Prince Charles says sustainable development requires new worldview

Prince Charles has appealed for sustainable development to be based on a vision of the "essential unity and order of the living and spiritual world" rather than on a world view that seeks to "reduce the natural world...to the level of nothing more than a mechanical process."


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Delivering the last of a series of lectures on sustainable development for BBC radio, the Prince told an audience of environmentalists that protection of the natural world depends not upon scientific rationality alone, but also upon the rediscovery of “a sense of the sacred.”

“If literally nothing is held sacred anymore what is there to prevent us treating our entire world as some ‘great laboratory of life’ with potentially disastrous long term consequences?” the Prince asked.

The Prince argued that this lack of a sense of the sacred, leads to an inability to accept that there are limits upon human ambitions. In the absence of hard scientific evidence as to where to draw the line, the Prince said we must adopt the precautionary principle. “In areas, such as the artificial and uncontained transfer of genes between species of plants and animals, the lack of hard, scientific evidence of harmful consequences is regarded in many quarters as sufficient reason to allow such developments to proceed. The idea of taking a precautionary approach, in this and many other potentially damaging situations, receives overwhelming public support, but still faces a degree of official opposition. It seems that when we do have scientific evidence that we are damaging our environment we aren’t doing enough to put things right, and when we don’t have that evidence we are prone to do nothing at all, regardless of the risks.”

The Prince placed the blame for this on a prevailing worldview that “seeks to reduce the natural world to the level of nothing more than a mechanical process.” On the contrary, Prince Charles argued that we should seek to work “with the grain of nature,” to understand what nature is rather than to change it.

What we need, said the Prince, is to achieve a balance between reason and intuition. “It is only by employing both the intuitive and the rational halves of our own nature – our hearts and our minds – that we will live up to the sacred trust that has been placed in us by our Creator.”

To achieve this, the Prince called for educators to balance the rational and the intuitive. “We need to look towards the creation of greater balance in the way we educate people so that the practical and intuitive wisdom of the past can be blended with the appropriate technology and knowledge of the present to produce the type of practitioner who is acutely aware of both the visible and invisible worlds that inform the entire cosmos. The future will need people who understand that sustainable development is not merely about a series of technical fixes, about redesigning humanity or re-engineering nature in an extension of globalised, industrialisation – but about a re-connection with nature and a profound understanding of the concepts of care that underpin long term stewardship.

“Only by rediscovering the essential unity and order of the living and spiritual world – as in the case of organic agriculture or integrated medicine or in the way we build – and by bridging the destructive chasm between cynical secularism and the timelessness of traditional religion, will we avoid the disintegration of our overall environment.”

For transcripts of BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lectures see link below.

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