Q&A: Stephan Harding

“The most important thing we can all do is fall in love with the Earth,” says the MSc co-ordinator at Schumacher College

Positive News: How should we respond to environmental challenges?

Stephan Harding: We need to develop a strong intuitive connection with nature. Otherwise we’re going to be acting purely from our more abstract mind and won’t have the ability to act wisely.

We may try to implement things – for example certain geo-engineering solutions – that could make the situation worse. Whereas if we connect with nature then a natural wisdom comes through, which will guide our rational policy decisions.

In essence, the most important thing we can all do is fall in love with the Earth. We can do this simply by spending time with plants, trees and animals, giving ourselves the chance to really see nature; taking our children into the woods, walking in fields, growing food and getting our hands in the soil.

There’s always nature somewhere – even a small plant or an insect. In the most densely crowded places you can create city gardens or window boxes. Failing that, there’s the blue of the sky, the clouds, sunrise and sunset, stars or the moon.

It’s essential, at the same time, to develop our analytical thinking and our technological solutions. But we’ll be able to evaluate them based on our sense of connection with nature.

Can we bring intuitive thinking into other fields like education, or finance?

It’s already being done with Steiner education, where children are first grounded in their intuitive knowing then the rational development comes later. We need that in university education as well, particularly in science.

We need to put scientists in touch with phenomena without collecting data but just collecting their sense impressions – but in a rigorous way. They can follow Goethe’s method for this, which is well outlined. There are steps to cultivate intuitive knowing.

With the finance system, I‘d take people out of offices in the City and into Hyde Park, and help them connect with nature in a way that’s non-embarrassing. You can give ‘permission’ and validate the fact that there may be an intuitive experience. But you need scientific facts to back it up – for example the idea that the Earth is a great living system. That’s Gaia theory, which is science. Then people can feel comfortable and let go into intuitive knowing, insight and inspiration.