Our Common Future

July 23, 2007 at 5:55 pm 1 comment

In addition to the “sustainability puzzle” I’ve made frequent reference to “our common future” throughout this Blog. What do I mean by this phrase, why is our future common and why is it important? Well, to put it as simply as possible, while we emphasize our differences in color, race, sex, religion and language, we have more in common than we have differences. While we achieve many things in our individual lives, our single greatest legacy is what we leave our children. And, a reasonable question to ask is: have we contributed more to their problems (bad) or to their solutions (good)? It’s important to recognize our common future because I believe we have arrived at a time of choice with the power to choose between creating a world of our dreams or one made of our most dreaded fears.

Like rivaling high school football teams from the same town, its human nature to rally around and support those you have an immediate connection with. These self created divisions usually disappear when the spotlight is focused on larger community interests. Likewise, technology has made our world smaller and increased our understanding of how interconnected we are with our environment. “We’re in this boat together” and “No man is an island” are all clichés that apply to the realities of life upon this one earth. And, the world today is a complete international economic system where many benefit from the misfortune of others. In the past it was much easier to ignore the harsh realities that many in our family of humanity face every day. But, today with camera phones and the internet, to further deny the problems and not commit to actively resolve them pushes the meaning of irresponsible to new heights.

If you argue that the “science isn’t in” then we do both agree that no one wants to harm the environment we inhabit. But, that argument equally argues that the science permitting us to continue our indiscriminant abuse of our environment is also not in because they are one and the same science. The only rational option is to stop the presses as much as we can and proceed in ways we know contribute to our environment’s health. The key word is rational. How many adults do you know receive a bill in the mail and hide it unopened? This child-like behavior doesn’t make the problem go away and it usually gets worse with time.

Whether we recognize it or not, the stakes have gotten higher and will continue with increasing population and environmental stress. While its been said that with great power comes great responsibility, power is not just of the military kind, there is also economic power and its power to affect our environment. Serious leadership is needed to right this ship before we run ashore. Presently our policies are dictated to a large degree by our past history where religion, language and geographies have been paramount. Just as these differences can contribute to a diversity of thought that can enrich and strengthen our creative responses, they can also continue to divide us into squabbling groups of children who don’t offer the respect they expect from others.

So, what are we trying to create? If it is simply to consume resources and make stuff, then we’re making headway. But, if our pursuit is happiness, then we’re spinning our wheels. If happiness results from liking yourself and from healthy relationships with others, we have not created systems conducive toward that end. Ultimately our own safety rests in the security of our fellow man and so a huge incentive to deal with the “big issue” of sustainability is our own self-interest. But more importantly, we can do better and should do better. Remember: who we are now (both individually and as a society) is the sum of our choices. To change who we are, we must also change our choices — starting now. Who knows what will happen — this story has yet to fully play itself out.


Entry filed under: Consumerism, Design, Economics, Environment, People, Philosophy, Sustainability.

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