Empathy and Self-development: A Pathway to Sustainability

Empathy and Self-development: A Pathway to Sustainability

Sustainability can only be achieved through social change. Self-development and empathy is where it begins.

Sustainability can only be achieved through social change. Self-development and empathy is where it begins.

Awakening a need for change

  • Who believes we are facing an environmental crisis?
  • Who believes we are facing an economic crisis?
  • Who believes we are facing a social crisis?

These three questions were asked to two different groups of grade 11 Bishops (Diocesan) College learners by the PLANT THE SEED EDUCATION (PTSE) team. The response was clear, and not surprising. The entire theatre was filled with learners raising their hands.

The problems that face our generation are immense: our natural capital is being ignored by the current socio-economic system; inequality is increasing globally, and in many regards perpetuating poverty; the ecological systems, which make up our life support systems, are being degraded; and we have exceeded four of our nine planetary boundaries. This increases the risk of irreversibly driving Earth into a less hospitable state.

“Modern man talks of the battle with nature, forgetting that if he ever won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.” – Stephan Harding

Too often we see these crises in isolation. Too often we forget that all of these crises are ultimately manmade and are as a result of our lifestyles, behaviour and actions. It has become apparent that a change needs to occur. The calls for change and an end to these crises sounds globally, yet we struggle to achieve it, let alone see where this change is going to come from.

Our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions have consequences

Our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions have consequences

Change is never easy; humans certainly avoid it as far as possible. However, the time has come and gone where we can ignore the fact that environmental (and economic) change won’t happen without social change. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “be the change you wish to see in the world.” We have to start remaking ourselves to remake the world. In order to remake ourselves we have to start becoming aware of the cost and consequences of our progress. The time couldn’t be any later, especially for the youth, to dive head first into self-development and empathy-development. Only then can we start seeing and paving a path for change.

“The socio-economic systems have been created by man, and therefore can be changed by man.”Murray Bookchin

Humans will need to evolve to survive the impacts of climate change. Many may think this evolution is about adaptation; adapting to our deteriorating surroundings. We at PTSE disagree – we believe that our next evolution is a conscious one. A conscious evolution enables us to be aware of what is taking place around the world. A conscious evolution enables self-development and as a result change in our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions. A conscious evolution enables us to develop empathy and therefore find unity and balance between social, economic, and environmental contexts. A conscious evolution enables social change!

Education is the most effective platform for engaging in self-development and experiences which develop empathy. Only through education can we realise a conscious evolution and therefore greater social change for the next generation. PTSE have identified this and taken initiative in developing various programmes, content, and experiences necessary for the self-development and empathy processes. We have targeted schools as our initial platform to launch our programmes as we continually work hard to develop more means for doing so.

“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.” – Claude Bernard.

On the 28 November 2016 PTSE embarked our first Social Change Programme with grade 11 learners from Bishops (Diocesan) College. The two-day programme comprised of six workshops, three plenary sessions, and a guest speaker.

Day 1 focused on:

  • Building consciousness – learners explored ideas and elements of society necessary for understanding the environmental, economic, and social crises. Core themes looked at the disconnection between economy and ecology (workshop 1), imbalance and patriarchy (workshop 2), and separations from nature (workshop 3).

Day 2 focused on:

  • Building empathy – learners engaged in workshops, discussions and activities necessary for developing empathy. Core themes included current issues affecting youth such as privilege, #FeesMustFall student protests, and education in South Africa (workshop 4).
  • Inspiring action – learners were provided with a safe space to envision the South Africa they dream of (workshop 5) and come up with collective action projects for their school, which work towards achieving their dreams (workshop 6).
Understanding privilege is important for developing empathy

Understanding privilege is important for developing empathy

 Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I wanted to change myself” – Jalaluddin Rumi

The Social Change Programme challenged the Bishops learners’ assumptions and thought processes about the world. The workshops provided a safe space allowing learners to feel comfortable to engage with and share opinions. Energetic discussions and debates on topical issues and philosophies enabled learners (and facilitators) to learn from their peers. Learners grappling with different ideas as agreements and disagreements were expressed was captivating to experience. It was encouraging to feel the positive energy of intensity and critical thinking building throughout the two days. A highlight was seeing the learners transform some of this energy into positive thought processes as they planned practical projects to achieve their dreams for South Africa. The dreams and ideas generated as a result of positive intentions was inspiring. We look forward to seeing what these learners achieve in their formative years to come as young adults and responsible, connected citizens.

