Innovation, a new perspective and harmony: examine encounters of the day to day through the lens of the ordinary things connected in a resilient system — food, water, waste, energy, buildings, transport

May 19, 2016

Paul Clarke, from GCCM’s Steering Committee, contributed the following:

A compelling vision of the future.

isn’t that what we all want, what we all yearn for?

But on what terms might this vision be realised, and at what cost?

person on winter trail

Human presence on earth in the opening years of the 21st century is the focus of my work in Pop Up Foundation, we are working on a long term exploration of Where we are, and, increasingly, Where we now choose to go.  We do this because human presence on earth is causing concern. I guess you guys wouldn’t be reading this if we felt that our relationship with our planetary home was harmonious? We meet, because we know that something has to be done. The question is what?

Concern is present because we are deeply aware of our estrangement from non-human nature – there is a disconnect. We know this because there is something within us all that sings a song of connection however tiny, with the natural world around us. Otherwise why would we go and sit in the sunshine, or venture out to the hillsides for long walks and solace, or swim in the sea, or blissfully face a warm gust of wind, or delight in the cacophony of sound that is the dawn chorus? The sensuality of the non-human world is always embracing us, always nurturing us, calming us, seeding the innovative dreams in us.

Nature is an innate part of us, reminding us that we are beings amongst other beings. If you don’t believe me, take a breath, hold it, hold it, hold it….You depend upon the trees to provide your next breath…

And yet despite this essential connection, a feature of all our modern consumer lifestyles is to create a world which contributes daily to the destruction of whole ecosystems, forests, rivers, valleys, oceans, and the annihilation of countless species that live there, we destroy their forest and ocean cities and as we do so we slowly engage in self-destruction. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says ‘Ah, not to be cut off, not through the slightest partition shut out from the law of the stars.’

My thought is, that a loss of sensitivity to these events comes from a fundamental break from our places – home has become a reductive service base, as we progressed industrially we left behind the core of what it is to be within connected, harmonious environments and we replaced them with an unnamed anonymity – the modern curse of reduction.

Not to be cut off, to renew our awareness of the greater other of the planet, where to begin?

Well, naming matters, to name something is to care to spend even a moment considering it, what it is, how it exists, seeing what it does in the grand scheme of things. Naming for us today is to know the logo, the label, the soccer star. Go outside and name the leaves on the trees, the birds flying past, the type of beetle in the gutter, it is more difficult, we name what we care for and in doing so, we begin to re-connect.

Suddenly we begin to see the world whether human, animate or inanimate, as part of a rapport of a truly connected community.  We can begin to see how our human efforts within that greater frame of reference can be used to service, or detract from the the life needs of the planet itself, we can function inside this and thrive, and so can everything else – we just have to educate ourselves to do it, we can learn to see our world again.

In our project, Naturally Smart Places we try to do this. We examine encounters of the day to day through the lens of the ordinary things, food, water, waste, energy, buildings, transport, and we see how they can form a connected resilient, system, and, having begun this process of enquiry with our community of children, teachers and parents, we begin to reimagine our relationship with nature through our newly understood places.

It is at an early stage but already we are beginning to recognise that our places are constructed environments, servicing our human needs, but once we begin to understand them better, we begin to see the patterns – people living within natural systems have patterns just as the birds and bugs and beetles do living in their places, each life form is responding to the subtle patterns of a universe of relationships and learning how to thrive, confident in this knowledge we can create and design solutions for our place based around a life enhancing model of learning for both human existence and for all other life forms on planet earth.

Its not difficult, it is a simple shift of emphasis, from ego to eco.

19 May 2016

Professor Paul Clarke, Ph.D
Director, Pop Up Foundation

+44 (0)75 904 705 53

Skype: school-of-sustainability