Findhoron Fellow, Paul Allen reflects on the inspiration and learnings emerging from the New Story Summit: Inspiring Pathways for our Planetary Future, held at the Findhorn Foundation and Community 27 September – 3 October 2014. He offers practical steps we can each take to reduce our impact on the Earth now, whilst increasing our joy and quality of life – a good news story and a definite ‘win-win’ for people and planet.
It was lovely, I was moved deeply, I am wiser and I am very happy I participated. The summit logistics and organisation were good, clearly a very dynamic and motivated team. Well done and thanks to everyone concerned. Thank you especially to Jonathon Porritt for catalysing the very effective discussions on how we can use a story that serves to effect change.
For me, being the person I am and knowing what I know about the urgency of the global climate situation – I felt that amongst the ethereal beings, elementals and unseen realms which I know and love, I also was concerned that there was a very familiar invisible elephant walking around the room. I feel most deeply that if we in the industrialised world are to genuinely respect majority world nations and honour the coming future generations, we must make doing the numbers a core part of framing our new story. From my perspective, this means looking at estimates of what is the maximum collective ‘human impact’ that gives us a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic environmental damage to the Earth’s potential to support its eco-systems, including the 9 billion future humans. We must then divvy them up equitably on a global basis, taking account of historic legacies.
This is not a matter of moralising or inflicting guilt. We all awake to find ourselves having been deliberately, unwillingly compelled to knowingly place a burden on the earth, those in other places and those in future times. Once awake we must act. I feel deeply sad for those still compelled to do this un-knowingly, but even more so for those who continue to do it knowingly.
The evidence is the story. To help us see the reality of this new terrain I feel there should be greater recognition that a wholistic science rooted in the evidence has a new and exciting role to play. One of the things I felt we all agreed on that ‘stewardship’ is a key part of what the story asks of humanity, and under present perilous circumstances such stewardship now requires numbers, eco-literacy and basic science. Even the Sty-ward (origin of the term) had to count the pigs. That said; it is of course vital we balance head and heart, and ‘bring out the shine’ in getting them both working together.
So, we in the energy excessive west then plot a course from our needlessly over consuming lifestyles of today to our new niche in a fair share future terrain. This then becomes our collective joyous adventure. The journey to real equity is vital, and we need to make it shine. We can acknowledge that today’s lifestyle of theft from the future has been inflicted on us, but if we don’t move on we will carry the karma.
For me, the new story must be based around ‘Authenticity’ – actually living our beliefs. But this doesn’t have to be a sad, dismal process of retraction; it can be a bold brave collective march forward. In learning to transcend from the conspicuous consumption based lifestyles, we are compelled to learn to re-connect with; ourselves, our community, nature not as utility but as equals. My first small step towards this new narrative was to travel to the summit by train, looking out for other summiteers en-route. For me air travel and especially within the UK where better options are not really that hard is high-damage excess, and although it is a powerful way of meeting new faces, it must be used very wisely and only where truly necessary. So I was happy to put the needs of future generations before my own busy schedule. Mapping the new story is not an experiment in some distant laboratory but how I live my life from day to day. This is why I have never driven a car, rarely eat meat and heat with my home with wood. But it’s not a burden it’s a joy.
I also feel it is vital we don’t demonise the old story – we must respect it. It has brought us to the point of having all the tools we need for the next transition, but we must also recognise its highly seductive nature and how it stuck its claws into our animal instincts as we search for the will to walk forwards on a new road.
Where I feel the conference was spot on was in the recognition that the emergence of a new global story will be rooted in a new emergent global consciousness. Most of us, from consumers to CEO’s actually know this is the wrong/bad path, but it so often goes unspoken; resulting the emerging new pressure to find space to ‘talk about what we are doing to challenge it’, clearly witnessed at the summit. In fact, the heart of big business flutters more than we know, as they are equally trapped within the old story and their people are bleak within their affluence, a reality so often illuminated to them by their children.
There is every potential to unleash a viral, surging, emerging global desire for the next chapter in our story. When you do the numbers it reveals an exciting new terrain; ‘space with local nature’ and ‘the inner path’ both emerge glistening with a very good ‘carbon to bliss’ ratios.
As we consider how best to take the process forward, we should think about how our process can have the most good impact for the least bad impact. The ‘hubs concept’ is very exciting and holds considerable potential to pioneer new tools for global cross fertilisation, reconciliation and inspiration – whilst honouring the need to reduce impacts. Gathering in ‘live local hubs’, discussing, listening, skyping, sharing. Linking practical live-lab projects, arts and creativity, prayer and promise. Let’s see how we can all build on the hubs idea.
Some of the emotional chaos unleashed during the process did serve to remind me that there is a need to make the massive social and infrastructural transition as smooth and secure as possible transition, without opportunity of an unfortunate negative shift, locking into an unpleasant new form of governance or on going chaos.
The story that serves, actually delivers. This changes us. The wonder and joy of creative experiment. Radical millennials see something new, they can’t quite focus yet, but is coming into view, we need to listen to them, but we also must show them we can actually change.
Paul Allen (electrical engineer & musician)
Project leader Zero Carbon Britain
Zero Carbon Britain