Encouraged by my parents I have always been interested in wildlife. But in the early 1970’s I realised what I was actually interested in, was ecological systems – how nature fitted together and how nature worked.

From there, it was a small step to see the problems that us humans were causing to the ecosystems on which we depend. BSc and a PhD in ecology followed and I ended up in a career in nature conservation. The 1987 storm blew me a great opportunity to research and understand natural forests, and from that I became interested in rewilding. I am fortunate to have been involved at Knepp, England’s finest rewilding example, and am now helping to stimulate rewilding across the country.

I worked for the Sussex Wildlife Trust for 27 years (12 of which were as CEO) and since retirement I have become its President. Speaking up for nature has been my main role; lobbying authorities and endeavouring to influence decision makers, the media and the public.

The natural world is not just some sort of special interest or merely a “nice to have”. We can live without many things (consumer goods, sport, even an economy) but we can’t live without an environment. Yet human impact on the natural world is now total. Ecological collapse and climate breakdown loom, so society must move from an exploitative relationship with nature to a regenerative one. A reset of our economic and social compass is essential.



Twitter: TonyWhitbread2 (@tonywhitbread2)

Email: tonywhitbread4@outlook.com

Mob 07876 207-484

Photo - Miles Davies/Sussex Wildlife Trust

Your Better Nature by Tony Whitbread

Your Better Nature by Dr Tony Whitbread We are in a time of growing awareness of the global human predicament. Warnings from the IPCC (1) about the climate emergency grow more dire with every publication. Similarly, the IPBES (2) is raising the alarm about the extinction crisis and ecosystem collapse. Furthermore, our impact on the environment is not only getting worse, but it is getting worse at an accelerating rate. Statistics to show this abound, but perhaps global CO2 emissions are most illustrative. World nations signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. Since then, however, the world has emitted more CO2 than in the entire history of the human race before 1992. Clearly, this is not sustainable.

The basis of our problems is the story that we tell ourselves about what it is to be human – our human story. We are told that we are inherently selfish individuals who are here just to exploit and consume. This story is, however, false and is a narrative that drives both our environmental and psychological problems. We became the dominant life form on the planet, not because we are aggressive, greedy and selfish, but because we are hyper-social. We work together co-operatively in huge complexity on a massive scale, far more so than any other animal. And this is inherent in us. We need to rediscover our better nature.

As a group of four concerned environmentalists from across Sussex, we got together and the concept of “Your Better Nature” emerged. We have developed a series of webinar discussions challenging presumptions and exploring a new human story where humans and nature can flourish together.

Paul Hannam and I have interactive discussions from our respective backgrounds in psychology and ecology. We are kept on track by former BBC presenter, Jane Mote who rises to the challenge of keeping the virtual experience intimate and engaging. My wife Viviane Doussy, a retired Research Pharmacist, is central to the team, bringing things efficiently together.

As Paul Hannam says in the companion article to this one, COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our intimate caring, compassion, and sense of community. But as well as better human nature, our better side is better for nature. As well as compassion for each other we are also more aware of and in touch with our local nature. We have rediscovered our quality of cherishing and caring for the natural assets that we all hold in common. And the primary global commons that we should value most highly is the living biosphere.

Our new human story must have a fundamentally different relationship with nature. We can no longer be exploiters or consumers; we should instead see ourselves as part of nature and so seek a new regenerative relationship with nature. Examples of what this might look like are plentiful. Regenerative agriculture, which in practice is a range of different approaches and practices, can present mutually beneficial forms of interaction between people and nature. This can rebuild soils, enhance biodiversity, restore hydrology, and lock up carbon alongside very effective food production with very low external inputs. Furthermore, such regenerative approaches can exceed the productivity of current intensive agriculture.

Rewilding is another concept that is gathering pace around the world, often being taken forward on land that has been degraded by past use. Rewilding projects are often providing stunning case studies of how nature can rebuild when given the chance.

An emerging new human story will almost certainly have its roots in increased localism: caring for the environment, having a stake in the environment, and receiving benefits from the environment has most meaning at the local level.

Additionally, however, there will be increased recognition of us as global citizens, with rights and responsibilities for the global commons. This implies a geopolitical realignment to make this possible, indeed inherent, within the new human story. The UN Sustainable Development Goals should provide the framework to achieve this through multilateralism alongside national approaches. And the place where this is most inherent is in the natural world. Nature does not recognise our geopolitical boundaries. So, it is perhaps in our attitude towards nature that our new human story will best reconcile personal, local, national and global responsibilities.

