Long before religious and sacred texts were written, our ancestors around the world referred to Natural World for guidance and teaching. They studied the patterns of the daily, seasonal and annual cycles, as well as the movements of the planetary constellations and the natural phenomena all around them. Nature - Creation - can be referred to as the 'First Bible'. To this day, we appreciate the soothing, reflective and inspirational benefits of being out in Nature, whether that be by water, amongst mountains, or in the woods. When we take time to observe and listen, Nature speaks to a deeper, interior self within each of us.

What we observe today is a natural world that is increasingly disturbed: more storms, greater flooding, rising air and sea temperatures, spreading deserts, melting polar icecaps and glaciers.

And, at the same time, we are experiencing greater social, political and economic disruption than we have known for several generations: increasing wealth inequality, intolerance of diversity, rising nationalism, populist votes, protectionism, unaccountable globalisation, fragmentation of states, more extremist political movements.

No matter which is the chicken or the egg, it is clear that the one is mirroring the other.

There are powerful pan-continental processes at work that are driving these disruptions:

  • A near-exponential growth in the global human population to 7.6 billion people today. That's more than 4 times greater than just 100 years ago.
  • A continuing loss of other plant and animal species around the world.
  • A headlong rush for the perceived benefits of materialism, consumerism, capitalism and communism
  • Continuing expansion in the rate of extraction and exploitation of the planet's finite resources (minerals, rocks, oils, gases), and including the rapid burning of all forms of fossil fuels.
  • The continuing deforestation of indigenous forests and jungles for both mineral extraction and farming.
  • The over-production of large area of commercial land leading to land degradation and desertification.
  • The rapid growth in pollution and despoilation - of the land, the seas and the atmosphere - with slow-degrading, toxic or irradiated materials
  • The attempts by some research bodies to 'engineer out' those aspects of natural diversity that are perceived to be 'unwanted'.

These and other factors result in the social, political and natural worlds that we witness around us every day - a planet showing clear evidence of disturbance on many levels.

As the dominant species on Planet Earth, it is not hard to see the consequences. We can see them on our TV screens each night. The mass migration of peoples moving away from war, violence, hunger, ethnic cleansing, poverty, persecution, and disease - in search of a 'better life'. The fight for land between those who control land and resources, and those who want at least some for themselves. Outbreaks of war and violence, not just between countries, but between tribes, ideologies, ethnic groups, and those of different wealth. The building of physical and legal barriers in the name of 'defending' states but which actually seek to 'protect' and enshrine the advantages of those who are creating them.

The disturbances of Nature occur on a macro scale. They are already in train. There is almost nothing that we can do - as individuals, groups or states - to exert any control over them. Nature - Creation - is, as all faith doctrines have argued, something great and mysterious that is beyond our comprehension.

The disturbances of our social, political and economic realms begin on a micro scale. They arise in very understandable human responses - fear, greed, self-preservation, competition, survival, hoarding - until they aggregate into the mass movements outlined already.

Across both these mirrored contexts, there is a consistent pattern of change:

ORDER   >>>   DISORDER   >>>   RE-ORDER

All Ordered system break down. We know this as entropy. A phase of Disorder begins, often experience as great uncertainty or chaos. And eventually, some new structures emerge as a Re-Order of the world.

In Nature, we witness this every time a forest burns, a volcano erupts, a hurricane or tsunami hits, or a star burns up.

In our social and political history, we have witnessed this in periodic revolutions, uprisings, and economic/industrial advances.

In reflecting on these recurring patterns of disorder, disturbance and disruption, I have been repeatedly reminded of the classic archetype for all such waves - Noah's Flood, or the Great Flood. Whether this event is historical or mythological doesn't matter: it occurs in the sacred writings of all three Abrahamic Traditions, and similar stories can be found in other faith texts. The teaching is consistent: there comes a time when the existing order of things becomes so dysfunctional that nothing short of wholesale change will suffice to reset the underlying systems. Noah's Flood is based on a Nature example. In our own human history, we have recorded momentous disturbances and disruption in events that we have labelled as the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Cultural Revolution, and many others.

Whilst we all tend to experience our individual fear in this present time of great uncertainty and disturbance, and seek our own survival strategies, we can also gain strength and learn from the mirroring processes of Nature and Creation. Disorder tends to feed upon itself until a re-ordered path emerges.

Taking a lead from Nature, I find myself wondering whether the epoch we're moving into might come to be called the Environmental Revolution.