Moving from Consumerism to Compassion in a Human and Non-human world

Reorienting our world view from consumerism to compassion and from competition to collaboration is well overdue.

Within our relationships with other humans we know, innately and through the growing evidence base, that the route to successful ongoing collaborative interactions is founded upon a compassionate understanding of what others feel, need and want.

We know that in order to have compassion for others we need to come to experience the other in the classroom, workplace and in wider society. We need to interact with and come to see the other through their eyes, their experiences and their belief systems.

Once we co-construct this understanding of the other, through positive and deliberate social interactions, we can use this as the foundation for an ongoing and sustainable relationship, one which exists for the mutual benefit of all concerned. Yet this approach is counter to the pervading culture of working with and against others for our own gain; Competition over Collaboration.

An important strand of our work at Cymbrogi is supporting individuals, no matter their age, to activate their innate capacity for collaboration with others. The opening move in this process is recognising our relationship with other social actors, those around us and often those that are ‘strange’ to us; the other. We advocate for exposing ourselves to the other, seeking out opportunities to meet, interact with, learn from and about those who are different to ourselves. Through this we come to understand the other as we co-construct our ongoing relationship of action; Collaboration over Competition.

As we build this we come to see more explicitly the interdependent relationship we have with the other and with this our care for and our compassion for the other grows. This facilitates a paradigm shift in the hidden rules governing our relationship with others, moving from consumerism to compassion.

My work to date has been predominantly situated within this field, exploring our capacity for, ability to and practices of collaborative activity. As I have become more engaged with the non-human world and our place within it I have come to recognise the need to connect with this non-human world (the non-human other) in a similar way.

In a recent Guardian article (22/08/21 ) by Lucy Jones and Kenneth Greenway the diverse benefits of being outdoors and engaging with nature, particularly for young learners, are discussed. Yet alongside the growing evidence for the benefits of being outdoors is evidence that young people are spending less and less time in nature.

Three-quarters of children spend less leisure time outside than prisoners. Four out of five do not have an adequate connection with the natural world, according to the wildlife charity RSPB.

It can be suggested that this decreasing exposure is resulting in a growing disconnect from nature, with this non-human world becoming a distant ‘other’ to whom we have no relationship and thus no compassion for. With the decrease in this relationship and the subsequent erosion in compassion for our non-human world how can we come to expect that the current generation moving their way through our education system will be in a psychological position to take action and help humanity avert ecological disaster?

The solution of course is to get dirty. Get out their. Go wild. Essentially #rewildachild. As Jones and Greenway suggest:

The more children know of the natural world, the more they’ll want to protect it.

So at Cymbrogi we advocate for a position which believes that in order to develop a pro-environmental mindset and consequently pro-environmental behaviours we need to foster a compassion for the non-human world, just as we do for the human world. To achieve this we seek to create the space for young learners to understand and reconnect with the non-human world in a creative and interests led way across our learning site; Cymbrogi HQ. Once we have supported the emergence of this connection we seek to help learners explore further the non-human world, the role they play within it and, facilitated by this journey, begin to materialise a compassion for our environment. 

"No one knows how the climate crisis will end... But we do know this: children need the life-giving, stress-relieving, kin-making, awe-inducing, wonder-sparking experiences of the natural world. Letting our youngest citizens love the world and know the world, run through long grass until their heart beats like a drum, climb a tree and become a bird or a squirrel, paddle in rivers looking for minnows, spend time in areas free from harmful air and noise pollution, knowing that they are part of the Earth, is the very least we can do for them today." - Jones and Greenway

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