I am reading George Monbiot’s book Feral. I am a big fan of Monbiot and his writing both on the environment and indeed on politics and I follow his opinion pieces in the Guardian, regularly enthusing to family and friends about them. So I was particularly pleased to come across this in Feral where he is talking about the process of ‘rewilding’
‘The ecosystems that result are best described not as wilderness, but as self-willed: governed not by human management but by their own processes. Rewilding has no end points, no view about what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species looks like. It does not strive to produce a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef. It lets nature decide.
The ecosystems that will emerge, in our changed climates, on our depleted soils, will not be the same as those which prevailed in the past. The way they evolve cannot be predicted, which is one of the reasons why this project enthralls. While conservation often looks to the past, rewilding of this kind looks to the future.’ (2013, p 10)
As I read Monbiot it struck me that the spirit and the rationale of ‘rewilding’ are perhaps markedly similar to the intent of the worker in Solution Focused Practice (SFP) and perhaps, although I have not yet finished the book, the challenges may also be rather similar.
The central challenge to us in SFP can, it seems to me, be framed in two ways, one of which can be thought of as a passive framing of the challenge and the other as an active framing, the two of which are however intrinsically intertwined, the one requiring the other and the other requiring the one. The ‘passive’ framing involves us in a giving up, a giving up of knowing, a giving up of any intent to understand. We choose not to know how people should live their lives, we do not entertain concepts of health and pathology, we do not pretend to know what causes problems in people’s lives and we strive to resist the siren call, the hugely powerful lure of expert knowledge in relation to how people should solve their problems.
The ‘active’ framing of the same challenge is centred around the absolute requirement for the SF worker to fully embrace indeed to nurture trust, trust in people and trust in the process. We cannot let go of our intent to control, of our residual and habitual tendency to wish to determine the direction of the therapy if we cannot trust people to know best about their pathways, if we cannot trust them to figure the lives that they want and trust them to be capable of finding their own ways to a life that will be right (enough) for them. The huge difficulty in fully trusting, in really letting go of our wish to control the change process, can require us to listen out for people’s strengths and skills and capacities in order that we can indeed sufficiently trust. We do this not because people require us to be aware of these things, but because we need to be aware of these aspects of people in order to be able to do our job, concentrating on people’s words and responses in order that we can best frame our next question, not distracted by ideas of needing to ‘get’ the other to do this or that, to get them to change. The giving up and the trusting are inseparable – we truly cannot have one without the other. In our work with people we are not trying to produce the lived equivalent of ‘a heath, a meadow, a rainforest, a kelp garden or a coral reef’. We celebrate the ‘emergence’ of whatever people determine is right for them, we let ‘nature decide’; we truly have no view on ‘what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species’ (in human life terms) ‘looks like’.
Monbiot’s thinking echoes our SF process beautifully ‘the way (ecosystems) evolve cannot be predicted, which is one of the reasons why (rewilding) enthralls’. In SF we give up any intention to know what people will do between the conversations that we have with them. They are truly free to find their own ways and it is this unpredictability, and the extraordinary creativity that is not infrequently evinced that means that the model really does ‘enthrall’. And finally Monbiot, although from a different perspective, even echoes our focus on the future rather than the past. Perhaps our SF enterprise could be thought about as a form of ‘rewilding’ the world, person by person, one by one.
George Monbiot (2013) Feral: Rewilding the land, sea and human life. Allen Lane: London
05 January 2020
For those of you who might be tempted to pursue Monbiot’s application of his thinking to politics you might be interested in
George Monbiot (2017) Out of the Wreckage: A new Politics for an Age of Crisis. Verso: London