In the wake of all these issues there are calls to “save the whales,” “save the orang-utan,” or more broadly “save the planet.” Campaigns are mounted against oil pipelines, fracking, coal seam gas drilling, or coal mining. In the climate change arena we hear all the numbers: 2 degrees of warming, 350 parts per million, 1 – 2 metres sea-level rise.
Climate Change Summits are held, reports are written, debates take place in the United Nations. Groups organise to obtain signatures on petitions, hold information/education meetings or lobby politicians.
All these people and organisations are wanting change. They are wanting governments to legislate; coal miners to cease activities; car manufacturers to innovate for more environmentally-friendly vehicles; greater take-up of renewable energy sources.
All these objectives are worthy. They may not be sufficient however. They may even be diverting our attention from what is really needed – using our HEART.
The trouble lies in how we go about solving the issues. It can be argued that a lot of our problem-solving focuses on technological fixes of problems that are “out there,” problems that are external to us. For some of us the problems are (for example) air pollution and so we try to fix the problem of air pollution. For some of us the problems are caused by other people – industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats. In this thinking style the problems are not about us, the problems are not about who we are.
So, we go about trying to solve the problems with our heads. We try to think our way through the problem. We try to solve them with technological innovation. Peter Senge calls this “shifting the burden to science and technology,”1 a process whereby we apply a symptomatic solution to a problem without addressing the underlying, fundamental causes. By shifting the burden in this way we find that the symptoms only get worse or bigger, and so we have to apply even more of our technological solutions. The problems get bigger and bigger, worse and worse. If that was all we did by shifting the burden it may not be so bad. Unfortunately, by shifting the burden in this way we become more and more reliant on technology as our default problem-solving technique. In doing so we distance ourselves farther and farther from what we really need – the development of our human wisdom and our heart-centred thinking.
Viewing the world through our hearts we take an entirely different journey than when we view it with our heads. An heart-centred approach to thinking is,
“independent, creative, moral and compassionate…it reflectively questions assumptions, discerns hidden values, and considers the larger social and ecological context. Heart-centred thinking is distinguished by an animated curiosity that leads to a constantly adjusting, in-depth knowledge of the environment, the human culture, and its individual members.”2So it is with our approach to the EARTH – we have to resist the urge to solve things with our heads and shift towards our HEART. We have to open up our hearts. That may take some courage which is unsurprising. The word courage derives from the Old French word corage – meaning heart. When we have the courage to open up our hearts to the Earth and to each other not only will we find more creative solutions we will also find that something shifts inside us – we will discover who we are.
1. Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, Flowers. Presence: exploring profound change in people, organizations and society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 2005.
2. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013