“What would it be like, i wondered to live with that heightened sensitivity to the lives given for ours? To consider the tree in the Kleenex, the algae in the toothpaste, the oaks in the floor, the grapes in the wine; to follow back the thread of life in everything and pay it respect?  Once you start, it’s hard to stop, and you begin to feel yourself awash in gifts”.  R.W Kimmerer 2013

Our current way of thinking often describes the world out there as a collection of objects and English using the pronoun ‘it’ not him and her to describe the non-human.   However, when i engage myself,  the world is clearly full of living subjects, full of species that count. The science of ecology is a language that is well understood by indigenous people’s who continue to tend the land and have the health of their community.  They don’t waste, or disrespect nature.  Their natural knowledge is vast.

At it’s most simple and natural, the planting of corn, beans and squash together, means that the nitrogen from the beans give back to the soil, the leaves of the squash shade out the weeds, the corn stands tall so the bean can grow up and the abundance of insects munching each other, prevents the need for insecticides and herbicides.  Everyone gets fed.  And this is all tended by a human.  The relationship of all living beings, seen and unseen is implicit.

three sisters

In Sussex where i live, the fields are full of crops, supported by chemicals – to feed us. The soil here only just holds them in, doesn’t feed them.  The crows, the Jackdaws, the Rooks are known by the farmers as vermin as they can shred the plants and kill a crop. They are shot down periodically so that the crops can grow.  The circular nature of life has been damaged.

It’s a different way of doing things.  Can anyone refute that all life is circular, and all life exists because of another’s life?  Health is relative to the health of life around us – in both non-human and human.  How can we employ this understanding so that it influences education, economy, and the environment?

I listened last week to Ellen MacArthur who was made a dame in 2005 after the fastest solo sail around the world. “As I stepped off the boat at the finishing line, having broken a record, suddenly I connected the dots,” she says. She realized that the world is like her boat — remarkably finite. The earth carries everything with it necessary for life. And we are using up much of that everything, very fast. She made the unconventional decision to leave sailing behind and focus on the global economy. “The framework within which we live is fundamentally flawed,” she says. “We take material out of ground, make something out of it, ultimately that product gets thrown away … It’s an economy that fundamentally can’t run in the longterm.” In 2010, she founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to work on how to create a circular economy, one that plans for reuse from the very beginning. The foundation works with universities, businesses and governments to make this happen.

It goes beyond basic recycling. It encourages companies to design products from the outset using as few materials as possible, rethink their business models — such as by renting rather than owning equipment — and harness technology to lower resource use. In contrast to the conventional economic system based on taking, making and disposing of things, he described a non-linear economy running in loops, reusing materials, and with big implications for job creation, competitiveness, resource savings and waste creation.  To read more and here Ellen speaking click HERE.  

It appears to me that this worldview held and understood by indigenous people, has found it’s way to a modern language, and this has the potential to bring people together who are creative and successful. To restore and create operating systems that are based on sound ecology.  The worldview of most corporations and educational institutions have not changed since the start of the industrial revolution. But 200 years ago natural resources were more abundant, and it was the availability of labour that was the thing that limited production.  (Segwe the creation of the modern educational system).

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has already succeeded in getting the topic on the agenda at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, attracted big companies to join her campaign (Cisco, for instance, and Renault), and won the most recent Breakthrough Idea award from Thinkers50, which ranks the world’s most innovative management thinkers.

It is good news that we are reaching a tipping point of conciousness.  We do have a huge mountain to climb to awaken our senses,  employ our creative abilities and match this with action and investment.  We need to be generous and courageous, to plant trees that you may never see or make changes that won’t benefit you directly.  To have visionary leaders.  We need to listen to people who are not necessarily ‘successful’ by our cultural standards.  To listen to all the subjects that share this planet.   

The natural system is the most healthy circular system that exists.  The ‘waste’ is food for another. The system is diverse and resilient, built simply for effectiveness.  It does already run on renewable energy – there is no shortage of labour or energy.  Natural law exists to support the relationship of the whole to the parts, these are non-linear, feedback-rich, and interdependent.

I wonder how we can combine our scientific knowledge with the consideration of all the relationships?  If we can consider how to apply a circular system  in our own lives and transform the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.