Why business should care about the environment


Professor George Paxinos outlines that unless business decisions consider future generations, the planet is in serious trouble.

There is a problem with the environment and there is a problem with the brain.

Firstly, let’s start with the problem with the environment. My own country, Australia, is the first continent to be degraded by climate change. Yet, in the wake of the largest fires in recorded history and before the almost certain loss of all corrals in the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere, Australia remains the largest exporter of brown coal, a fossil fuel that stokes the fires that burn us. Australia has joined Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Venezuela to successfully sabotage international efforts to stabilise the climate.

If koalas could vote, no government, State or Federal, would be re-elected. And if koalas were in business boardrooms, few executives would feel safe. As in the Johannes Andersen story, it took a young person, Greta Thunberg, to point out the cruel paradox of this generation busily constructing the conditions for the extinction of its progeny.

Unless government and business decisions consider future generations as stakeholders, we will muddle ourselves to extinction. Concern for the future will not bring more profit to business, but will avoid the epitaph: Homo Sapiens: Intelligence made them extinct.

Now, the problem with the brain. The greatest surprise in my semi-centennial journey through the brain is that there are no areas in the human brain that do not exist in the brain of the chimpanzee. The claim we are made in the image of God is a human hubris. In whatever else we might resemble the divine, in the brain we are made in the image of the chimpanzee. I told my eight-year old granddaughter that the ancient gods did not take hubris kindly and punished King Sisyphus to push a rock up the mountain, only for it to roll down again, because Sisyphus was narcissistic, egotistic and insulting. She answered, “Like Trump.”

Neuroscientists have convinced themselves that in the supremacy stakes, the brain is the puppeteer and the mind is the puppet. Given the importance of the brain, it would be nice to know if it is the right “size.” My syllogism is that if the brain were smaller than what it is, it would not have been able to support language which permitted the development of science and technology that today threaten existence. If, on the other hand, the brain were larger than what it is, it might have understood the problem and even solved it. My conclusion: The brain is not in the Goldilocks zone. It is not the right “size.”

Puzzled, we stand before nature. We have no idea why we are here. We have a brain with reptilian leftovers, paleolithic emotions, institutions of the dark ages and godlike technology that endangers us and other living things.

I think there is no chance humans will construct a sustainable society, but there is nothing more important than attempting this. For decades I tried and failed to protect environmental assets through direct action. I even stood as a candidate for the Australian Cyclists Party. Failure led to fiction in the hope that through literature I might be able to work upstream of behaviour––at changing attitudes, by taking the reader with me along a hero’s arc. I wrote an eco-fiction novel A River Divided, that might have broken a record in the time it took me to complete ––21 years. Neuroscience principles were used in the formation of charters, such as those related to the mind, soul, free will and consciousness. Environmental issues are at the centre of the novel, including the question of whether the brain is the right “size” for survival. See georgepaxinos.com.au

A River Divided calls for a reset of business, science, culture and, not least, religion.

Finally, let’s speak about religion. With their obsession with sex, religions are not treating the environment any better than they treat women. They are contributing to overpopulation by their opposition to family planning.

In my novel, it is a religious student who organises a protest against overpopulation and it is again this student who asks for the difference between Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin on the one hand, and Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and Saint Teresa on the other.

According to him, it is ordination. In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, all three in the first group can apply to become priests, but none in the second group need apply.

I have an admission to make: Neuroscience has not cured any disease. However, it has come up with some advice on how to postpone dementia. Nothing is better than physical exercise –– walking, running, swimming, rowing, cycling. May I suggest a companion to you in these activities? The audio version of A River Divided which has just been released.

I leave you with a wish: may your brain shrink less than expected for your age.

Professor George Paxinos is a world-leading neuroscientist and a cerebral cartographer who has identified and named more brain areas than anyone in history. A Professor of Medical Sciences at Neuroscience Research Australian and The University of NSW, Professor Paxinos wrote A River Divided to boost awareness about the dire state of the world’s environment. You can get a copy of the book here: https://www.georgepaxinos.com.au/#buy




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