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The human calling

There was an interesting article in the Guardian yesterday quoting one of last year's Do Lectures outstanding speakers, Alistair McIntosh, who captured the minds of many in Cardigan with the simplicity and passion of his call to action for a saner world.

The Guardian article is here, followed by a couple of extracts:

"How do we live in a way that honours rather than endangers the life of our planet? Or, to put it slightly differently, how do we live in a way that shows an understanding that we genuinely live in a shared world, not one that simply belongs to us? This would be a good question even if we were not faced with the threats associated with global warming, with the reduction of biodiversity, with desertification and deforestation, with fuel and food shortages.

In his splendid book, Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition, Alastair McIntosh speaks of our current "ecocidal" patterns of consumption as addictive and self-destructive. Living like this is living at a less than properly human level – McIntosh suggests we may need therapy, what he describes as a "cultural psychotherapy" to liberate us. That liberation may or may not be enough to avert disaster. But what we do know – or should know – is that we are living inhumanly.

We must begin by recognising that our ecological crisis is part of a crisis of what we understand by our humanity; it is part of a general process of losing our "feel" for what is appropriately human, a loss that has been going on for some centuries and which some cultures and economies have been energetically exporting to the whole world. It manifests itself in a variety of ways. It has to do with the erosion of rhythms in work and leisure, so that the old pattern of working days interrupted by a day of rest has been dangerously undermined; a loss of patience with the passing of time so that speed of communication has become a good in itself; a loss of patience which shows itself in the lack of respect and attention for the very old and the very young. It is a loss whose results have become monumentally apparent in the financial crisis of the last 12 months. We have slowly begun to suspect that we have allowed ourselves to become addicted to fantasies about prosperity and growth, dreams of wealth without risk and profit without cost. A good deal of the talk and activity around the financial collapse has the marks of what Alastair McIntosh calls "displacement activity" – it fails to see where the roots of the problem lie; in our amnesia about the human calling.


Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for writing this and sharing Alistair's words. I'd like to offer a 'Yes, and...' (to quote the lovely Belina at Greengaged recently) and suggest that the problem we have created offers us the opportunity to find a new way of thinking to solve it.

I wrote recently about whether chaos forces us to change or if we create the chaos to force progress ( Perhaps from here we can take what we have learnt during this period of physical and financial growth (Gunderson & Holling to assist the process of reconnection Alistair talks about. One more step in the natural cycle of our development.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachael West

Hi Andy - I see Alastair is still giving the same value that he was in Edinburgh Uni back in the day! Funnily enough another good friend recently featured Alastair in a blog post, over on "Fisher Viking". It's all coming together.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichel

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