Evolving out of the Collective Pause

Article written by Katie Conlon, 4Revs Program Manager.

Image taken during Nelis’ 2018 Japan Summit

As Covid continues to place a pause on the world, what have we learned from all this readjusting? Have we been able to use this time to deeper our connection with our inner nature, or is the constant barrage of news and updates on the shifting-situation a means for distraction? The collective mind is in flux. There seems to be quite a lot of fear of change; of waiting and wanting to ‘go back’ to life before Covid. But, is this not a grand opportunity to break out of the patterns that have been holding us back over the past decades, and ultimately the past centuries?

Can we see the global virus as a call to reconcile unsustainable and unwholesome patterns? Consumption; the increasing pace of life; urban communities of disconnect; continued racism; distortion of values in the capitalist system (i.e. under valuing caregiving, home labor, nature); etc.; the veneer of normalcy of the life that was, was always very thin. In a recent interview, Jane Goodall sited the over-exploitation of the natural world as our Covid tipping-point, and that humans are in grave danger: “If we do not do things differently [post-Covid], we are finished.” Her awareness that things need to change comes from a life spent in nature, focused acutely on the intricacies in the natural world.

Yet, while Jane is attuned to the subtle rhythms nature uses to show balance and imbalance, most modern city-dwellers would fail at this task. This is an important contrast because ‘modern, urban dwellers’ now make up approximately 55% of the global population. What this results in, is an ever-increasing divide and disconnect between human populations and the rest of earth’s inhabitants and ecosystems. How can society come in balance with the natural world, if we are collectively shifting further and further from it? This is elaborated in the ‘conundrum of urban sustainability’ ( proposed by Rees), which reveals that cities, with their resulting consumer lifestyles, require that more and more resources (food, water, energy) are shipped greater distances. Ultimately, as urbanization distances people both physically and psychologically from the ecosystems that support them, so people become less and less aware of the impacts of their consumption. With limited or lack of awareness, the cycle repeats.

If collectively we’d live in connection to nature, we could overcome the ecological crises of today — while also positively influencing the root causes of social turmoil. Normally these sorts of macro changes are difficult to initiate, but these moments of collective crisis offer a window to interject into the collective conscious new ways forwards. The opportunity this collective pause offers is for shifting narratives on how we can regeneratively and symbiotically live on this planet.
Language is the first step in creating a new awareness. Currently, language is used that prioritizes the destruction of earth — GDP, capital gains, development, growth. Relationships with the natural world have been artificially limited to economic terms, and just as money doesn’t grow on trees, economics should not be used to define our relationship with trees.
Here are a few resonant terms for instance (borrowed from indigenous and ancient languages), that can help one orient towards the praxis of caring for the earth:

o Dadirri (Aboriginal Australian): reflective, contemplative listening and wonder in the midst of natural surroundings; sensing their sacredness.

o Querencia (Spanish): ancient word for “deep love of place.”

o Hozho (Navajo): being in beauty, order, peace, balance; opposite of sickness, imbalance, fragmentation.Evolving positively through these Covid times will take thoughtful reflection. Do we want to walk gracefully, in awe of the earth and all her splendor, or do we want to continue down the path of dividing and limiting the potential for all life to flourish? For the former we open ourselves up to all the potentials of life, all the beautiful unknowns that we cannot yet calculate; for the later we drastically reduce the potential of all that could be, through a temporary delusion and short-sightedness. Now is our moment of reckoning, we can grow into our critical roles of earth guardians.

May we move into summer with a greater appreciation for our connection with this earth, and how we can evolve positively through this Covid time ~

Katie

NELIS(Next Leaders’ Initiative for Sustainability)is a local2global platform of and for young sustainability leaders