Contact us here to get a SOCIAL CHANGE programme into your school.

High School Sustainability: Activating Sustainability Leadership

High School Sustainability: Activating Sustainability Leadership

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Sustainability leadership requires more balance between feminine and masculine traits

A need to redefine leadership

Leadership is a term too loosely used and a concept with often outdated understandings. Its verb (lead) has lost its essence of doing and is a view too focused on patriarchal traits. Today we live in a world where there are vast social and environmental imbalances around us. Inequality (income and wealth) is increasing on a global scale, and the fact we have exceeded four of our nine planetary boundaries – as a result this increases the risk of irreversibly driving Earth into a less hospitable state. Today we live in a world which needs profound change on multiple levels. We need new leaders and leadership – sustainability leadership.

“A sustainability leader is compelled to make a difference by deepening their awareness of themselves in relation to the world around them. In doing so, they adopt new ways of seeing, thinking, and interacting that result in innovative, sustainable solutions.” – , Wayne Visser and Polly Courtice 

Actors globally have realised this need for profound change. The United Nations (UN), through their development of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), highlighted where this change needs to occur. More subsequently was the release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were with out doubt the focal point of the well-watched COP21. The SGDs strongly emphasise the amount of change still needed to be achieved. However, despite all these goals being set and various actions being taken, we are still as far from achieving change as before. We didn’t achieve the UN MDGs. If we continue to operate in the same outdated leadership paradigm the SDGs won’t be achieved either.

Bringing sustainability leadership to youth in schools

At PLANT THE SEED EDUCATION (PTSE) we believe that leadership is about bringing profound change to humanity in order to create a just and equitable world. The Transitional Leadership Programme is designed to transform the manner youth view, interact and react to the term “leadership”. Presently the world and its complexities are changing at a faster rate than ever before. The next generation, and those to follow, need lead us through a process of profound change – this is necessary. Education is the most effective platform to build such a generation. We have taken the initiative to speed up this process and therefore target schools in South Africa with our Transitional Leadership (and various other) Programmes.

Millennials need to embody sustainability leadership

Millennials need to embody sustainability leadership


“It is easier to build stronger children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

29th November 2016, Rustenburg Girl’s High School (RGHS) grade 10 learners, were the first to partake in our Transitional Leadership Programme. The one-day programme introduces learners to:

  1. A better understanding of why we need a new type of leadership – sustainability leadership.
  2. Knowledge, skill-sets, and values required for sustainability leaders.
  3. Sustainability leadership real-life examples.

A key focus of the programme is to motivate young learners to become the change makers and active citizens in all that they do. The programme is comprised of five workshops, two video sessions, and a plenary session. Workshops worked on one of three components, based on academic research: the individual leader, leadership context, and leadership actions. Throughout the day learners engaged with set of elements found within each of these components.

Elements of sustainability leadership

Elements of sustainability leadership

Elements required to grow sustainability leaders in schools

Core themes of the programme centred on:

  • The importance of balance (individual leader).
  • Sustainability leadership traits and styles (individual leader).
  • Context for sustainability leadership (leadership context).
  • Systems thinking (individual leader).
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals (leadership context).
  • Individual actions for the SDGs (leadership actions).

The aim being to:

  • Develop systems and holistic thinking (individual leader).
  • Defining new sustainabiity leadership traits for the 21st century (individual leader).
  • Connect learners to what is important in the world (leadership context).
  • Promote collaboration and partnerships (leadership context & actions).
  • Inspire action and courageousness (leadership actions).
Creative ideas for achieving sustainability leadership projects in Rustenburg

Creative ideas for achieving sustainability leadership projects in Rustenburg

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

The Transitional Leadership Programme challenged the RGHS learner’s assumptions and understanding of leadership. Facilitators created a safe space in the workshops to help learners feel comfortable. This allowed learners to engage with and share opinions about the workshop material. Engaged discussions and debates on topical issues and philosophies enabled learners (and facilitators) to learn from their peers. The young women took to the material with eagerness and speed which thoroughly impressed our team.

