Written by Brad Dixon

Our entire system needs to change coming out the other side of this “great pause”. Change will need to be driven from within, and external public policy. Pain and time to reflect can create opportunity to change.

It has been stated that nature has had enough of the selfish and petulant attitude of the human race, so has grounded us, allowing us time to take stock of our destructive actions. Are we ready to come out of our rooms with an improved attitude?

For the first time in our history humankind has achieved a global interdependent society. Unfortunately, this has been on the back of massive consumption and growth creating enormous harm and imbalance to the earth’s living systems. These systems are our life force. Living with no regard of our natural worlds ability to thrive is unsustainable and stupid.  The collateral damage of our current living situation is……….

  • total biosphere breakdown (climate change is only one symptom of this)
  • collapse of our ecosystems, habitats, and food security
  • increasing vulnerability to illness and pandemics (especially zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19)
  • social and economic breakdown
  • plastic and chemical pollution that is destructive for our health and that of our planet.
  • heading towards a larger gap between those that “have” and those that “don’t” (Our most wealthy 23 individuals have more money than the worlds poorest 3.5 billion people)

Humankind has veered in the direction of total dis-intergration. We have become more disconnected with each other, and our natural world. We have bought into the myth that stuff equals happiness and it’s alright for 2 billion of us to eat too much, helping contribute to lifestyle disease, while almost a billion of us are slowly starving to death. We are currently feeding 70 billion livestock a year. Out intensive animal agricultural system uses 83% of the world’s farmland, provides only 18% of calories, and produces 60% of greenhouse gas emissions (source).  Crucial to our survival as a species is a radical change of direction to a better synergistic relationship with self, others, animals, and the planet.

Compassion and love are feelings that act as an inner compass guiding us towards more synergistic relationships with our surrounding beings and ecosystems. Living authentically with love and compassion will help reinforce these feelings, manifesting them as actions that will change the world. We need to bring our behaviour into alignment with our personal values and compassion for all beings.

  • All living beings are equally valuable members of the Gaian system (or all ecosystems in our biosphere).
  • Our love and wisdom must exceed our power. We must consider the effects of all our actions and purchases have on all other living beings and living systems.
  • The entire planetary system works in a symphony that far exceeds what our conscious intellect can fully grasp.

Regardless of where we are heading as a planet, living with this value-driven, heart felt way will offer maximum fulfillment in the time we have. Just sitting back with the smug belief that there is a place in the afterlife for your particular “group” is a defeatist and selfish attitude. We are called to help those that are less fortunate than us NOW in this life.  Let go of future based hope or despair and embrace a life that is grateful for the moment and values-driven.

“Active hope is not wishful thinking. Active hope is not waiting to be rescued by the lone ranger or some saviour. Active hope is waking up to the beauty of life, waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. You and we all are capable of falling in love with the life at the moment when it needs our response…..It is a readiness to engage and a readiness to discover the strengths in ourselves and in others, a readiness to discover the reasons for hope and the occasions for love, a readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts, our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose, ready to discover that again and again seeing active hope as a verb, it is something you can do even when you’ve feeling discouraged.”  Joanna Macy

Cultivating these kind of attitudes and behaviours will increase synergy, healthy interdependence, and a better sense of WELLNESS for us, our family, our community, and our entire earth. The following are points that I noted down from an excellent course, “Navigating the global crisis,” taken by Dr. Paris Williams (Phd, Clinical Psychologist, Ecotherapist – www.cncl.info). Specific Actions we can take…….

  • Tend to your own personal growth and healing. We need to take care of self before we attend to the needs of others.
  • Spend regular scheduled time outdoors in nature. Our natural world nourishes our souls.
  • Eat a plant based diet to show kindness to our fellow beings and the earth (in line with current EAT-Lancet report on healthy diets and sustainable food).
  • Grow your own food where possible (pots on decks, vegetable gardens instead of grass, community gardenc, etc.), then trade with your local area to enrich your community.
  • Buy local, organic, cruelty-free, fair trade products.
  • Minimise the impact of personal and product transportation.
  • Look at renewable energy options like solar and wind but most of all be LESS wasteful with food and power.
  • SIMPLIFY life – use less, recycle, buy used.
  • Support humane charities with time and/or money. We need to decrease the growing poverty gap.
  • Understand the vested interests in the media and learn how to educate yourself away from large industry-funded marketing.

Our beautiful country needs to base itself around an economy that values well-being and our natural environment with the deep respect they require. Dr. Kate Raworth has presented on her theory of “Doughnut Economics.”  This is a timely wake up call to transform our capitalist worldview blinded with unending growth, into a more balanced, sustainable, regenerative and distributive economy that allows both human beings and nature to thrive. Johan Rockstrom agrees that a change is required. When asked what the number one economic threat was, he replied – “humanities inability to value nature.” We need change from within individuals and good leadership from local and central government.  These following general policy points are inspired from social media posts by Dr. Mike Joy (Freshwater ecologist and eco scientist) and a few of my thoughts.

  • Urban traffic management pedestrians have priority, then bikes, scooters, skateboards. Cars need to have the lowest priority to decrease our car centrist culture.
  • Maintain our cars well so we don’t replace as often, and they run more efficiently with less emissions. Have stricter emission testing as part of a warrant.
  • Make all public transport free and look to electrify where able (funded by road user charge on cars).
  • Provide free local community working hubs (hot desk type places) to avoid commuting when not necessary. Workplaces to have different start times, or more flexible work hours when able, to reduce gridlock in the morning.
  • Nationalise Electricity – look at a NZ Electricity Department. Cheaper power to the vulnerable in our society subsidised by levy on the power bill of those in the top 20% of earnings.
  • Set up a truly Independent Environmental Protection Authority and have its number one role as protecting our natural world, especially waterways. Every decision made with the consideration of effects of decisions over minimum 50-year time span, or even better, seven generations in the future. Nature has to be at the centre of all future policy.
  • Shut down Kapuni Urea plant – instead, nitrogen can be fixed by clover in pastures and give us healthier more life-giving soils.
  • Gradually change to regenerative, chemical free diverse farming systems. These are healthy, beautiful, soil-enhancing places to work so New Zealanders will again want to be working on the land, and we will need to bring in far fewer numbers of people from poorer countries to work our land ( www.calmthefarm.nz )
  • Stop imports of Palm Kernel and Synthetic nitrogen. These destroy overseas ecosystems and destroy our soil’s ability to grow nutritious food. Dairy needs to move towards more organic, regenerative, and less industrial.
  • Decrease importing anything that contains something we exported (wood products, clothing ….) cut out middle country and look at investing in industry to make it here. ADD value at source to create more jobs.
  • Electrify all rail and cover NZ then limit trucking to local deliveries only – this will limit road wear and tear and decrease diesel use (we had this in 1970’s).
  • Reinstate car-less days (every other day) to promote other forms of transport as a preferred option – for health, and climate change responsibility.
  • All products, imported and locally sold, must display a label (peer-reviewed with no vested industry interest) giving its ecological footprint, including water, GHG emission, energy return on investment, country of origin for all components.
  • Start the conversation on population control. We need to stop adding to the issue until we have our global house in order.

As we dip our toes out of total lockdown, I hope we don’t forget what put us into this isolated state in the first place. Our lack of love and respect for our natural world is starting to produce symptoms that are effecting our enjoyment of living.  Just like a human body that is not looked after with quality relationships, nutritious food, sleep, and daily movement to keep fit for purpose, our life support system – OUR planet is faltering to provide a good life for us. Pain creates the nudge needed to change. Are you ready to change direction to save yourself, our planet, and future generations?