In our rapidly changing world, the four-letter word that seems to be echoing louder than ever before is “fear.” Fear permeates our society, particularly within the environmental sector, where concerns about shifting government policies, climate change, and the destructive impact of human actions (yes, all of ours) are on the rise. This fear is not limited to environmentalists alone; even those whose traditional ways of enjoying exploiting the environment face an uncertain future and are grappling with fear. In this article, we explore the powerful emotions of fear, hate, and hope, exploring how they manifest in different groups and individuals and their roles in shaping the very future of the natural world and the very future of life on earth.
Fear & Hate
One cannot deny that fear has cast a long shadow over the environmental sector and increasingly beyond as it occupies public discourse. Those deeply invested in preserving our natural world are especially fearful of the government’s increasingly cynical attacks on the environment and its very own NetZero policy. This fear is compounded by the obvious results of climate change becoming increasingly devastating, with more frequent and severe climate events affecting communities worldwide – it is 24°C in the UK in October! Furthermore, there’s a growing list of examples illustrating how human actions, and perhaps just as importantly, inactions, have led to the death and destruction of wildlife and their precious habitats.
However, fear isn’t confined to environmentalists; it also surfaces among those whose lives and livelihoods have long been dependent on the exploitation of nature. A recent encounter in Scotland serves as a poignant example. Two individuals passionately dedicated to pheasant and grouse shooting were aggrieved by our decision to halt such activities on land under Oxygen Conservation ownership. It’s important to note here that no suggestion or comment was offered about how they choose to manage their own land, the anger and hate came as a result of how we choose to manage our own land, for nature. It is important to say that I didn’t handle this conversation as well as I hope to in future. I was tired, surprised by the approach and defensive in my responses, perhaps even rude – for that I apologise and did so directly to our new friends when they were no longer drunk.
And whilst their feelings in the moment were clearly amplified by copious amounts of alcohol, I don’t think this was the real source of their hate. I think it’s fear. Perhaps it’s the fear that the world is evolving beyond their traditional practices. Maybe they’re apprehensive about their roles in society, sensing that their time in the limelight has passed. Or it could be the dawning realisation that the arrogant entitlement that once propelled them might not suffice in an altered landscape, one marked by evolving societal values and a rapidly changing climate (in every sense of the word).
Fear & Change
Interestingly, fear can serve as a catalyst for change, albeit in diverse and sometimes unexpected ways. In contrast to our unexpected discussions, two scheduled meetings this week highlighted such very different reactions to very similar conversations.
On either side of the above discussion, I was privileged to be asked to speak to representatives from the Scottish government on the hillside in Perthshire and the European Board of Triodos Bank at their wonderful head office in Bristol.
Whilst in our meeting with these pheasant and grouse shooting enthusiasts, fear gave rise to anger and hostility. They initiated an uninvited and increasingly unpleasant discussion, followed by a slew of four-letter words.
Conversely, the meetings with the Scottish Government and the Triodos European Board bore witness to a very different response. These stakeholders, despite acknowledging the grim state of our environment, were motivated by fear to work harder to find positive change. They recognised the urgency of the situation and were committed to making a difference for people and wildlife. Their response to a very similar conversation was not hate but gratitude. They expressed appreciation for the insights and efforts we’ve dedicated to environmental conservation, concluding that it offered them a glimmer of hope.
Fear & Hope
In a world where fear often seems omnipresent, fostering hope becomes essential. Fear can paralyse us, causing us to cling to outdated practices and beliefs, but hope can empower us to transcend those limitations. Hope is the beacon that guides us through the tumultuous waters of uncertainty and change, and sometimes it is all we have, but also, all we need.
The Scottish Government and Triodos European Board meetings exemplify the power of hope. They demonstrated that, even in the face of daunting challenges, hope can inspire collaboration and drive meaningful action. While it is the current generation that must act, it is the next generation that will ultimately bear the consequences or reap the benefits of our actions.
The world is undoubtedly facing pressing environmental challenges, and fear is a natural response to these threats. However, as we navigate this increasingly turbulent terrain, we must remember that fear can be a double-edged sword. It can either foster hate and resistance or ignite positive change, collaboration, and most importantly, hope.
In the environmental sector, it is imperative that we choose the path of hope. Hope is the driving force behind innovation, conservation, and the pursuit of a regenerative future. By finding common ground and uniting in our commitment to make a positive impact, we can transcend fear and create a world where hope prevails.
In closing, let us strive to find more hope and less hate in our collective journey towards a healthier, more sustainable planet. For my part, moving forward I will do everything I can to meet the hate with compassion. Or at least I hope I will.