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Issue 232
September/October 2005
Nature Knows us - do we know nature?

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NATURE KNOWS US - DO WE KNOW NATURE?
by
Desert Chameleon Photograph: Ingo Arndt/Naturepl.Com

Desert Chameleon Photograph: Ingo Arndt/Naturepl.Com

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NATURE KNOWS US - DO WE KNOW NATURE?

RECENTLY I WAS talking with Kay Dunbar, the founder of Ways with Words, a literary festival which takes place every year at Dartington, UK. Kay said, "In urban and industrial civilisations people are increasingy losing Eco-intelligence." The moment I heard the word 'Eco- intelligence' it rang a bell. I realised that the article by Paul Stamets, 'Mushroom Magic', is exactly about that: mushrooms are intelligent. So are trees, rivers, oceans, animals and all the creatures of the Earth. We belong to a living Earth in an intelligent universe. Intelligence is not a human monopoly. The universe is made of intelligence and consciousness. Planet Earth is a self-organising, self-managing and self-correcting living organism. Wherever there is life there is intelligence and consciousness. Eco-intelligence means the eco-system is an intelligent system.

Humans are intelligent, but people in urban and industrial societies are mostly living in human-made, technological and artificial environments: air-conditioned homes, cars and offices hold us within a cocoon which is disconnected from the eco-system and the natural world. Young people in our schools can recognise more than fifty logos of business corporations, but if you take them into the woods, very few will be able to name ten varieties of tree - not to mention insects and other creatures. We cannot read the book of Nature. Knowledge of the natural world is mostly obtained from TV channels. People are afraid of cold, heat, rain, snow, thunder, lightning, and the roar of wild animals. This disconnection and alienation from the biosphere leads to severe intelligence deficiency. The great universities of the world are full of people who have technological and academic knowledge but are ignorant of the real world. Universities are no longer the centres of intelligence and knowledge - they have become the citadels of ignorance. They need eco-literacy and eco-intelligence.

It is the work of poets and writers of the imagination to expose our ignorance and challenge the mindset which places the natural world out of human reach. Adam Thorpe, a novelist and a poet, expresses his anger and frustration at the way we are destroying the natural world and discusses what artists can do to redress this. Christopher Lloyd suggests that if the Conservative Party wishes to earn the trust of British people, it has to regain its intelligence by connecting with people, planet and future generations - in other words become 'True Conservatives' and start conserving the Earth and perennial human values.

The whole raison d'être of Resurgence is to recognise the intelligence of the Earth and to inspire people to return to their own intelligence about the Earth. These two aspects of eco-intelligence are paramount to a sustainable future. Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, is challenging us to realise that huge problems such as climate change cannot be addressed unless we understand and establish a symbiotic relationship with nature. Nature is not out there as an object to be manipulated and exploited. Humans are Nature too; ultimately life is one, manifesting itself in millions of forms.

Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar is President of Schumacher UK, Editor of Resurgence and Director of Programmes at Schumacher College.

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