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Ecological Awareness

by Davie Philip

Our autumn issue is out now. Our regular contributor Davie Philip demonstrates that being ecological aware can increase our compassion and love for each other and the Earth. Dive on in to find out more…

Ecological Awareness

Embracing our interconnectedness
by Davie Philip

Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed
Thich Nhat Hanh

In the 1970s humanity saw for the first time our only home, planet Earth. ‘Earthrise’, the iconic photograph of a spectacular blue and white sphere in the darkness of space rising over the grey and lifeless Moon, fundamentally changed how we perceived our world and ourselves. The picture, taken from the Apollo spacecraft, sparked a collective awareness of the Earth as a dynamic living system and helped us understand the importance of our world’s ecosystems, their fragility, and the need to protect them. This surge of ecological consciousness catalysed the modern environmental movement who raised awareness by adopting metaphors and phrases such as ‘Spaceship Earth’ and ‘One Planet’.

Since the 70s, human activity which undermines the health and viability of spaceship earth has grown rapidly. Although awareness is the precondition to change, it is clear that facts don’t change our minds – increased awareness alone does not lead to action. We now find ourselves in the midst of a convergence of environmental, economic and socio-political disruptions that we are woefully ill-prepared to deal with. In this era of simplification and polarisation, it will also be difficult to collectively respond to these interconnected challenges.

Our awareness of natural systems, complexity and how to work with, rather than against, nature is low and we struggle to imagine what a good life for all within the ecological limits of the planet could be. According to systems scientist Peter Senge, “most of the problems faced by humankind concern our inability to grasp and manage the increasingly complex systems of our world.” To do this he advocates practising systems thinking. With systems thinking, we stop perceiving the world as a machine and understand it as a living network. Our awareness to see the value of relationships between parts and wholes is enhanced along with our understanding of the interdependence between people and nature.

For Senge, this approach is “a language for describing and understanding the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of systems.” This awareness helps us to find appropriate leverage points for influencing change, and act more in tune with the natural processes of the natural world. Systems thinking shifts us from a reductionist and anthropocentric mindset to an ecological one, helping us take a wider perspective and consider multiple perspectives. It requires observing, sensing, examining how things relate, identifying root causes and challenging and changing our worldviews.

Alan Watts referred to ecological awareness as the spiritual experience, a state of mind in which a person ceases to feel separate from the environment in which they exist. Nurturing that sense of oneness with the world around us holds the key to bringing about systemic change. With mounting pressure on our fragile planet, cultivating a systems thinking approach helps us see the world as a complex and interconnected whole. This ecological awareness assists us to make sense of what’s going on and increase our compassion and love for each other and the Earth.

Embracing the interconnectedness of all life helps us to navigate change and move from an extractive to a wellbeing economy, and informs how we might restore and regenerate ecosystems and communities.

Davie Philip is a community catalyst and facilitator at Cultivate.ie, the sustainability cooperative based in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. 

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