100 Hearts & Habits: Ten Reasons for Change

Ten Reasons Why We Need Some Change

The Edge of Extinction book cover

  1. The notion of the inevitable benefits of all material progress is a modern invention. Hunters and foragers, many farmers and herders too, tend not to hold that their current community is any better than those of the past or at other places. Past and future are no more or less valued than current time. But economic development too easily justifies the losses of both species and special places, as we expect losses to be offset by creating something much better.
  2. Our environmental problems are thus human problems. Disconnection from the land, in the form of non-regular contact, already has the capacity to damage and even destroy cultures. Yet many talk of the need for escape, to get away from it all.
  3. Something important remains elusive to many people in affluent countries. It is much happiness. The proportion of people in industrialised countries describing themselves as happy has not changed since the 1950s, despite a trebling of wealth as measured by GDP.
  4. Consumer culture has transformed the old equations about people and land. Global connectedness now illuminates the upsides of consumption, and aspirations are converging. But now come considerable environmental, health and social side-effects, so serious they threaten this finite planet’s capacity to resource all our wants. Conventional economic growth encourages a race to the top of consumption, even though large numbers of people currently have no prospects of escaping poverty or hunger.
  5.  We still call this progress.
  6. The Edge of Extinction comprises twelve stories beginning in the west Pacific and travelling east to west to end again at the Pacific Ocean. Jules Pretty walked with local Māori people along the coasts of the Pacific, climbed newly accessible mountains in China with thousands of others, and journeyed into petroglyph-rich deserts of Australia where oil and gas have come but the locals are extinct. He travelled with nomads across the continent-wide steppes of southern Siberia, walked and boated in the inland swamps of southern Africa rich with wildlife, and journeyed out onto the Arctic cold with ice-fishermen in Finland. He explored the coasts and inland marshes of eastern England and the coastal glens of Northern Ireland, and trekked with Innu people across the taiga’s snowy forests and lakes of the Labrador interior. The passages continued in the Americas on the small farms of Amish horse-cultures that thrive alongside the failing cities of the rust-belt, then with Cajun swampers of the deep south’s largest inland swamp, and finally in the deserts of Death Valley in the west where are both the lowest and highest places.
  7. This book is about people defending nature-based cultures, proud of their relationships with the land, and only willing to join with the modern world on their terms. Lessons for moderns may lie in some of the stories from these places.
  8. Yet reason and evidence have not compelled us to care enough for nature. A good future will not be a return to something solely rooted in the past: we need medical, farm and transport technology, certainly computers and modern communications. But a hybrid vigour might be created through both-and practices rather than either-or.
  9. New greener economies in which material goods have not harmed the planet would be good economies: even better if production processes could accumulate natural capital. The great majority of non-industrial cultures which maintain links to the land have done so through local cultural institutions, often manifesting in nature a variety of spiritual symbols and stories that command respect.
  10. If we wish to convince people to manage the planet sustainably and consume in different ways, then we will have to embed 21st century lifeways in a new texture of beliefs, emotions and experience. We will need moral teachings and wisdom about the environment and our duties as individuals. Through a different kind of consciousness of the world, perhaps our impact can be changed.

Making Our Impacts Positive