- Humanity must make an evolutionary leap from a consumer species to a restorer species, and business can lead it. How? Start by embedding trees into every financial transaction.
- With current statistics showing the loss of nature at 68% globally since 1970, it’s clear that we’re not trying hard enough, not all of us. We’re waiting for someone else to solve this, abdicating responsibility en masse.
- “If ever there was a moment to discover what we’re actually capable of it’s now, because this is not what humanity evolved for. Our ancestors didn’t fight to live just for us to shop ourselves into extinction.”
- This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
During the summer, we were submerged in a thick blanket of smoke in California. Being evacuated alongside thousands of others as fire does its undeniable thing gives one a lot to chew on.
Much is clear. Life, as it has been here, is over. We are into a whole other stage of climate uncertainty. To say that this is sobering doesn’t even come close to the sensation or the emotion. As songbirds die in their hundreds of thousands, as whole towns go up in smoke, as dreams are laid waste and the basics that nature has provided so bountifully are wiped away, we are left confronted by ourselves.
We are the creators of this reality. What exactly are we going to do about it?
That is the one question that overrides my exhaustion instantly. Inside me, a compass swings resolutely to my own true north and stays there unwaveringly. My body will not collude with my mind’s insistence that ‘it’s over’ because while human hearts still beat, it is not.
We are brilliant. We are loving. We have the capacity for vast compassion, creativity and growth. We long to serve, for our lives to have meaning and to experience the very best of ourselves at full stretch, nothing held back. Knowing that, there is everything to play for, because right now there is everything to lose and that cannot be the legacy that our children inherit. They need to know that we gave it everything, so will we?
With current statistics showing the loss of nature at 68% globally since 1970, it’s clear that we’re not trying hard enough, not all of us. We’re waiting for someone else to solve this, abdicating responsibility en masse. If ever there was a moment to discover what we’re actually capable of it’s now, because this is not what humanity evolved for. Our ancestors didn’t fight to live just for us to shop ourselves into extinction, when we have the capacity (and opportunity) to deliver the most majestic evolutionary leap ever attempted and redefine ourselves as a species.
Meanwhile, under cover of COVID, deforestation rates are rapidly accelerating. As ‘what once were forests’ have rained from the sky as ash, and as we evacuated and drove for hours past the vast clear cuts and plantations of the ‘what once were rainforests’ of the Pacific Northwest, my tree-shaped soul found sanity quietly plotting the path towards my own true north: consumer species turned restorer species. A humanity that found itself through the restoration of nature having understood that there simply could not be a healthy ‘me’ without healthy trees.
How? Start by embedding trees into every financial transaction. Ensure that you cannot take from nature without giving back, making restoration as core to human behavior as consumption currently is. Redefine greatness through generosity, wealth through philanthropy, power through authenticity and care of others, leadership through whole system regeneration and humanity through the conscious strengthening of relationship with self, other and nature as sacred. Make ‘care’ the new cool, and outlaw apathy as wasted life because we don’t have time for it.
How would this world spin, if reverence laced the air that we breathe rather than greed and convenience. If tenderness, humility and awe were our currency with the living world, and the differences between us bred curiosity and depth, rather than fear dressed as judgment? I want that world, and that world is possible because everything is possible. We just have to want it, choose it, and start.
This recent quote from WWF raised an eyebrow: ‘If the planet was a business, and it suffered 68% losses, wouldn’t there be an emergency meeting and an IMMEDIATE firing of all those leading the company with a review how to do things? Wouldn’t we hire experts?” Well, you’d think so.
So what if business led the change? It has the cash, the brilliance, the teams and the social leverage to educate, inspire and guide in a huge way. It could redefine itself if it chose to, by reorganizing its values to overtly include social and ecological restoration, not merely as an add-on but as a core function of its purpose. It could become the invitation to shareholders to shift from profit at the expense of life, to becoming the drivers of whole sector change, demanding social justice and ecologically sound business practice as a new norm.
See related: Without planting more trees in the tropics, we can’t fix the climate
Business could become mass educators and movement builders that unite, uplift, inspire and reorient people’s experience of consumption while inviting their engagement in activities that steer us away from the ecological cliff that we’re currently hanging off. I want that version of business, and I want it badly, which is why TreeSisters, the reforestation charity I founded in 2012, is banging the drum of corporate transformation through ecological restoration. None of us want to look back on the insanity of driving our children off this cliff without even reaching for the brake, so please can we all start restoring the global forest while we figure out how to turn ourselves and our world around?
My true north includes an insanely enjoyable ‘whole systems flip’ into wildly collaborative and creatively generous corporate cultures, where the only real place for competition is around how much we give back, how out of the box, carbon-clean, compassionate, socially just and ecologically regenerative we can be, as we go about redefining ourselves collectively as stewards and protectors of a miraculous world. If folks don’t want to play, then we need to stop shopping with them. Simple.
TreeSisters was founded with the intention of rekindling a reciprocal human relationship with the natural world: with over 14 million tropical trees planted we’re turning our invitation to the world of business because it can, and it must, recognize itself as a primary driver of that change.
Everyone can make a difference, from sole traders and consultants to small, medium and large companies. Everyone has reach, everyone can make a stand, inspire and change their game. The question is, how much of a difference are you ready to make, and is it enough to cause all those around you to sit up straight and ask themselves why they, too, are not striving to also make a difference?
Growing a forest is hugely inspiring. It is tangible, measurable, socially and ecologically beneficial in more ways than many of us could ever imagine. Nature knows what she’s doing. If we can give her a head start, give her a chance, give her real energy, attention and care through genuine reciprocity, then life does come back, water does return and critically endangered species can continue to grace our world.
Clare Dubois is the Founder of TreeSisters, a women-led reforestation movement. To view their invitation to businesses, visit: www.treesisters.org/partner-with-us/business-partnerships.