Reprinted with permission from Ottawa's Peace and Environment News
"Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. . . We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate."
The critical evolutionary cue of "enough" was lost in the flurry
of wasteful production that has brought us to the edge of ecological collapse.
If we want to resolve climate change, or any of the other problems arising
because we are outgrowing our planet, we have to acknowledge our changed
circumstances and clearly adopt the goal of sustainability;
not as a new style, or add-on, but as the core aspiration for decision making.
The illusion of our growth based economy is that disaster will strike if we stop growing. This is only true because of the way that mutual provision (the economy) is presently structured. Explaining why most of the world uses this system, what the problems with it are, the alternatives available and how to encourage the transformation, would take an entire book. Such is the purpose of Life, Money & Illusion. I only want to point out here that we have a fundamental choice to make, between growing until we drop and aiming for sustainability.
Just think what human imagination and creativity would come up with if we applied it to making goods durable, rather than engineering their obsolescence; if our educational and persuasive abilities were used to encourage the celebration of what life offers and to affirm each individual's potential, rather than promoting materialism and sewing the seeds of doubt and fear, only to suggest purchases to make the discomfort go away.
We could reduce our collective ecological footprint to the point where there certainly wouldn't be enough work to keep everyone busy all the time. We would then have to share the work that remained, breathe deeply, and learn how to enjoy our selves.
Deciding on direction
Legitimacy is the key to transformation. Imagine yourself, with a pack sac full of tools going into the wilderness with the intent of staying there, by yourself, for two years. How many of us would emerge after two years, in good health? And that is with tools that somebody else made and with a knowledge of how to use them obtained from our culture. Even the words and concepts with which we think, we get from the people around us. Without a society, a person is almost as useless as a computer with no programs. With no social support, survival would be a long shot.
Even in today's arms length economy, we are totally dependent on the products of other people's labour. In earlier times it was very clear that if our tribe or clan were to leave us behind, we would perish. We want, very deeply, to belong. The price of membership is subscription to the value system of one's society.
As long as our society ascribes legitimacy to the goal of producing and consuming ever more, it will be an uphill struggle to avoid over-exploiting natural resources and polluting beyond the limits of tolerance. If the goal of sustainability were wholeheartedly adopted, and was sincerely used as the foundation of decision making, we would, within a decade, be moving so clearly toward a sustainable world that we would no longer be worried for our children and grandchildren.
It is important to turn off unnecessary lights, compost and support local producers. Each step slows the expansion of human impacts on the Earth. More critically, your acts are testimony to the goal of sustainability. When such testimony, reach critical mass, anyone wishing to accelerate growth will feel like a smoker lighting up in a public space. From that point, solutions will emerge everywhere and be implemented in every corner of our world.