I first heard Paul Gilding talk via a podcast that a friend of mine had downloaded from the Radio National website. We listened to it in the car as we were driving down the exquisite coast road from Sydney to Melbourne, stopping every few hours to enjoy the unique blend of rolling hills with grazing cattle, sub tropical bushland and jagged coastline. Australia’s landscape is truly breathtaking. In one twelve hour journey, we passed through a myriad of different worlds, different ecosystems, different colours and qualities of light. One hour we were resting among wind blown sand dunes, the next in forested hills, soon after we were rolling over endless stretches of brown grasslands populated only by lonely sheep. Someone I know who does bush regeneration once told me that more than 90% of Australia’s original bushland has disappeared since colonization. I remember on this particular journey musing with irony how such a damaged land could be so beautiful, and how happy the colonialists must have been with their mutilation because the result looks so much like picturesque countryside England. So driving through this setting, something in Gilding’s talk clicked for me. It makes sense to me on an intuitive level.
I have since listened to it several times, and further investigated Gilding and his ideas about the state of the world. I don’t agree with him on every point, but essentially his arguments make sound sense, and I respect his optimism in the face of humanity’s damning environmental record. His basic idea is that we are currently reaching the limits of our overuse of natural resources in order to fuel an economic system driven by constant economic growth. As a result we are beginning to experience the most dramatic societal upheaval since the industrial revolution. We will have to respond with the same unity and drive that we call upon during times of war if we wish to move beyond our current paradigm. He calls this ‘The Great Disruption’. But don’t take it from me..
See here for the 30 minute vodcast of his 2008 Sydney University talk, plus a link to the podcast.