Anthropy (meaning: of or relating to human beings or the period of their existence on earth)

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend Anthropy at the Eden Project. We were invited to leave our egos and siloes at the door and to take the opportunity to think both globally and locally. Nature was in attendance, with panels interrupted by heaving rain falling on the opaque Mediterranean biome and resident birds, adding their chatter into the rainforest bubble. The full days were packed with both highs and lows, with new and continued and to be continued conversations (and let’s hope action!) 

I’ll kick off my Anthropy roundup with insights from the first panel – The State of our Nation, where Kamal Ahmed (The News Movement) took us back in time to lay out the context for a new era…

“Following on from the end of the second world war up to the late seventies, the era was characterised by “the state will provide.” Then after the late seventies up until the late noughties, this was replaced by “the market will provide.” Following the financial crisis however, coupled by the MP sleaze and expenses scandals, leading to an erosion of trust, this brings us up to date to the current polycrisis we face today.


Kamal went on to urge us to shift our gaze from polycrisis to a polycentric approach, and called for net-optimism and inter-generational sympathy. Kirstie Donnelly MBE (City & Guilds) meanwhile argued for investment in people and skills and effective leadership and there were calls all round for equity to be at the heart of the new era, as well as truth from our leaders, and from our media.

Simultaneously, there were debates on the state of education, health, nature and society, with a cry for systemic rather than symptomatic thinking, with someone referring to the NHS as the “National Sickness Service.” And over at the RSA Regenerating capabilities session, Philip Holton (Pearson) set out the dire state of education in the UK, suggesting our education system is about to implode, with Martin Wright (ironically from Positive News) adding that perhaps the way we are teaching is no longer fit for purpose for the challenges we are facing in this new era…

“Our education system as it’s currently structured is still teaching us to absorb facts, when we can outsource our brains to Google and Chat Gpt, how much are we missing out on teaching people skills to operationalise and harness wisdom?”

Martin Wright, Positive news

Moving into solutions mode at the Futerra workshop with Lucy Shea and Dr Adana Steinacker, we were looking to the role of story telling and social media to enable behaviour change. How do we tell the story of climate change in a way that doesn’t turn them off? How can we cut through and get people and business to behave differently, when the algorithms that decide what we see, are pegged to silliness and gossip? There is a lot of data in the world of sustainability, but data doesn’t move people, personal and emotional connection, feeling is where change happens. We need to get braver at communicating on the hard stuff even if it doesn’t win immediate praise, because we need to get the message out there.

“its better to have 1000 bad environmentalists than 10 perfect ones”


The conversation continued over at the Creativity and Causes talk, where we heard from some inspirational leaders, including Jude Kelly at the WOW Foundation and Stephen Greene CBE Rock corps. Organisations where creativity and action are fused to drive action and create positive social change. Rock Corps is an incredible organisation, where teenagers swap their time, to do volunteering work in their local communities to earn a ticket to a top billed music gig, with big business funding the gigs. It’s a different way of thinking about currency – instead of money, where some have more than others, we all have time, especially kids. It also skews the way we think of charitable giving by business, connecting their role tangibly to the solutions.

Things took a different turn, (perhaps unsurprisingly) At the cramped Degrowth session. The discussion led by Michael Solomon (R100) was titled Selling Degrowth, but I’m not convinced it lived up to its title. The session kicked off with this definition of degrowth…

“Degrowth is the a planned scale down of economic economic activity in order to have resource use and consumption which is within planetary boundaries and where wellbeing is maximised”

Hans Stegeman (Triodos Bank)

Enrich Sahan, from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab talked about the need for us to redesign the role of business beyond maximisation of returns, where instead of business serving capital, business serves life itself, where our boards and business structures are redesigned to give voice to community and nature, going on to quote the leader of Doughnut Economics…

“Let’s build economies that thrive whether or not they grow and economies that grow whether or not they thrive


I should say at this point I am largely on board with the concept of degrowth, when framed in doughnut terms, but Enrich suggested that in business we don’t need to use the term degrowth, as it can be off-putting, with Hans goes further to say…

“We mustn’t let regrowth be highjacked by the mainstream”


So if degrowth is the Voldemort-like-he-who must not be named of business, how do we sell it? Tell it?and do it?? Whilst I understand Hans’ point that we don’t want degrowth to be watered down, surely we must take ‘the mainstream’ with us on the journey, if we are ever to make any of degrowth’s aims a reality? It speaks directly to the Futerra session, of story telling for wider change and also of not letting perfection get in the way of progress. I felt an unease at the selling degrowth session, that this could remain in a conspiracy-theory-esque underground chat, where a small band of degrowthers stay tightly knitted and lipped, edging ever closer to the precipice of climate armageddon, all the while preparing to say I told you so!

Encouragingly, there were whiffs of optimism that a new business paradigm could be on the cards, at the Future Economy session, where there was general consensus from a slightly more mainstream panel, that the economy needs to catchup with our global challenges and consider goals beside growth. But a question from the audience was posed simply – why is change not happening? The brilliant geopoliticist, Tina Fordham (Who I suspect had the answers to everything and may in fact be from the future) suggested…

“It is a matter of cognitive dissonance, whilst we might agree change is needed and that people want change, we just don’t want that change for ourselves”


it is an unsettling but astute point, I guess it comes down to choice (or lack of it) – for change to happen positively we must welcome it, or accept that change will be forced upon us, in the way that it is, albeit disproportionately already happening in terms of climate change.

My time at Anthropy came to a poignant and light ending, by the founder John Obrien attempting to speak to where change comes from, sharing in very real and human terms, his personal stories of leadership, intertwined with anecdotes, of relationships, life experience and favourite tunes, ultimately I think he puts it down to bravery, being willing to act, to dream and to not giving up, closing the session by playing in full a song from his childhood….

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow and to run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong and to love pure and chaste from afar.
To try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right, without question or pause.
To be willing to march, march into Hell for that Heavenly cause.

the impossible dream, andy williams

Thank you Anthropy, see you next year…

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