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This question is introduced on this site as The Challenge and the Goal.

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A Question of Direction

In what direction do we move
to achieve the sort of world we want?

There are two options offered by different sectors of society:

A) Economic Expansion
Proponents argue that people express their will through how they spend their money. Free markets will shape the future through the laws of supply and demand. The greatest good is achieved by expanding economic activity; earning more and consuming more. The more money that changes hands, the better off society is.

B) Sustainability
looks into the future with concern for generations yet unborn. Ecological laws of resource availability and the ability of the biosphere to absorb waste are respected. The goal is to manage our affairs in ways that strengthen community cohesion and the health of the natural world. Our purpose is to maintain healthy secure livelihoods for all and to celebrate learning, love, laughter and other benefits of being human on a finite planet.

Would policies based on sustainability provide for human need as effectively as those presently serving economic expansion?

A great deal depends on which value public policy is based on:

- It determines the way in which tax money and public lands are used.

- It established a standard against which citizens weigh their own value systems.

Other advantages of asking people to consider this choice.

(Note: There are places where basic needs are not being met and where growth in the provision for such needs is appropriate. While meeting such needs may come via conventional economic growth, the goal is well-being rather than simply expanding GDP. When GDP growth, for its own sake, is the goal, basic needs are often overlooked due to greater returns available from exploitative and wasteful practices.)

Another way to look at the Question of Direction.

One Hand or the Other

The problem with measuring progress by gross production & consumption.

Join with us in asking: What kind of future do we want?
  • Consider the options yourself.
    - Does it make more sense to base decisions on expanding economic activity or on increasing sustainability?

  • Ask others what they think.
    - Present the basic question of direction to people you know. How do their views compare with yours?
    - Sustainability cards provide a convenient way of introducing the question.
    Please note that many people think sustainability is the better option but don't think there is any chance of changing. Ask them, and yourself, to think just for a moment that it is possible.

    Other materials are available to help raise and clarify the question of direction.

  • Encourage more people to consider the options.
    - Distribute sustainability cards, as shown in the link above, or customized with details for your particular activities. Cards are available from us with distribution boxes at cost or less.

It is Possible

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

  • Margaret Mead
Without a great deal of money or the use of violence, the only power available to citizens with the capacity to effect change in society is the power of our collective will. This power effects change through popular notions of good and bad and through the democratic process.

A vast majority of people will agree that sustainability should be our goal. The greatest single obstacle is the feeling that it is not possible to choose a new direction. This feeling can change. A key purpose of Inviting Debate is to make visible the extent to which people favour sustainability. When we recognize the extent of our majority, we will demand, expect and implement change.

It is our right to determine the goals of society. Our taxes make government possible, our labours build and operate the systems of society and our purchasing of goods and services give life to corporations.

The illusion that perpetual expansion is the only choice is created by mass media. Mass media is almost entirely dependent on advertising revenue and is therefor biased in favour of the production-consumption spiral. Furthermore, it is expensive to own mass media. It's ownership, therefore, tends to be in the hands of the small wealthy portion of the population, one group that clearly benefits from economic expansion. Through control of mass media, their world view is promoted far in excess of their proportion of the population. This is why it is so important to raise the issue directly with others; to experience first hand that what the media says is not what people feel.
Without the cooperation of mass media, it is more difficult to stimulate public discussion. It is possible, however. Through our friends, family, clubs, associations and other citizens' networks, we can reach the entire population. It is not as easy as passing 10 million dollars to an advertising firm and telling them to sell the issue. It takes more personal involvement, but enjoys higher credibility. The Sustainability Project and Inviting Debate exist to provide materials and suggestions for how to raise the issue of direction through such channels. If you have ideas for getting people involved is such a discussion, we'd like to hear them.

Let us send you an introductory packet of materials to try out. You will see they work and see that there is hope for changing direction. Just contact sustain5 [at] with your request and address and the packet will follow.

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