“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”
– Albert Einstein
Let’s think about the problem, let’s be mindful about our approach to the fires.
When we are in pain we easily go into reactive mode. When we react we repeat the ‘mistakes’ of the past. When we react we behave from understandings about the world and ourselves based in the past. More than ever it is important not to immediately ask what to do, rather the question should be what to understand, what needs to be different, what did we miss, how do we protect ourselves from ourselves?
The fires in Australia are a symptom of the whole of Mother Earth being in pain, being out of balance. High levels of anxiety, suicide in children, depression, obesity and the extinction of various species have not led us to stop and demand a deeper analysis of the root causes of the indicators that something is not in health, rather we tend to localise and personalise the problems. Humankind has come a long way. The world is becoming better in so many ways. This has happened through good intentions, persistence, courage and fresh new ways of seeing things. Now we need to apply these to the biggest challenge ever faced by humankind.
Never has it been more urgent to get something right. For fires like we have seen over the past couple of months not to become the new norm, and for them not to cause exponential shifts in temperature and weather patterns, we need to make swift changes, personally, nationally and globally. We in Australia are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change but if we are to inspire and influence others to change we first need to show up ourselves. It won’t be enough that we in Australia or New Zealand and Denmark have a climate policy, we need global commitment.
In other words, we need to see a shift or widening of identity: from “me” (egocentric) to “my group” (ethnocentric) to “my country” (sociocentric) to “all of us” (worldcentric) to “all beings” (planetcentric) and perhaps one day to “all of reality” (Kosmoscentric)
Let’s not miss the opportunity for deep systemic change due to the “feel good” of generous donations, or a perceived change in some politicians. Let’s not believe that everything will be ok once the fire and smoke die down and that it will be business as usual. If we do that it will be very short lived.
Let’s not believe that science and innovation will get us out of this. They can only be a contributor to the solution.
Let’s not waste energy being angry with Scott Morrison or the mining industry; it is misdirecting our energy. This does not mean not voicing opinions or demanding change, but doing so in a proactive, wise way rather than an angry, divisive way. We all have a little Mr Morrison within, as well as the greed of the big mining companies. As much as I love Greta Thunberg and what she is doing, she doesn’t understand how we all carry the same disease of destruction enabled by our affluence. It is not “them” versus “us”, only us.
Fred Kofman says that key to conscious leadership is that if you are trying to fix others you are looking in the wrong place. Taking this further, if your focus is that others are wrong and you are good, you are missing the point. In other words, it seems that all roads lead to Rome which is ourselves. The world reflects our insides in the macro.
How did we forget that we are little organisms that need clean air, clean water and uncontaminated food? How is that possible? How can our disconnect from our biology be so profound? How can we dare to dismiss for decades concerns about the health of the world that sustains us?
What is it within us, in us humans, that has resulted in extreme temperatures, much rain in some places, none in others, fires, floods and extinctions of many species? How can we be so blind? What are we driven by that has created this disaster?
I will attempt to map the domains that need to be analysed by using Ken Wilber’s four dimensional way of looking at humans, these four elements that co arise and co influence. There are two internal dimensions, two external, two individual and two group or shared.
Check out the little graph below and stick to it. This is an amazing model that can be used in all dimensions of understanding, development and planning.
The four elements are:
- UL – interior experience (‘I’),
- UR – what is empirically going on in the body, hormonally, physically, and the behaviour of the human (‘it’),
- LL is the shared internal, our culture, and shared understandings and meaning making. Expectations of clean water, annual holidays, air conditioning, owning own house, swimming pool etc. Expectations that I have a right to do what I want within the law. (‘we’)
- And finally LR which is our social systems, our education, political and legal systems. The capitalistic system that has given us so much, like clean water, electricity, increased health, aircrafts, consumer markets, mining industry, power structures, marketing etc. (‘they/it’)
Let’s explore how each domain contributes to our climate crisis.
First the internal individual, UL. In this it is about how we experience the world. I get caught up in my little world and experience it as if I am the centre of the universe. If my little finger hurts it bothers me more than if I hear of 100 deaths in a far-away country. Our perspective is easily narrowed, based in self-interest rather than global interest, this also applies to politicians. Problem. Not our fault but our responsibility to try to manage.
