Why a Holistic Approach is Vital for Long Lasting Change

The first thing we need to do, is we need to care.”

I find that watching the news is not easy these days. With conflict raging in the Middle East, the war in the Ukraine continuing, as well as other violent acts occurring with increasing regularity globally, it is hard to see how we can achieve a more compassionate world.

However, for me these are not isolated events. I am concerned that we are not seeing the link between these incidents of conflict – and that link is a lack of empathy and understanding. Violence and conflict sadly arise in different settings and contexts – whether it is violence against humans, animals or the environment or conflict between race, religion or gender. And that’s why we are facing these complex and endless challenges globally.

We need to truly recognise the interconnection between humans, animals and the environment and seek solutions to reduce violence and conflict in today’s world by taking a holistic approach to address the root cause of the issues. If we fail to recognise this connection then we will be constantly firefighting. I strongly believe that educating the next generation how to show compassion and empathy is integral to effecting long-term change.

We need to truly recognise the interconnection between humans, animals and the environment and seek solutions to reduce violence and conflict in today’s world by taking a holistic approach to address the root cause of the issues.

The first steps in making a difference

The first thing we need to do, is we need to care. We can see that children are becoming ‘learning machines’. Education is often focused purely on exam performance rather than educating the ‘whole child’. UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Education includes the goals of ‘learning to live together’, ‘learning to be with each other’ and ‘learning to attend and care’. We need the next generation to learn about the importance of living together, showing compassion and provide them with the desire to do things differently to previous generations.

By taking a holistic view, I believe that we can address the root causes of the issues of conflict that we are facing today. I feel strongly that we are currently ‘aid driven’ with a ‘rescue mentality’ rather than ensuring that these acts of violence don’t occur in the first place.

At ACTAsia our vision is: ‘To create a more compassionate world for animals, people and the environment’. If we take a holistic approach to global issues and understand our inherent interconnectedness then the world would be a better place.

If the next generation understand the dangers of plastic pollution and microplastics then solutions will be found across the world to improve recycling and reduce plastic consumption.

Educating Children to Care

ACTAsia’s Caring for Life (CFL) education for children addresses issues impacting society and gives children the knowledge and the tools to understand how to be better citizens. CFL teaches compassion and empathy and we are thrilled that our impact is growing as we have just expanded to a 10th Pioneer School in China.

Humane education is widely recognised and taught in the west but is rarely understood in Asian school education which is why ACTAsia created our award-winning CFL education programme. Without these lessons, children are not taught vital life skills such as empathy, compassion, the importance of protecting animals and the environment and how all living creatures are interconnected. The lessons are interactive and involve role play and collaborative learning. In this way we aspire to create a new generation of critical thinkers who will be inspired to take positive actions which will in turn will have a positive impact on society.

Biodiversity is key to our survival and if we do not connect the dots between environmental health and the health of humans and animals by taking a holistic approach, then we risk the future of the planet.

Caring about Nature and Biodiversity – looking at the whole picture

Biodiversity is key to our survival and if we do not connect the dots between environmental health and the health of humans and animals by taking a holistic approach, then we risk the future of the planet.

By educating Gen Z we can hope to effect human behaviour change with positive results. ACTAsia’s CFL not only educates children but also has education programmes in place for consumers and professionals to help them make informed choices. Through our CFL programmes I feel that we are making strides in key areas of global concern, for example:

Plastic pollution. If the next generation understand the dangers of plastic pollution and microplastics then solutions will be found across the world to improve recycling and reduce plastic consumption. ACTAsia works tirelessly to raise awareness about plastic pollution.

Fur farming. Not only is fur farming cruel to animals but it is also extremely harmful to the environment. ACTAsia is delighted that since we started campaigning against this issue, the number of retailers who have agreed to go ‘fur free’ has risen exponentially.

Endangered species. We need to protect endangered species for fear of having a negative impact on biodiversity and in turn climate change. Today’s ‘normal’ will become tomorrow’s endangered species. I currently fear for the humble donkey which is being killed for its skin. The product ‘ejiao’ found in donkey hide is believed to improve blood circulation and is becoming very sought after. This is resulting in thousands of donkeys being traded for slaughter. This is alarming when these animals are needed to sustain rural communities as they are still a vital method of transport in many parts of Africa and Asia.

We need to protect endangered species for fear of having a negative impact on biodiversity and in turn climate change.

Compassionate Choices Network embraces a holistic approach

In addition to our CFL education for children, consumers and professionals, ACTAsia is proud to work with our Compassionate Choices Network (CCN). This network of selected non-governmental organisations across Asia, share the holistic goal of protecting animals, people and the environment by promoting responsible consumption and sustainable lifestyles. The CCN achieves this by using education to address, highlight and resolve harmful practices and accelerate positive change in Asia.

I’m thrilled that our third annual Plant Forward campaign organised by the CCN kicks off in July. Plant Forward is an annual two-week festival that celebrates plant-based living and raises awareness surrounding sustainable consumption across Asia. The campaign supports the UN’s Global Week to #ACT4SDGs initiative.

How we can all look at the bigger picture

These are just a few examples of how adopting a holistic approach can help to combat future conflict and why a holistic approach is at the heart of ACTAsia’s work. By educating future generations to care and to be compassionate, we can drive positive societal change. We can no longer look at issues in isolation – we need big picture thinking and we need to provide the knowledge and the tools to effect change. You can read about how I came to develop this holistic approach in my book The Life of Pei, the Battle for Compassion which has just been released.

Pei Su is a Chinese sociologist and Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ACTAsia, an international NGO established in 2006. She is a strong advocate of education and training as the main vehicle for long term sustainability, aiming to inspire people to understand and appreciate the world we share, and to take responsibility for the protection and preservation of its inhabitants and resources.