission statements of 1000 of them were arranged on the walls of a gallery, the amazing thing was that none of them contradicted any of the others. Paul Hawken talks about how they are all really on about the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. The earth included (Karen Armstrong on the Golden Rule).
I am not a "greeny"! I just want to keep living here. I want my children to keep living here and I do not want to do harm to any one or any thing.
5. The Bottom Line
Relating to the human spirit and the earth, money and stuff and power are nothing. They are in fact vacuous and soul destroying. That is not to say that business cannot save and make a lot of money from the path to sustainability. They are. It is that money for it's own sake is nothing and the real purpose of business is to serve. Business needs to put the meaning into the money.
Indeed, media and politics and the old economy don't get sustainability precisely because it is about the human spirit.
Life, love and community are everything: they are the real bottom line.
6. The Song
To conclude I played "Don't Give up on Us", by Shane Howard