A highlight from the programme was the seeing the learners release their energy, ideas, and creativity into designing a project(s) centred on a SDG. The young RGHS women blew our team of facilitators away with their project ideas. We look forward to seeing what these learners achieve in years to come. Better yet, we are in the process of developing platforms to help them through the process required to achieve their projects. What they do determines our future.

Contact us here to get a transitional leadership programme into your school. 

A lighthouse in the Wild, ReWild

A lighthouse in the Wild, ReWild


A Lighthouse in the Wild, ReWild

Alistair Daynes, Managing Director

4 July 2016

I’ll start this writing piece with a question, a question whose answer demands ten more questions … and a question I’ve asked myself whilst travelling and working on the go for over a year, for my own self gain. It is a question which needs to be solved today, by each and everyone of us. Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets put it simply – how might three young gents solve climate change?

My answer oddly begins with my attraction to nature at a young age, possibly when first my feet touched the sea. Fast forward a few years, having worked as a divemaster in the Cape, interned at a conservation foundation, and been fortunate to find work whilst travelling with a surfboard – I have grown a stronger connection to the coast, and the natural world in general. These experiences led me down a windy path to now, where now I’m voicing my thoughts on ‘who you are, is what you’ve seen and where you’ve been’. Essentially, how these deep experiences affected my commitments, and how they might commit others.

Humankind has become disconnected with the wilderness, which has led the world down a path of irrational values and poor environmental choices. With less of a regard for nature, we’ve led ourselves to the pillaging of our natural resources – without regarding the complex consequences. Climate change being the major consequence. Its 2016 and just last month, the month of May, was the hottest ever month in recorded history … for the 13th consecutive time in a row. We are racing extinction at a globally unprecedented rate, and still lack a permanent solution to both.

“One long term solution is to … ReWild!”

So how does ReWilding link back to the solving Global Warming? It’s through the process of ReWilding, and two things happen. One – the environment is rehabilitated, allowing biodiversity to once again thrive. This could solve the permanent loss of wildlife. Secondly, society is educated through ReWilding experiences, increasing the chance of deep commitment (much like Sams, lukes and my own).

A commitment from humanity would see greater diversity of flourishing plant and animal life, and perhaps a greater diversity within us humans. Past generations valued changing the environment to suit man, showcasing their of control … an act of dominance – an example who be hunting the Elephant. Numbering three to five million in the last century, African elephant populations were severely reduced to its current levels because of hunting. In the 1980s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed each year and up to 80% of herds were lost in some regions. There is obviously no genuine reason for hunting an elephant. The good news it there has now begun a shift.  Thus a commitment would strengthen our values for nature, and in a round-about way, guarantee positive change. It is important to note that the social and environmental changes may not happen without the other – a truly symbiotic relationship.

In conclusion, WE are all citizens of the natural world, so perhaps a deep experience could kick-start the change makers. Global Warming will only be solved by a population who treasure the natural world. For now, ReWilding is our resolution … a lighthouse in the wild.

‘who you are, is what you’ve seen and where you’ve been’