(1) IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

(2) IPBES – Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services YOUR BETTER NATURE is a visionary live discussion programme on ecology, environmental issues and behavioural change to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse in a dysfunctional world. In this group we are four committed environmentalists. We aim to create a global interactive channel through which we explore transformative strategies around the central theme that humans and nature can flourish together.

We held 5 online webinars in our first series during September 2020.

Webinar 1 (02 Sept 2020): Our story needs rewriting

Webinar 2 (09 Sep 2020): We are part of nature, not separate

Webinar 3 (16 Sep 2020): We are citizens, not consumers

Webinar 4 (23 Sep 2020): We need regeneration, not exploitation

Webinar 5 (30 Sep 2020): Our new human story

Watch HERE Your Better Nature Webinars 2020

I came late to the environmental movement when I was almost forty years old. It was a book that changed everything for me: ‘The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight’ by Thom Hartmann. After the first few pages I was hooked and it transformed my worldview forever. The destruction of the environment is described in painful detail and it proved how our western culture was responsible. It was then I realised that the life I had been enjoying as an entrepreneur might have been good for my bank balance and ego, but was disastrous for nature and my soul. I immediately stopped working in the IT industry, choosing instead to devote myself to environmental causes. It felt like a religious conversion.

For the last 20 years I have taught environmental management and organisational behaviour at a number of institutions including Oxford University. I have also been a green entrepreneur and a published author with 4 books. My specialisation has been behavioural change and how we can shift mindsets from consumers to citizens of the Earth. I have sought to demonstrate the proven positive relationship between our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing and a healthy ecosystem. We can only flourish if nature flourishes.

I am now active in my local community too, working on a 2030 zero carbon project, and am more resolute than ever in my determination to do what I can to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse.


Twitter: paulhannam (@paulhannam)

Email paul.hannam@gmail.com

Mob 07411 180404

Your Better Nature. A new Worldview by Paul Hannam

This year Global earth overshoot fell on 22 nd August. This is the day when global demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in any given year. The date gets earlier every year, and we carry on regardless. Carbon emissions increase, the destruction of nature gets worse and few, if any, leaders question the root causes of our predicament.

Our current system is broken. Obsessed with growth, GDP and investing in fossil fuels, our institutions are hastening our descent into climate and ecological breakdown. We have to transform the socio-economic and political system that is destroying our very life support systems, or global overshoot day will end up in January.

There is another way forward. The UN has provided a comprehensive set of interconnected goals for how we should redesign our civilization. These are their Sustainable Development Goals and they provide a clear path for a better world based on tackling the climate crisis, promoting sustainability, reducing inequality, ending poverty and defending the rights of every citizen.

Each one of the 17 goals is critical, but there is something even more important that we need to do if we are to achieve them. We need to transform our story about what it means to be human.

Our current human story is toxic and false. It is not only destructive to our environment, it is also damaging to our own wellbeing. The dominant narrative that has been sold to us again and again in the media, is that we are inherently competitive, individualistic and self-interested. This is both wrong and dangerous. It has taken a tiny life form like the covid-19 virus to reveal our better nature, our innate caring, compassion and sense of community. It has presented a very different and more accurate picture of who we really are.

Your Better Nature is a new initiative that seeks to rewrite our story, and to encourage, support and develop that part in all of us that is kind, loving and connected to nature. At the heart of our message is that not only can we change, we can do much better. We can build a more equitable and sustainable society.

Our species has survived for 200,000 years because we have evolved and cooperated together towards common goals. Now, we need new goals that focus on our collective needs not our individual desires, on protecting nature rather than exploiting it, and on preventing climate collapse not accelerating it.

These goals require a change in our beliefs and our values. We need a new story to mobilize and galvanize 8 billion people to take personal responsibility for each other, for other species and for our living planet. We need a positive vision for humanity so we can work towards a fairer, kinder and more sustainable world.

We are developing a new worldview that connects ecosystems, socio-economic systems, communities, families and individuals. We cover ecological, political, financial, psychological, health and spiritual topics. We challenge popular notions about what constitutes the Good Life, and promote alternative lifestyles that achieve balance, happiness and fulfilment without compromising our planetary boundaries. We believe that we need a fundamental shift in values to bring about the behavioural change necessary to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse. We believe that we need to design our systems, our lifestyles and our own lives deeply rooted in our better nature.

Extracted from the original article by the ‘Your Better Nature’ team published in Sussex Bylines: https://sussexbylines.co.uk/tuning-in-to-your-better-nature/ YOUR BETTER NATURE is a visionary live discussion programme on ecology, environmental issues and behavioural change to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse in a dysfunctional world. In this group we are four committed environmentalists. We aim to create a global interactive channel through which we explore transformative strategies around the central theme that humans and nature can flourish together.