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