Take a moment to consider our predicament. For the past five hundred years or so, possibly longer, mankind has been on a mission to conquer nature. We have positioned science as our way to master the forces of nature, control them and wield them for our own advancement. (And yes, I am consciously using masculinised terms in describing this process.)
And at the end of this, what do we find? That Nature, in the form of climate change, wild fires, cyclones, flooding, is releasing an energy beyond our expectations. We seek to control Nature in one place and it springs up with unexpected force somewhere else.
The lesson in this is not that Nature is a vengeful force ready to punish us. It is simply that Nature, the living force of this planet is far stronger than we are. To put it simply, Gaia is the most powerful force on this planet - because it is the life force energy of the planet itself. The whole planet. From molten core, to frozen poles, to rushing rivers, crashing waves and awe-inspiring mountain vistas.
This one simple truth is the only thing that can save us now.
We have pushed the world to breaking point. We have crossed several Planetary Boundaries and are heading headlong into crossing several more. This has set in motion processes that are quite possibly in runaway. We cannot reverse them. By which I mean Science cannot reverse them. Technology cannot reverse them.
Only the most powerful force on the planet - Gaia - can reverse ecological meltdown. We would do well to accept the plain truth that we must stop trying to save the planet and instead let the planet save us.
The challenge we face can sometimes feel insurmountable. Many are talking about societal collapse, possibly even human extinction. And yet, the answer is bewilderingly simple.
A recent analysis suggests that repairing local ecosystems including mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands can mitigate 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In his latest book Climate, Charles Eisenstein cites research suggesting that switching to regenerative agricultural approaches on cultivated land would offset 40% of all carbon emissions and using it on pastureland another 70%.
In other words, changing the way we treat the land will do the job for us.
What does this mean in practice? At one level, I have absolutely no idea. If you’re looking for a sequence of events, a grand plan, the Gantt Chart that would be used, then I have no idea what these might look like. I suspect it will be a far more organic process than that.
In the meantime, I know a few facts - that trees absorb up to 60 times more rain water than bare earth. They hold the secret to fighting floods. Vegetation cools the ground by up to ten degrees. It’s the secret to ending global warming.
I know that working in partnership with Nature, supporting its processes can speed up repair and healing. They say it takes 500 years for natural processes alone to create an inch of topsoil. Through composting and manure we can make it in a matter of months. This is the secret to repairing landscapes.
I know that when an ecosystem is out of balance, one species colonises the space at the expense of others. This causes disease, degradation, cancer, both literally and metaphorically. Eventually, given enough time, balance is restored. Weeds repair the soil, preparing the way for diversity of plant life, which brings back animal life.
When systems are in balance, the rivers and oceans clean themselves, all life thrives, vegetation purifies the air. This is the process we can facilitate, expedite, enhance.
What do we need to do? I’m not sure. But I know something about what we need to be. Humble, in love with the world, in service to healing.
And perhaps I know what impulse to follow. By following an impulse, the actions that will contribute will arise of their own accord. The impulse is in beauty, appreciation, in loving and caring for all living things - ourselves, those around us, the land we tread, the creatures that inhabit it.
The impulse is to repair, to heal, to nurture and tend. To tend land, plants, trees, food. Returning to care for the living world of plants and water, air and animal life. This is the impulse that will align us to the path of supporting the natural forces that will restore balance to the global ecosystem. This is how the world will heal itself and heal us in the process.
Let us dedicate ourselves not to saving the world but to allowing the world to save us.