The matrix moment

About a year ago when talking to Giles Henderson (co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute) about the potential of film to ignite the hearts and minds of the younger generation; he mentioned ‘The Matrix moment’. You know, the bit in the first Matrix film where Neo is un-plugged and reborn into his new reality; where what was once his truth is now a lie. Giles likened it to the moment when people see a new environmental reality. When they realise that the way they previously saw the world is flawed; that our environment is not an inexhaustible resource for human utility, nor a wild force to be tamed or battled. But, in fact, a precious, finite and intelligent system, that must be partnered if we are to prosper.

There have been several high profile and well-documented ‘Matrix moments’. Dame Ellen MacArthur had hers on a sailing trip to South Georgia, where she witnessed environmental degradation at first hand. Seeing, amongst other challenges, the future of the albatross threatened by irresponsible fishing methods. For the rest of her trip she practised a non-waste policy on board her boat, and on her return, embarked on the creation of a Charitable Foundation dedicated to creating positive change through the creation of circular economies.

Edgar D. Mitchell’s ‘Matrix moment’ also occurred on a voyage, except his was into space, or rather on the way back from it. On his return to earth as a scientist on board the Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 1971, he saw the earth for the very first time from afar. He felt how tiny and fragile it was as part of a huge mass of stars in space. Once back on earth he vowed to try and protect it.

The most famous ‘Matrix moment’ of all is probably Ray Anderson’s- the inspirational former CEO of Interface FLOR. He experienced an epiphany, which he likened to “a spear to the chest”, after reading Paul Hawken’s ‘Ecology of Commerce’ whilst seeking out inspiration for a speech addressing his organisation’s environmental policy. The book which documented the author’s journey from ‘environmental plunderer to protector’, in-tern became Ray’s life-story. Professionally he sailed InterfaceFlor through a sea change, which transformed a carpet company into the world’s leading sustainable business. And personally, his life-style choices – including building and off-the-grid home – echoed his professional ones.

In fact, Ray Anderson is at the heart of my ‘Matrix moment’. My story goes like this. From wearing Body Shop ‘Save the whale’ T-shirts and flirting with vegetarianism as a young teen, to protest marching as a student, I had always had a keen interest in the environment and in social justice. However, my “something must be done and I need to be part of it” moment came in 2005, when I joined a work outing to the cinema and watched ‘The Corporation’. The whole film resonated deeply with me, but the interview with Ray Anderson made me cry and set me on my future course. I thought to myself, well if Ray Anderson can change his outlook and re-navigate the path of his whole business at the age of 60, then I can make a change in my life time. I hope I will.

What about you? What was your ‘Matrix moment’? We would love to hear your stories.


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