Image credit: Pasty Muncher
I've been thinking some more about why individual environmental action is not enough. It's not just that the metric for success—personal reductions in our impact, as opposed to collective—is on the wrong scale. It's the wrong metric too.
We are spending so much time worrying about how to reduce our impact, and be less bad, we are loosing sight of the fact that we can't just slow the destruction. We have to reverse it too. In many ways it's not a new argument. (Few arguments really are.) Cradle to Cradle co-author Michael Braungart's ant analogy most famously pointed out that ants both outnumber us and outweigh us, yet they manage to exist in complete harmony with the world around them.
Of course, slowing the destruction is one step on the path to regeneration. It just can't be an end in itself. I've lost count of the number of environmentalists I've met who seem perfectly happy to spend hours agonizing over ways to shave off every last gram from their own carbon footprint—but in doing so they miss out on opportunities to have a larger societal impact.
But what does a positive environmental footprint look like? It might look like the Scottish activists reforesting 600 square miles of ancient Caledonian forests, or city dwellers creating gardens in under-used train stations. It might look like scientists exploring sustainable use of biochar to sequester CO2. Or it might look like the Yorkshire villagers protecting themselves from floods through reforestation.
Many of us are probably already taking small steps to regenerate the earth around us. Whether we are composting our waste, or planting wildflowers, we can all do something to not just do less harm, but actually start repairing the damage too.
We are not a species that needs to wish our impact out of existence. We just need to understand, embrace and develop the idea that we can be productive members of the ecosystems we rely on.