A ReWilded Experience

A ReWilded Experience


A ReWilded Experience

Sam Chevallier, Director, En-route To Zambia

24 June 2016
As this is the First blog, I think its important for me to introduce REWILD; who we are and what we wish to do. The Idea started following my time with SafariLive at Djuma Game Rreserve in the Sabi Sands (bordering the Kruger National Park). I was working as a Live presenter for WildEarth, exploring the landscapes, exposing creatures, sunsets, plants, birds and the like … I am no longer working with them, as I was having issues with my ear. I was sad to leave, but it is important for me to look after my personal health.
On arrival to the Cape, I met up with one of my best friend Alistair Daynes. Ali is an interesting man, who has a love for the world of the conservation – within us, Africa and our oceans. Another friend of ours – Luke Riding, who lives in Durban, is just as excited to bring this idea of exploring wilderness and sharing it with the world. Luke has an incredible energy and gifted with the ability to empathize with both people and place. Together all of us hope to build ReWild whose vision is to help inspire the genius of ecosystems within the Self, for the biggest issue we have is poverty of the mind. Rewilding and invigorating people’s imagination for how they can be their on change maker in the world today may be the necessary step to make.
Rewilding is a concept that I learnt at Schumacher College in Devon last year, where I studied my Masters in Ecological Design Thinking. I was very lucky to connect with a man called George Monbiot. To see something of his work, have a look on YouTube of his clip on how Wolves changed the ecosystem in the Yellowstone National Park. In basic language, we would like to follow up with these deep, intrinsic values of the natural world, and bring them to light within the confused and face value experience we have within these modern times. We hope to not only expose ecological intelligence of individual organisms in ecosystems, but the greater whole. To me sustainability is foundationally based around our relationship with ecology. Exploring and deepening our relationship with the natural world might help us deal with some of the complex challenges of our times. We have just begun our first project through learning and exposing the magic of the Zambia Festival of Action. Here we’re physically planting trees within areas around Livingstone, whilst educating and learning from the locals and Greenpop team around concepts and theories that help us understand Rewilding, such as AgroEcology, Systems Thinking, Permaculture, Gaia Theory, Deep Ecology, etc.
“We hope to not only expose ecological intelligence of individual organisms in ecosystems, but the greater whole.”
The last four days have truly been incredible. I woke up early in Cape Town, Saturday the 23rd of June ready to start an adventure! How exciting it was to get into the large Overlander, with a group of people I have never met before, the day after us the Sprinter left from Cape Town and met us in Johannesburg (it took us 2 days to get there, and 1 for them). I felt like I just jumped into a large pot of ingredients, each individual glowing with their unique, glowing characters. We laughed, we slept, we debated, whilst enjoying the moments of solitude driving through Southern Africa for 4 days. My heart just jumps when I think how grateful I am to be exposed to such wonderful people and places. With all things that are going on the world today, it is a beautiful thing to be immersed within positivity.
We went through two different borders. South Africa into Botswana and then Botswana into Zambia, the picture above is the magical Zambezi River. How privileged I was to be exposed to this beautiful river and the friendly people that worked at the border crossing. Botswana! Wow, this place is incredible. It is so hard to use words to describe this place. Wilderness is something that I seek to experience and explore. Moving into new places is a blessing, as it may broaden ones’ perspective of this planet, Gaia. We saw Elephants, and Sable in Botswana. After working with SafariLive, I have developed deep respect with Elephants, the energy that engages me in their presence is one that is truly empathetic and humbling.
A herd of Sable! I don’t know how aware you are of the beauty of Sable, or how difficult it is to see these animals. I would put it on the same level as when I found a Southern Reed Buck with SafariLive. I was not able to take a photo of them, as we were rushing to the border to get there in time in order to take the ferry over the Zambezi river. If you can imagine, we came around the corner, and in the distance I saw a large male looking, and behind him was a harem of females, standing together with their horns standing backwards and tall with setting sun as a backdrop.
As we crossed over the river we were then met with the rising moon, full bodied and beautiful. Bittersweet experience though, sweet in the sense that I was showered by the rays over the suns reflection off the moon, lighting up the world around me. Bitter because I empathize with all the Rhinos and Elephants out there, as the moon allows for poachers to navigate themselves through these areas. I feel it is important for me to ReWild my senses to the phases of Gaia, in order to have a better connection with all the other beings that inhabit this earth. The more we bring ourselves in the experience of the natural world the deeper we can grow this intrinsic connection and relationship with the other.
We finally arrived at the campsite, with both the Overlander and the Sprinter. The end of one adventure, and the start of a new one. This Project up here in Zambia is truly a great opportunity to sit down with fascinating people from all over Southern Africa, to share and experiment practical applications for sustainability. There will be local and international participants feeding into this project, which will create the space for sharing practices and philosophies surrounding the field of ecology. I am also super excited to learn more about the local ecology that interact with us here, from owls to bugs and birds!

Watch this space over the next few weeks, I will be posting blogs, podcasts and videos around what is happening on the ground here.

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