THE BLOG

Does an End to Fracking Demand We All Dig a Little Deeper?

09/08/2013 22:45 BST | Updated 09/10/2013 10:12 BST

As police and protesters continue to confront each other over fracking in the Sussex countryside, Frances Leader, a 61-year-old grandmother, told reporters: "This isn't about one place, it's about the whole country, and the future of the planet."

Similar confrontations are taking place around the world, but in the midst of economic despair and anger about our environment a new question is emerging - about our humanity.

"I have much compassion for those who have lost their spiritual intellect," said Francoise Palette of the Chipewyan First Nation on a recent Compassionate Earth Walk in northern Canada. Dramatic photos show the country's virgin forests and lakes devastated by tar sands extraction.

This year has heard other notes of reflection as activists and social thinkers dig deeper into the need for radical change. Two recent books have highlighted a strategic conversation about how humanity's inner resources - our "spiritual intellect", as Francoise Palette called them - can best be used to reverse our current, disastrous trajectory.

Authors of Enough is Enough, economists Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill, argue that the mechanism for change is culture. This takes the debate to a deeper socio-political level. "In the end, economic institutions and the policies that support them are dependent on culture," they write. "An economic paradigm shift will occur only in response to a cultural shift. Citizens everywhere, but especially those living in high-consuming nations, need to work towards this cultural shift."

"In this light, human nature is the most important global issue," agrees Sakyong Mipham in The Shambhala Principle. The Tibetan title of this meditation master, who has a worldwide following, literally means Earth Protector. "We may never before have considered human nature, but in order to move forward as a global community, it is vital that we do it now."

Making the linkage between who we are as a species, the cultures we are living in and the impact we are having on the planet is an approach that is turning up not only on the frontlines of the protests against fracking, but increasingly in board rooms as well.

"Cultural winds are shifting," says the UK-based Forum for the Future. They have been tracking the number of CEOs attending mind-training and mindfulness programmes, as more and more corporate leaders acknowledge the need to make choices that recognise that we are all inextricably connected.

"Could it be that we need to learn to use our brains differently?" asks Forum author Carl Frankl. "No corporate product-development team, no matter how talented, can fabricate a new executive 'brain-frame'. Inner work is required for these things. Yet it is precisely this - inner work leading to inner growth - that seems to be the missing link if corporations are to play their part in addressing the sustainability crisis."

Exploring possibilities for cultural change - both personal and global - will be front and centre at next month's Awake in the World festival, hosted by Sakyong Mipham on a rare visit to the UK. Over the course of four days, I'll be joining activists, educators, executives, social innovators and the odd MP to get underneath the policies and protests, and to debate: "What is the inner dynamic that will lead us to urgent societal change?"