There are also recent projects underpinned by so-called “nature positive” principles, which aim to build ecological resilience and reverse loss. Operation Wallacea, a biodiversity and climate research organisation, has devised biodiversity credits to trace the tangible improvements to biodiversity in any given area, and to develop an international biodiversity credit standard whichcould be traded in the same way as a carbon credit.
I am aware that offsetting is no panacea, and it can create moral quandaries too. The writer and environmentalist George Monbiot, for example, has compared offsetting to the sale of indulgences by the Catholic church in the 16th Century, when sinners could, in effect, pay to cancel out their bad deeds. It’s true the idea runs the risk of greenwashing or giving a green-light to damaging processes, but I would argue that any, and preferably equal, act of replacement is better than none.
A long-lived truth
As well as the practical benefits, I believe there could be deeper reasons to embrace an approach of balancing human complexity in this way, rooted in timeless human ideas. As I thought about the gradient metaphor, there was something about the two types of material complexity − extreme human engineering on one hand, and total organic wildness on the other − that reminded me of the concept of psychological wholeness; the balancing of the conscious and unconscious elements of the psyche. In stories and symbolism, the idea of balancing and combination of opposites has appeared continually over thousands of years – spanning mythologies, religions, and philosophies across the world. In the ancient principles of Daoism, out of the black and white of yin and yang the “10,000 things” are born: every species of animal, humans, all of life, matter, and every form of technology too. The Ancient Greeks conceptualised Dionisius and Apollo: the gods of pleasurable debauchery and enlightened decorum, respectively. It was not encouraged to live a life purely of one or the other, and as Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian modes of being are what creates the dramatic arcs or meanings in this world. The principle of opposites even underlies the philosophies and experiments of ancient alchemy, with the purification and combination of opposites seen as an ultimate goal.