Feed the good stuff

by ariadnesthread101

The following parable has been used again and again, in self-help books (don’t let that distract you :P), popular psychology magazines, leadership seminars and parenting classes. It’s about how, if we want to bring about positive outcomes, we need to nurture ‘the good’ and make it stronger.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” 

I think this is incredibly important for environmentalists of all stripes.

We can either keep our fingers on what hurts (e.g. focus our analytical and emotional attention on the scale and dynamics of the crisis). Or we can acknowledge that there is a crisis, understand it, and pay analytical and emotional attention to what pushes us in the other direction (pushing the curves downwards if you remember Rockstroms’ talk from last week). This doesn’t mean we stop analysing why and how things got to the state they’re in. It just means that we make it our fundamental and primary aim to really push well-considered solutions out into the world. We don’t present problems and hope that politicians and economists will dream up solutions.

Related to this is the idea that  environmentalism can be about creating better lives by engaging with people’s ‘good wolf’. Showing that sustainability doesn’t have to be about fear (we’re all going to die horribly because of climate change!!!) or about arrogance (I’m green, and better than you!!!) or about sorrow. It can be about engaging with the best of human instincts, building them up and using them to build better human lives in a sustainable way. More and more environmentalists are turning to this idea. At the bottom of it is the idea that we really need to know what makes life worthwhile, and feeding that wolf. And, we think, doing so also improves sustainability. Something to think about, an idea to feed, maybe?

Here’s one example. Nic Marks from the New Economics Foundation talks about the Happy Planet Index.

Inspiring stuff. Feed your good wolf this week 🙂 (Start with giving yourself breakfast :P)

[Image by Gunnar Ries (Own work (own photo)) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

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