Resurgence: a story of 'interconnectedness, non-violence, gratitude, responsiveness and community'

| 7th June 2018
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We need a new narrative that tells of human interconnectedness with nature, and a totality of being and existence. This is the best way to prevent the hubris and destructiveness of the dominant story of economic growth. JAMES SAINSBURY sets out the vision of The Resurgence Trust, owner of The Ecologist online

A resurgence of the human spirit is by definition desirable and a good thing in itself - who could not wish for an increase of joie de vivre, of purpose and of meaning?

The human race needs to master itself - as Rachel Carson said. If we cannot do that, then all of our technological mastery will only make us more dangerous to ourselves, to all of life and to our planet home.

It is the role of Resurgence Trust to help us to move positively in that direction of mastery and understanding. To help us to create a calm, conscious, peaceful present for ourselves and therefore for all around us. 

To help us to see clearly that we are not principally individuals, but rather part of the totality of life. We must drop the illusion of separation if we are to find peace and if we are to have a chance of ending our destruction and pollution of the planet.

Misery and destruction

So the role of Resurgence is also to help us to be connected - connected to nature, to each other, to our community, to true values and to ancient wisdom.

We need to connect to the knowledge common to all the ancient religions of the world - that there is no significant separation between the human and the animal worlds, between the human and natural worlds or between matter and spirit.

Resurgence can also give us a stronger sense of passion, persistence and partnership in relation to serving each other and the planet and in relation to finding a new understanding of ethics, economics and politics.

This will enable us to confront and - let us hope - overcome the immeasurably vast environmental crisis which is unfolding in our lifetimes and is clearly the greatest challenge of our day, by our response to which we will be measured by future generations.

In terms of our connection to nature, we know that - as we continue to jeopardise our own future and that of the entire, fragile biosphere - the numerous crises we face have the potential to cause misery and destruction on an historic scale and tragically are already beginning to do so.

Wildflowers and birds

At the same time, the long-standing political consensus around prioritising economic growth is undermining wellbeing and sanity in numerous equally well-documented ways. We chase this growth partly to service debt, partly to try to conceal the underlying structural deficiencies and inequalities of our societies. But it is tragically accelerating that planetary crisis.

Thus, in a way that is central to our being, we feel uprooted, alienated and dispirited, because we have forgotten how to care for the land, to value it, protect it, respect it, adore it, belong to it and worship it.

Meanwhile, in terms of connection to each other and to a sense of community, the dominance of urban, technological, dualistic values, much discussed in Resurgence over the years, promotes and values the wrong kinds of connections.

Specifically, these values are transactional and economic, rather than personal and direct ones based on empathy, trust and experience.

It is no surprise, then, that most of lowland Britain, along with so many parts of our planet, has been turned tragically and avoidably into an agricultural desert, largely devoid of wildlife, especially of insects, wildflowers and birds.

Positive gains

On a broader scale, the same values have led to the destruction of vast areas of precious wilderness and are bringing the whole planet towards the brink of disaster.

Indeed, Pope Francis has described humanity’s destruction of the environment as a sin and accused mankind of turning the planet into a “polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth”.

So, in order to strengthen the human spirit and roll back this unfolding disaster, we must hold fast to the values and the wisdom which Resurgence has itself upheld for the last half century - including, not least, interconnectedness, non-violence, gratitude, responsiveness and community.

Happily, Resurgence is by no means alone in trying to promote those values and the greater wellbeing that follows surely from them. It is constantly remarked upon that there is an intense hunger and need for new political thinking.

Many people - while acknowledging the positive gains - are acutely aware of what we have lost in our obsession with growth and see also what we need to retrieve.

Understand and appreciate

It is often the most simple and basic things: clean, fresh water; healthy soils; biodiversity; authentic, healthy, unadulterated food; clean breathable air; open spaces readily accessible to everyone; nature respected and protected everywhere; a strong sense of community, of belonging and of place; jobs which provide meaning, purpose, pride, pleasure and companionship -  livelihoods not just employment.

There is still much to do. Supporters of business as usual are in charge, setting the agenda and making those simple things harder to achieve, because they are thought to stand in the way of growth and progress.

It sometimes seems that as a species we are almost incapable of acting in our own genuine long-term interest, and all the more so when entrenched systems of vested interests stand in our way.

Resurgence, however, remains optimistic about the true essence and capacity of the individual and collective human spirit.

There is therefore an urgent need for many more people to understand and appreciate that the environment is just as important as the economy - in fact more so, for without a healthy environment there can ultimately be no economy at all.

Vibrantly animate

In the words of Peter Abbs, Resurgence & Ecologist poetry editor: “The appalling predicament we have thoughtlessly placed ourselves in requires nothing less than a dramatic change of consciousness in which we envisage ourselves as a creative and responsible part of nature, not as exploiters and profiteers, but conservers, guardians and witnesses”.  

Resurgence stands wholeheartedly for the belief that such a change of consciousness is both possible and urgent.

The green movement itself is far broader and larger than Resurgence, but Resurgence is uniquely well placed to develop, bring together and spread the sort of new narratives, which are needed to bring about the wide scale, global change of heart and outlook, which alone will provide the momentum and motivation to pull us and our planet back from the brink.

There is a unifying narrative that emerges from the insights of the green movement and which Resurgence seeks to strengthen and to spread.

This narrative - and I quote from a Resurgence & Ecologist article by Jonathan Dawson, a teacher at Schumacher College -  speaks of “interdependence in place of isolation, within a vibrantly animate Earth, whose health and wellbeing arise out of myriad relationships in a dizzyingly rich web of life”.

Source of consciousness

In other words, we need to construct a new narrative for all of us - to replace the one in which economic growth, technological progress and human scientific brilliance are the focus of our actions and beliefs. We must do this before our current story leads us through pride and hubris to the brink of disaster and beyond.

In the new narrative, on the other hand, all creation is connected. Humans are not, never can be, and could never sanely wish to be, separate from the rest of nature. Our true essence is best expressed through compassion and co-operation, not through competition and misguided individualism.

A resurgence of the human spirit is by definition desirable and a good thing in itself - who could not wish for an increase of joie de vivre, of purpose and of meaning?

But it is also an essential precondition for addressing the multiple challenges facing the planet and the human race.  Moreover, these challenges can only be confronted co-operatively, by nations working together and through a clear appreciation of what constitutes true wealth and true wellbeing – something which has always been at the core of the Resurgence message.

Let us believe, in the optimistic spirit of Resurgence, that it is still not too late to change direction and to restore those simple, natural and precious things, which are our greatest treasures, to their proper place in the world.

We also surely need a return to a sense of wonder and mystery – and a move away from the dangerous and dispiriting idea that humans should be seen as the sole source of consciousness in an otherwise meaningless and inanimate universe, when in fact our own finite egos are infinitesimally small and insignificant compared to the great wonders of creation and the infinity of time.

This Author

James Sainsbury is chair of the Resurgence Trust, the owner and publisher of The Ecologist online and the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine. You can become a member of Resurgence online. This article is an edited version of a speech written for the Resurgence Festival of Wellbeing. 

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