Why We Will Succeed
at creating sustainable ways to live
Creatures with far less capability than humans have lived on Earth for tens
of millions of years. We should expect no less.
This link looks at qualities that should enable our kind to live on Earth
until the sun burns out. It also identifies why our prospects
sometimes look bleak.
Why Humans Should Survive:
- Thumbs: our ability to hold, carry and otherwise manipulate objects enables
a vast array of actions.
- Observation: our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste are well
developed. When aided by telescopes, microscopes, geiger-counters, spectrometers,
thermometers and other technical extensions, our ability to notice what is
going on around us is extraordinary.
- Pattern Recognition: we have a highly developed ability to recognize patterns
in the observations we make. This leads to understanding and makes it possible
to predict many consequences of events and actions.
- Memory: we have a well developed ability to remember past observations which we can compare with present information for identifying problems and finding solutions.
- Communication: not only can individuals share observations and understanding
directly with each other; through print and other recording media, information
can be passed to large numbers of people in the present and through time to generations following.
- Creativity: we can take the extraordinary amount of information available
to us and use it to plan actions and to make things.
- Humans have been around long enough to learn much. We could provide
very well for ourselves a hundred years ago. Since then we have developed
countless new capabilities, many of which make it easier to survive. In particular
health care, psychology, communication advances, understanding of ecological
systems, physics, cybernetics and the knowledge of techniques by which we
can grow, design and manufacture useful items. Uncertainty about the future
is not due to lack of ability.
Life Strives to Survive.
- It is the natural aim of creatures to launch their young into life with
as great a chance as possible for raising young of their own. The urge to
care for offspring and thereby continue the species predates awareness of
self and selfishness. It is at the core of every human being. All but the
most dedicated of those who seek salvation through making money recognize
the well-being of future generations as the ultimate good. This basic drive
in billions of people is more than capable of transforming civilization. It
awaits only the hope that we can shift our priorities for collective action
from the competitive economics model to sustainability.
- Proponents of economic expansion still tell us that the best results will
come from everyone trying to make and spend more money. Economies are trying to grow
everywhere, yet, prospects for the future are diminishing for many people
and many other living things. A review of the economic expansion goal is surely
- Greed is often identified as the human quality that will bring about our
demise. There is no question that greed and competitiveness are components
of human nature, but so too are caring and cooperation. For several generations
we have been cultivating self-interest and competition as engines for economic
growth. (See The Invisible Hand)
All around we can see the consequences of these values becoming entrenched
in our belief system. The impact they are having on families and communities
is sufficient to question their encouragement.
- What would life be like if our societies were to cultivate the qualities
of care and cooperation? Would they flower and penetrate every aspect of society
in the same way that self-centeredness and competition have?
- For hundreds of years people have worked and organized to assert their right
to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Democracy is established in
principle. It is time to try it out on a question of basic direction.
Why do our prospects sometimes look bleak?
- Following the invisible hand of the market may have worked before mass persuasion technology and the appearance
of ecological limits. Today, however it is increasingly difficult to
justify decisions on the faith that if it makes money it is good.
- The coexistence of people in need and people who have nothing to do is evidence
of bad management. The disappearance of fish stocks, destabilization of the
atmosphere, diminishing soil fertility and the expanding gap between the rich
and the desperate speaks of more than just misguided notions of order. By
threatening large portions of the human family, the management practices that
expand these problems are treasonous.
- For civilization to be endowed with the extraordinary capabilities we have
and to face this wide range of potentially lethal problems is bad management.
The management principle of letting the market decide how society will unfold
can no longer go unquestioned. It is time to bring this principle forward
for public review. Please join us in asking the Question
- "The marketplace has been constantly evoked over the last quarter-century
as the source of freedom and democracy as well as the only possible force
to lead us back to growth. But after two decades of having their way, the
exponents of this theory have no results to show us. . . . they have held
and continue to hold the levers of power, and they have not produced. This
is a very long trial period . . ."
- John Ralston Saul