In case you thought it was, climate change is no longer just one of those issues a few hippy folk drone on about. Even if you were not a climate change denier, you may have been unwilling, unable, or uniformed enough to realise the seriousness of the situation.
Now, as Spring unfolds (a new Spring? a different Spring?), the UK has declared a climate emergency. In a few short weeks, the actions of one schoolgirl, one eminent environmentalist, and hundreds of civil activists have moved us to a new awareness – and hopefully a new urgency – around becoming carbon neutral.
As someone who writes about the beauty and benefits of the natural world – specifically native British species and landscapes – I am asking myself an urgent question: how can I best use my skills to be of service to this particular landmass? The whole globe seems rather an ask.
Suddenly, my writings – stories of my experiences in wilder landscapes, or descriptive pieces about natural beauty – seem to have an emptiness, a pointlessness. Even at their literary best, and however enjoyable they might be for others to read, I am not sure what purpose they are serving, not sure about their utility…
Of course there is a long standing argument that art (if indeed my efforts can be called that) does not have to have utility. It has to serve nothing or no-one but itself. I’m not sure that I have ever been totally comfortable with that notion, but I’m certainly not comfortable any more in relation to my own attempts to create art. Specifically, to write about the natural world for its own sake. I have to ask myself what am I writing this for…?
As someone trained in psychotherapeutic and facilitative approaches to helping others raise their awareness and develop emotional competence, the question “What are you doing this for…?” is one always useful to ask. Many of our behaviours are unexamined, until a personal crisis occurs, and not always then. We do many things because we were brought up that way; because some authority figure has told us to do it; because we always have done it that way; because we’re supposed to/should do/ought to… and so on.
Over two thousand years ago, the philosopher Socrates supposedly said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I have lived all of my adult life questioning why we (and I) do the things we do, and the last thirty plus years of it learning how to facilitate others (and myself) to make the changes they desire in their personal and professional lives.
Now it seems to me that this most crucial time – this time of emergency – requires us to widen that personal or relational view. Requires me to, at least. What changes can I make, or what actions can I take, that will have value and benefit wider than my own personal life, or that of my immediate circle of friends/family/colleagues etc?
From this moment on, I am working consciously with this question. My belief and my experience (and certainly my hope) is that I will be assisted in a non-conscious way too. I hope Terence McKenna’s words are correct: “Nature is alive and talking to us. This is not a metaphor.”
I’m certainly listening.