Programmes of compassionate communities are developing across many continents, including North and South America, Australasia, Europe, and South and East Asia. And at last the good-heartedness of these initiatives is supported by the economic sense of concern for our future.
The fossil-fuel industry is no longer a match for renewable energy production, with renewables now overtaking the largest oil industry company, Exxon, on stock markets. There is hope, but it will be the unstinting efforts of us all that will continue to make this compassion potential ripen across the globe.
Social relationships are more effective at keeping us alive and feeling healthy than diet, exercise or giving up smoking or drinking, and far more effective than drug treatment of high blood pressure.
Robert Waldinger, fourth lead of the amazing Harvard and Glueck Studies of Adult Development, which have been observing the lives of men from Harvard and Boston since 1938, says: “There was a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier.”
The converse of good social relationships, the impact of feeling lonely, is bad for our health. The sense of loneliness, whether this is amongst people or in isolation, increases risk of premature death by about one third.
Compassion is built into our evolution, not just in humans but in all animals with backbones. The hallmark of compassion and socialisation is the hormone oxytocin, which is present throughout the animal kingdom.
Humans, the most social of animals, are the outcome of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, and we have survived through helping each other out. Survival of the kindest is a much better description of the importance of our social nature than survival of the fittest, which was coined by the 19th-century philosopher Herbert Spencer and was the start of social Darwinism.