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Care and Conserve, not Consume! Louise Pardoe

Louise Pardoe, MSc Holistic Science

I woke up at 5am this morning; the howling wind and driving rain outside my bedroom window whirling around the little cottage that I live in, shaking the very foundations of the building.

The room was pitch black, yet instantly I was wide awake.

“Not more rain!” I said to myself silently, wondering whether my bare feet would be greeted with dry carpet when I swung my legs out of bed, or slide into icy cold water up to my ankles.

Arriving home in Devon after spending Christmas with my parents in the Midlands, my husband and I walked through the front door having travelled for hours through appalling weather conditions consisting of torrential rain and gusts of wind up to 80 mph – the second major storm the UK had experienced over the Christmas period. As we stepped over the threshold with visible relief that we had made it home, our feet connected with a very soggy carpet and we were greeted with pools of water in the kitchen!

Even though we live high on a hill, we had been affected by the ferocity of nature and discovered our home flooded like many others up and down the UK. So, this morning when my eyelids sprang open and my ears were gifted the sound of Mother Nature’s third major storm in as many weeks I have to confess I did wonder what would greet me when daylight came.

Yet, more than that, while I listened to the storm raging outside in the inky blackness I was struck by how different my waking thoughts were compared with fifteen years ago. During the early part of the 2000’s my mind was filled to the rafters with concerns about my mortgage, working extra hours to secure a promotion and wage increase, what holiday I was going to have that year, whether I was paying enough into my pension.

However, in the past ten years those thoughts have faded away and this morning all I could hear was a distant, ancient voice, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that Gaia was trying to attract my attention.

Arriving at Schumacher College this morning, I felt both elated to be back in such a unique and special place after the Christmas break, yet also acutely troubled by the fact that the Earth as we know it is crying out for help, and needs us more today than she has ever done before.

Recognising the ancient voice that speaks deeply within each of us, begging the global community to listen, my thoughts then raced on and on and on….

• Freak weather conditions are becoming more and more common; the climate is changing
• Species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate
• What are we continuing to do to the planet with our hunger for perpetual growth at all costs?
• Why do we keep consuming ‘stuff’ that we don’t really need, pillaging precious resources from the Earth?
• How is humanity going to make it through the next 100 years as the global population increases?
• What kind of a planet are we going to bequeath to our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and their children?

Having been exposed to vast amounts of scientific data on climate change, deep ecology, the evolution of the Universe and Earth, and Gaia theory last semester, the greatest concerns that I have intuitively felt for the Earth since I was a little girl appear to have come to fruition.

And, while this might prove very uncomfortable, I would ask each of you to reach deep inside yourself and ask yourself, how are we going to meet the basic needs (water, food and shelter) of 9 billion people in 2050 on a finite planet with finite resources? A planet that we have irrevocably changed since the industrial revolution1, and upon which our consumer society requires one and a half planet’s worth of resources each year?

The maths simply doesn’t add up! And still the vast majority of mainstream educational institutions are teaching students to become consumers and to exploit the earth, not conserve and care for the Earth. The irony of all this is that the Earth provides us with a home and the oxygen that we breathe. The Earth is our life support, and without it, we die!

What would it be like if we simply committed to fulfilling our basic needs of food, water and shelter, instead of consuming more and more ‘stuff’ that require vast resources the Earth simply cannot sustain? What about the other-than-human beings that are suffering and dying as a result of humanity’s pathological addiction to consumption?

This morning, lying in bed, I heard a familiar and ancient call to action – deep within my belly, deep within my soul. And I know that others are hearing the call too.

We must start to act now if humanity is going to have any chance of making it through the next 100 years. The evidence is available and plain to see if only we wake up, do the research and take action.

And more than that, we each have a moral imagination which needs to take precedence in our lives and show us the way; presenting as a feeling deep within us that something is wrong. While it might suit global corporations and world governments to deny that humanity is affecting Earth’s delicate biosystem, we ignore this nagging, intuitive knowing at our peril.

I admit that there is some urgency today in my writing, but I still believe that there is enough time for each of us to start acting now – this is why I have given up everything to come and study at the Schumacher College. By joining together, every action no matter how small – each loving thought, each considered purchase (coming from a basic need, not a frivolous want or desire), teaching our children to care and not consume – can make a difference.

The Earth, other-than-human beings, our global community and future generations are depending on us.


1Since 1750, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about a third (from 280 to 376 parts per million in 2003), primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels and land use changes. Approximately 60% of that increase (60 parts per million) has taken place since 1960

Between 1960 and 2000, the demand for ecosystem services (benefits provided by ecosystems) grew significantly as world population doubled to 6 billion and the global economy increased more than six fold. To meet this demand, food production increased by roughly 2.5 times, water use doubled, wood harvests for pulp and paper production tripled, installed hydropower capacity doubled, and timber production increased by more than half.

In the last few decades, approximately 20% of the world’s coral reefs were lost, an additional 20% were degraded. In the Caribbean, 80% of the coral has been lost in recent decades. One third of the world’s mangrove areas have also been lost.

The number of species on the planet is declining. Over the past few hundred years, humans have increased the species extinction rate by as much as 1,000 times over background rates typical over the planet’s history. (The background extinction rate is the relatively constant rate – excluding major extinction events – at which organisms have been disappearing from the fossil record over the course of geological time).

Source – ‘Resilience Thinking’, Brian Walker and David Salt (2006)