A few months ago I did an interview for the February 2012 issue of L’Officiel magazine in France. They asked what 7 things I consider most important for our time – you can read and see the piece as it appears in the magazine here.
This is the English version as I wrote it:
James Lovelock: Gaia Theory
The Gaia Theory of James Lovelock is as revolutionary as the theories of Einstein or Darwin; indeed it is a more complete theory of evolution. It has changed our perception of the world – and this will change our behaviour.
Gaia is the name the Greeks gave to the earth goddess and Lovelock chose the name because of his insight that the earth is alive; Gaia and her life-forms have evolved together in a self- regulating system, and together they create the atmosphere which keeps her cool. If this harmony is broken then Gaia can no longer sustain or tolerate those same life-forms; she, herself will find a new equilibrium by moving to a hot-state.
Should we disappear from the face of the earth, Gaia would never again have the opportunity to create creatures as wondrous as we. No other species has our powers of understanding and expression: our imagination is a model which mirrors the world. All our sensations and experience are represented by coded imitations of reality which are stored in our imagination like a kind of blueprint.
We de-code these imitations by the power of insight, which we also call intuition. This is how we get our ideas – by connecting these flashes and impulses which our imagination feeds back to us; then we strive to convert them to real form, expressed externally. We can cross-reference the codes in our blueprint. No other animal can imitate an object or an idea by drawing on paper, or can dance to music.
The Human Race: Our Survival
We are an endangered species. Our survival depends on becoming more human; for that we each need to engage with the world – not consume but live in harmony. I suggest: 1) when possible prepare your own food (‘Do it Yourself’). My own diet is without meat or grains. I am one of the world’s privileged people and can choose what I eat. Fruit and vegetables is my preferred food, delicious and aspirational. It is convenient to prepare and the most efficient for your body to use, supplying all the goodness and energy you need; 2) engage with the past through culture in order to understand the present. This will give you an anchor in life and a sense of personal progress; 3) inform yourself about Climate Change, listen to the scientists; your outlook and behaviour will change (‘Get a Life’)
National Gallery, London
20th century doctrine aimed to smash the past, break the mould of tradition. They managed to do this in the visual arts but by breaking tradition they also rejected skill: nowadays anybody can be an “artist”. No point, therefore, in running around to catch the latest thing. Go to the National Gallery. Without judges there is no art. We need art lovers because we are dangerously short of culture which means we are short sighted, blinkered in our thinking. The art lover is a Freedom Fighter for a better world.
Great art aims at perfection and is timeless; there is no progress in art. Each of us, at different stages of our lives has had different points of views on the world. A painting is a mirror of the world, an outlook on life and we find ourselves discriminating and comparing one world with another and with our own; criticism of our present world brings understanding. We are living in the present moment of the past, we are the past: art is true.
The Rainforest: Cool Earth
With the exception of Norway, governments seem to be doing very little to stop Climate Change. They talk only of growth and in the same breath they talk of the collapse of the economy: the financial crisis is a match of the ecological crisis because the world has nothing cheap left to exploit.
Hope lies with the thousands of NGO’s, charities and individuals doing practical things. I have joined ‘Cool Earth’ in their plan to save the Rainforest. They will save the three great forests of the equator, efficient factories of our atmosphere, by 2020 – because the plan is simple and cheap and because they are working with the people who live and work in the Rainforest.
This is a bottom-up approach and the big idea is to link this with government – to get governments to support great ideas which are already working. www.coolearth.org .
Richard Branson: Carbon War Room
Richard Branson is a businessman who cares. He is tackling the problems of Climate Change by use of business methods and by means of the Carbon War Room.
He created the Carbon War Room to put forward the idea that over 50% of the Climate Change challenge can be addressed today, profitably, by existing technologies, in ways that achieve billion ton scale carbon reductions.
Since the first summit 2 years ago, the Carbon War Room has specifically targeted shipping, resulting in a rating system for ships that allows customers to choose the most efficient, least polluting ships for their businesses. Large multinationals need to use them.
Can you believe it? 50% of ice melt can be traced to pollution from shipping! And the world has not bothered to try to regulate it. Good luck to Branson and his business methods. Clean shipping is also cheaper.
In London you can experience a live orchestra at the Barbican or Festival Hall for as little as £7. To someone who has not experienced this it’s like nothing else you’ll ever see or hear – when you have all these instruments playing together as one and in universal synchronization of movement. So much depends on the conductor and every time they play it’s different. The music completely enters into your body – it’s a total experience. The sound of the orchestra and its instruments has been built up over centuries. There are no wires, no amplification – only the acoustics of the building and the very shape and dynamic structure of the instruments which have evolved from simple pipes and sound boxes.
The Greeks thought music was the most pure expression of imitation. While you listen to the orchestra it does mirror the world: it is a completed whole, not one note too many.