An Excerpt from Immortal Bliss: Issue 3:2011
There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. For man, there cannot be an existence removed from nature. However, because of his thoughtless actions, the equilibrium in nature is getting disturbed; the pulse of human life is becoming erratic, too. Air and water have become polluted. Rivers are drying up. Seasons arrive unseasonably. New diseases are spreading. If things continue this way, the human race is in for a monumental catastrophe.
There is an underlying order to everything in nature. There is a place in creation for all creatures. The forest, river and mountain all have their dharma (natural duty). Nature has provided sustenance for all created beings. It has its own ways of recycling and reusing natural waste, thus preserving life. We don't need to do anything to maintain the beauty of forests, rivers and mountains.
However, when human beings systematically plunder natural wealth for selfish reasons, the natural order gets disturbed. Nature's face becomes disfigured. Along with other creatures, human beings, too, will have to face the consequences...
...If we are not ready to change, nature will teach us. The only thing is, we may not be able to bear the brunt of the teaching. Mother Nature has blessed humankind with her bounty. But if we forget our responsibilities, if we give free rein to our desires, nature will retaliate. Nature's boons will turn into curses...
We cannot delay anymore. We must make the right decisions and embark on the right course of actions.
In the last episode of the BBC's History of the World series, presenter Andrew Marr referred to humans not as "wise man" Homo sapiens but instead as "clever apes in a spot of bother". Marr surmised, having traversed through ancient civilizations and the history of man, that if humanity is to have any hope of anything resembling a successful future, we must either radically change our exploitation of natural resources or radically reduce our world population.
The message was clear – adapt or die – and business leaders, world thinkers, activists and innovators are increasingly calling for a paradigm shift in our approach to economic and social life.
The social and scientific revolutions in modern, early modern and even ancient ages have left their legacies in the modern mind. For example, in the early modern period that included the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, major revelations in scientific discovery and philosophy from Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Descartes and Darwin, greatly influenced our western view of the human's place in the universe.
Man became a powerful external actor, disconnected from the very fabric of the natural systems of which he had previously been a part. Interestingly, these events were both profoundly liberating for human societies and also enormously disenchanting.
Our prevailing reductionist approach to science, technology and business, which we use to understand the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, has encouraged us to see ourselves as separate from nature, and to view the world around us as something to be analysed and over-exploited for our own wants and needs, with scant regard for the consequences.
This gives us an insight into the root cause of the problems facing us today – in business and beyond. Our current business approach (with its immense power to fuel problems as well as deliver solutions) is neither balanced nor holistic but a continuation in reductionist thinking that is anthropocentric in its belief and behaviour.
This has encouraged an alienation from nature over recent years, and from our understanding of the real world – the world not just of stock market trends and commodity prices, but also of soil and sea, of cycles and seasons, and of ecosystems and environments.
A corruption of Charles Darwin's 'survival of the fittest'
Our prevailing view of nature as a battleground of competing species, each fighting to survive, is a narrow view of a more complex picture. When Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species, the phrase "survival of the fittest" was quickly co-opted and distorted by powerful elites to promote the idea that only the biggest, strongest, and most powerful can survive.
In reality, what Darwin found and described in his findings was that those organisms with the greatest ability to adapt to their local environment – "the fittest" – would survive where others would fail. He found that sensing, responding, adapting, and aligning with and within the local ecosystem were key to survival.
Recent scientific discoveries, coupled with advances in systems thinking and quantum theory, continue to build on these findings, and are uncovering a more complex and complete view of nature, the workings of the universe, and the evolution of life.
Over the last 3.8bn years, nature has survived and flourished through times of radical change and disruption by dynamic networks and collaborations among species and throughout ecosystems. Diversity, flexibility and collaboration, we find, is core to the interwoven evolutionary journey of life – the driving forces that provide resilience and regeneration within species and ecosystems.
In the words of business pioneers Michael Braungart and William McDonough in their 2009 book Cradle to Cradle: "Popular wisdom holds that the fittest survive, the strongest, leanest, largest, perhaps meanest – whatever beats the competition. But in healthy, thriving natural systems it is actually the 'fitting-est' who thrive. Fitting-est implies an energetic and material engagement with place, and an interdependent relationship to it."
So how does business go about shifting from the prevalent mindset of reductionism and the goal of maximising short-term profit, where the world is a collection of things to be consumed (nature's capital), to a world-view that has an energetic and material engagement with place and an interdependent relationship with life which is symbiotic not carcinogenic? In other words, how does the prevalent approach of business (and human society) break the devastating illusion that we are not part of nature, even with our perculisar specialities?
This is the sixty-billion dollar question (not whether the US defaults on its growing spiral of debt, which is just one of many symptoms we are now experiencing as a result of our failure to address the root cause of our social, economic and environmental crises; our carcinogenic relationship with Earth).
This question can be answered through the three R's: re-design, re-connect, re-kindle:
• Re-designing new ways of operating and innovating beyond 'less bad' into 'doing good' (shifting from the take/make/waste economic paradigm to a regenerative approach that heals society and the web of life rather that destroying life in the name of short-term gain). An example here is the Kingfisher Group, which is aiming to be a "net positive" force for good in the world.
• Re-connecting and reconciling our human relationship with life and nature and our own authentic human nature (this involves re-establishing our vital bond with ourselves, our neighbours and the web of life within which we are a part of through education, authentic leadership and eco-psychology). An example of this is Pedro Passo, co-founder of Natura, who instils a business culture that understands the inter-relation of nature and community.
• Re-kindling wisdom by working with nature and operating within the rules of life on Earth (enabling businesses and societies not merely to sustain, but to thrive in the years ahead by practicing wise approaches to life that draw on, for instance, symbiosis, ecological thinking, permaculture, systems-thinking and systems-being, business inspired by nature, presencing and indigenous wisdom). An example here would be Weleda, which takes a biodynamic philosophy and holistic approach to all aspects of its business.
This is the future of business, and it's bright.
Giles Hutchin's new book The Nature of Business can be purchased here. He has more than 15 years of business transformation experience and is embarking on a BBC/Open University documentary of the same title and subject as the book. He regularly lectures at conferences and business schools, and blogs here.
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