Becoming Environmentally Conscience in a Complex World

In our recent podcast episode, we asked a few of our guests to respond to this quote by environmental activist, Annie Leonard.

The assumptions that ‘pollution is the price of progress’ or that ‘we must choose between jobs and the environment’ have long limited our creative thinking about innovative solutions that can be good for the environment, the workers, and a healthy economy.
— Annie Leonard

It was fascinating to hear the responses we received, from our guests, Laurie Marshall, Chris Ling, and James Greyson, because they gave us three very different thoughts and ideas. 

We first asked author, public speaker, and education transformer, Laurie Marshall, to share her response to this quote. Her response gave us a positive outlook on how we can be use nature as a guideline to build innovative solutions which could change our world. She references several examples of biomimicry, which is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. 

We also asked the Director of the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University, Professor Chris Ling to share his thoughts on this Annie Leonard quote. Chris' response described a perceptual dilemma about how we think about the environment as some "thing" that is away from us and outside of us. He explained that because many people live in cities, they feel separated from nature. He also referenced an old and outdated model on sustainability which contains three circles, the economy, society, and the environment, and according to this model, where they overlap is where we can achieve sustainability. 

However, this reductionist approach to sustainability is flawed because it implies that the economy can exist independently of society and the environment, when in fact, there would be no society without the environment and there would be no economy without society. Chris explains a more realistic and accurate model, which is 3 dimensional, with the environment at the bottom, society in the middle, and the economy as the smallest circle at the top.

Chris described how society has an unhealthy perception of the economy, because many people believe that it is the largest and main source of wellbeing. And, sadly, this mindset also views the environment as a resource which can be used for economic benefit.   

Lastly, we asked global security thought leader, James Greyson if he believes that we've been using assumptions to limit our thinking about innovative solutions for people and the planet. He explained that our way of living is revealing a systemic error that drives acute problems. Like Annie Leonard, he strongly advocates for a circular economy, which he described as "a design correction to markets or capitalism as a whole.. to ensure that resources of all kinds end up again as new resources for people or for nature". 

James Greyson, Chris Ling, and Laurie Marshall have each given us a different perspective to the same idea; how we think about progress and innovation needs to evolve beyond the story of separation. 

"There are so many habits that we have of separation, and that means a really profound healing process needs to happen." - Charles Eisenstein 

But, we can heal ourselves and our planet. We can look to nature as our mentor, and we can feel inspired by the world around us. Biomimicry can help us learn how to redesign our lives and our communities in a way that is supportive of all life. We have learned that sustainability should really be more than a separate field of expertise or an industry. It should not be a goal we work towards, but rather, an integral part of our everyday lives.

As we learn to use integral thinking, our mental models of dependency on the economy first and foremost, will shift.  We can and will retell the story of separation, which keeps us confined to short-term thinking.   


You can listen to the HumanCurrent podcast here and don't forget to subscribe in iTunes. Stay tuned for our upcoming interview with researcher & thought leader on global security, James Greyson. Let's work happy!