Written by Steven Greenleaf
A new set of approaches to looking at ourselves and the impacts of our businesses, livelihoods, actions and societies continues to emerge, in part out of necessity born of scarcity and in part as a response to the undeniable damage we have brought to the Earth’s ecosystems, ugliness which cannot be ignored.
Whether in business operations, extraction of natural resources, energy supply, the built environment, or planning for a different type of future than the one born of the Industrial Revolution, much has been done to reduce the negative impacts of human activities.
This is not good enough – doing less damage will not lead us to where we need to go.
We need an entirely different set of outcomes and these must be emerge from fundamentally different priorities. Human endeavor must include at its very core a commitment to restoration, to going far beyond reducing negatives to passion for repairing damage as part of everything we do. The ship has sailed for old approaches which very soon may seem little better than antics – foolish novelties which never had a chance of getting us where we need to go.
To quote Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder, Chief Scientist, and Chairman Emeritus – Rocky Mountain Institute,
“Aldo Leopold, another of the century’s great thinkers, said that to be an ecologist is to live in a “world of wounds,” conscious of the environmental damage around us. The task of development in the twenty first century will be to heal those wounds. And that process of healing may also restore a measure of respect and societal value to the profession of real estate development.”
(From, “Green Development: Integrating Ecology and Real Estate,” by the Rocky Mountain Institute, 1998).
Aldo Leopold (The Aldo Leopold Foundation)
The changes we need require a fundamentally different mindset than the ones which got us here. Right now all over the world different minds are building this new paradigm and it is going viral. We have built for ourselves a set of challenges which require ingenuity to solve. Innovation and creativity can mark a new set of trails, leading somewhere new, an undiscovered country with vast potential.
Thankfully, the human capacities for exploration and imagination are exactly what are required to turn things around. Within the need for exploration and imagination and the solutions they create, are nearly limitless opportunities to re-imagine and re-design ourselves – the ways we interact with other species and the natural world as a whole, and the ways we interrelate with one another, in our families, in our cities, in and between our societies.
We humans have put ourselves in very real jeopardy and only we can pull ourselves back from the brink of a future both unrecognizable and bitter. To do this we must first acknowledge that doing less damage, doing things a little better, is not good enough. Upon that acknowledgement can be built a commitment to re-imagine how we do things, how we built things, how we use things, and necessarily, how we treat one another. We should mindfully design the future we want and fortunately we can do so – we have no shortage of choices to make.
“Mindless Design can be seen as a kind of intergenerational remote tyranny: the tyrannizing of future generations by our poor design choices today.” – William McDonough.
(From, “International Ecolodge Guidelines,” by the International Ecotourism Society, 2002)
Which way do we turn? Which path do we take? These questions fill our literature and our mythologies – they build our stories. Our personal answers to, or avoidance of these question shape our lives. Perhaps the point of all our (human) errors and misdeeds has been to lead us here, to a place and time wherein we have pivotal choices to make about our future while in that same place and time we have the tools at our fingertips to go in another direction. – S. Greenleaf