Second is the external individual (UR). This is about our biology, how we function. We are encoded with a program that is designed for us to survive and that means avoid the dangerous and unpleasant, grab what you can to fill you up and get needs and wants met. We consume and also don’t want to hear the bad news like climate change. Problem. Not our fault but our responsibility to try to manage.
Third is internal collective (LL), our shared ‘givens’ like efficiency, maximising profit, endless growth, youth, wealth over wisdom, gentleness, love, quality of life, sharing, giving, careful consideration, modesty, humility. Role models that are high consumers and high producers, fly in their own jet, arrive in a new outfit every time they are seen and live in mansions. All of us feeling we have a right to as many children as we want, to fly where we want, to eat and consume what we want. Not to have any restrictions other than our own finances limit what we do. Problem. Not our fault but our responsibility to try to manage.
Fourth is our social systems (LR), our education systems that more and more are there to meet the demands of industry, our political systems where it is loyalty to the party and self-preservation over serving the country, forces of production that are based solely in profit rather than quality of life for everyone involved both in the present and in the future. Banks that justify taking from individuals and other tax coffers as smart business. Economic systems that create more and more imbalance – the rich are getting richer, poorer distribution of wealth, meaning also much power in the hands of the few. Problem.
Remember that the elements arise within the self simultaneously. They co-arise (or tetra-mesh) and inform each other. Also within each quadrant are developmental levels.
What are you left with? What do we do differently from now apart from engaging the practical measures to manage situations like this?
What is your point of influence internally, in what you do, in how we think as a culture and how our systems work?
In my last blog, I shared how mindfulness can help process the overwhelming fear that many are experiencing as a result of the fires. I also believe that there is a strong need for wise voices, in writing, sharing, commenting, being the voice of reason. If you work within a system such as the political, education, public service then push, be the voice of change, push for policies that are based in always considering environmental impact as much as the financial.
How would you react to ideas of change like it no longer being ok for individual households to have a pool? That a resource like a pool has to be shared? How would you react to flights doubling in price as we need to offset in a serious way? How would you react to not being able to individually drive your children to school, rather it has to be shared or buses have to be used? How would you react to much higher building standards? How would you react to shifting more of us into apartments as the footprint of those in apartment is only one fifth of those living in an independent house? How would you react to any of your implicit choice privileges being affected by a climate law?
An article in the Danish Politiken shared the insights of two climate researchers. Key was that we all need to make changes and that can start by challenging ourselves. They also suggest that you talk to friends and family about the issue and what you are doing that is working, what you are learning.
Here are some areas that you can start to explore. It is a good idea to have a clear idea of your current pattern so you can measure your success.
- Shower time and water pressure
- Driving – how much of a fuel guzzler is your car, can you change it, how can you drive less or do more shared commutes? Can you walk/bike more, use public transport more?
- How can you fly less, use train instead or combine jobs/events when you fly somewhere.
- Compost and waste less. Again, measure how much you throw out over a two week period and then see if you can reduce it. (Planning more is, of course, useful.)
- Can you consume less, everything from buying new clothes, to replacing white goods, to having three toothpastes and five cleaning agents. (This time in Copenhagen I enjoyed browsing second hand shops and also, if you can afford it, go for linen and wool rather than synthetics.)
- Reduce your use of the washing machine – check if the clothes really need washing, air clothes and get rid of a spots when possible. How many washes can you reduce a month?
- Turn down the air-conditioning and heating. Every degree you cool or heat consumes another 10% electricity. If in the cold offer jumpers, and warm socks. Only cool the room you are in, insulate if you can afford it (roof, windows, walls), allow the night to cool the house if possible.
- Please add your ideas to these, so we can learn from each other’s tips and ideas.
In moving forward, we of course still have to deal with the essential issues of the acute fires, smoke and emergencies, with how to better manage the land, including back burning. But let’s not derail the underlying issues to be about one man, one party or one group of people, or only about resources to the Rural Fire Service. This is a global problem and it is generated by all of us, in large not due to ill will but through ignorance and reactive habitual thinking. Time for all of us to wake up and to support each other in that process