He is a Professor of Law and Director, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, University of Auckland; Chair, IUCN World Commission on Environmental
Law Ethics Specialist Group.
With all the mounting ecological challenges, climate change, melting tundra, ocean acidification etc, that face us today, these are finally being acknowledged
as the logical symptoms of a disease and Klaus reiterates this - a disease that is permeating our society as a result of economics gone mad.
As an extension of the Chicago school in the 1970’s and then policies by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher we are left with posing the question - who
will look after the planetary environment?
That economics having been the main and in many ways the only fundamental agenda over the last 35 - 40 years that we (even ordinary NZers) are realising
we are now in deeper trouble. That without factoring urgent ecological solutions and taking action - we are to experience environmental blow-back of
We have been going backwards over this time especially as we have added another three and half billion souls to the planetary population. In doing so -
the web of life ‘Nature’ - that embraces and integrates all the ecosystems that are layered over each other from the micro to the macro have been put
under unprecedented stress. All due to the increase in mans dominating nature especially around deforestation and pollution at all levels - that has
been so overwhelming that our planet’s biota, natural systems and feedback loops are unable to cope with the rapid changes that are upon us.
It’s all happening far too quickly and our biosphere can not adapt fast enough in the time available. Thus, with multiple tipping points being reached
the possibility of cascading problems is an extreme urgency that has to be addressed. Biosphere collapse has to be avoided!
Today, business people in general when we sit them down and talk ‘one on one’ they will agree that the commercial sector are grabbing and extracting voraciously
from the earth, however when they go back to their corporation they cannot or are unable to initiate change. The main reason being that the business
world in general has failed themselves by still being ‘ecological illiterate.’ This being predominant in the extreme in the global political arena
Today the concept of sustainability has so often been distorted, co-opted, and even trivialized by being used without the ‘ecological context’ that gives
it its proper meaning. So, it is worthwhile to reflect about what “sustainability" really means.
What is sustained in a sustainable community is not economic growth or competitive advantage, but the entire web of life on which our long-term survival
depends. In other words, a sustainable community is designed in such a way that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies
do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. It may be also likened to‘durable prosperity’ - that nature will last ad infinitum.
The first step in this endeavor, naturally, must be to understand how nature sustains life. It turns out that this involves a whole new conception of life.
Indeed, such a new conception of life has emerged over the last 30 years.
Called ‘The Systems View of Life’ it is grand synthesis
of this new understanding of life.
Klaus reviews Western civilisation over the last 3-4,000 yearsand though we as a Western material culture have ‘seemingly’ benefited hugely from our endeavours
we have gradually committed so much ecological and cultural damage - that we are now belatedly realising that there is a limit to growth on a finite
ecological - planetary system - that we are now teetering on overhang.
When we go back to Greece the word oikos means household and nomos means management. Oikonomos, economy, is thus - those things concerning the management
of the house or home as on our ‘home' planet - earth. Note that eco for ecology and economics also have the same root prefix.
Thinking in terms of relationships is crucial for ecology, because ecology —
(as mentioned above - derived from oikos) is the science of the relationships among various members of the Earth Household. Many indigenous cultures embody
profound ecological awareness and think of nature in terms of relationships and patterns.
Looking at what the Western model has brought to the world.
Dualism: Can be seen as another Western construct.
The separation between the human sphere and the natural sphere. Where once we were connected to the earth - the wind whispered, the trees sighed, the brook
gurgled and oneness within nature permeated much of life from as far back as neolithic times. We were embedded in natural forces.
That over time the academic Greeks started to quantify and measure and objectify things and dualism and ‘separation’ gradually came into being. We put
up walls and insulated and isolated ourselves from the environment.
Anthropocentric (humancenteredness): that we can measure everything through the lenses of human experience and that we only look at the
environment for its usefulness.
Materialism: the predominance of measuring any reality in the terms of matter as against energy or spirit - or the intangible. Having
things and measuring success by ‘owning’ things and stacking them up all around us.
Atomism: and our modern science where we are very proud “knowing all about very little and losing the ability to learn a little about
everything” … A shift from a more general understanding to more precise expertise - and thus not seeing the larger context. Locked into reductionism
and reducing everything down to the mini particle and eventual invisible energy packets.
Greed: when individuals and materialism come together and the so called ‘enlightenment’ - celebrating the idea of individual freedom -
another European invention - (has a lot of good things going for it - like human rights and even democracy and so forth) - the dark side is individualism
that came into being and - taking it all - with no limits becoming a norm. This translates that one does not have a sense of collective interdependence
and responsibilities anymore - and when you combine these with capitalism and materialism we see the 001% of the 1% express what they are doing at
the top of the power structures of today.
This is what we have today. We have a great deal of separation - living in buildings doing our best to experience some sort of community yet people have
in many ways - just become consumers rather than citizens.
Economism: that we measure everything through the lens of economic cost benefit analysis - time is money - be it Local or Central government.
How much is that worth? How much did you win, how much did you lose? My net worth is ………..
Add up the 1st letters of these 6 words and they equal = DAMAGE
This European experience is totally out of step of non European cultures thus the need to heal our planetary systems and be more open to listen ….
We need to become citizens of the earth see ourselves as brother and sisters with other parts of our planet. We are in this together - so we need to know
what is it like to articulate what it is to be human on this - our beautiful planet earth.
The necessity now is to have a Nationwide Conversation and talk about long term strategies.
We are all integrated within the web of life - even if we do not realise it - and with all biota. However, with climate change upon us and the invisible
membrane of our atmosphere that envelope’s our planet as the only barrier between us and deep space.
The imperative is to understand we are together - breathing in and out - this invisible barrier that is fundamental to our survival as a species. As Chief
Seattle the American First Nation medicine man stated “whatever we do to the web of life - we do to ourselves.”
That we as humanity need to understand what the ‘Global Commons’ is and then how to honour it and respectfully work with it. This is when
we learn to become ‘Ecologically Literate.’
Read the Earth Charter Indianapolis Talk;