Nature Matters: What Stevie Wonder and Pope Francis Have in Common

RebeccaRRubinIn this day and age, much of our view of nature is reduced to a transaction (ie, carbon pricing, mitigation banks, valuation methodologies).

Make no mistake – these methods are powerful weapons in an arsenal designed to fight climate change.

But they are no substitute for having a true reverence for nature, something both Stevie Wonder and the Pope share. And it is reverence, more so than anything else, that will ultimately determine our ability as a society to save nature.

Nature matters. Not merely in economic terms, i.e., because natural resources are the basis for every business transaction on the planet, but more deeply because nature and humanity are so profoundly coupled. In stark terms: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat all come from just one source. Nature is, quite literally, life-giving. Not only to humans – to all species of life on the planet.

In some of his work, like the song “As,” Stevie Wonder links two seeming immutables: Love and Nature. “I’ll be loving you forever… Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through.”

So consider the unthinkable:  humans have destroyed more than half the world’s forests. In the last 40 years alone, according to WWF, we also have destroyed more than 50 percent of our vertebrate species populations overall – and about 75 percent in freshwater ecosystems alone – through exploitation, habitat degradation and change.

The Pope has taken the name Francis, for Francis of Assisi, who believed that it is our duty to protect nature as stewards of God’s creation – and as creatures ourselves.

As the Pope has pointed out: “Our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

In other words: Transgressions against nature are essentially a form of moral and spiritual poverty – regardless of your faith.

Lately, we should be questioning whether there is a path forward to saving nature (and of course, ourselves along with it).

I believe this:  If there is a path forward, it’s not just about dealing with the perils of rising seas, desertification, massive pollution, and acidification of our oceans.

These real dangers are essentially the branches and sequels of a much larger problem. At its core, what is that bigger and more essential problem really about?

It’s about recovering from our loss of respect, regard, and reverence for our Earth.  It’s about recovering from our loss of love.

If we want a path forward for species to include humankind on this planet, that path has to begin with a new regard for the Earth and a renewed understanding of the web of life, i.e., the interconnectedness of the entire ecological community, including – but by no means limited to – humans.

As Stevie Wonder said to his audience towards the close of a recent concert in DC: “We have to get it together for Nature and Humanity.”

Solutions, anyone? Possibly. Stay tuned.

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