Dissecting Utopia: Will the Details Lead us to a Sustainable World?

April 20, 2008 at 3:11 am

Our modern notion of utopia comes from multiple sources ranging from religious texts to science fiction. The result is images without the burden of consequences making them an unrealistic estimates of what or how that utopia will be achieved. For example, there is a Walgreen’s commercial depicting the consumer’s notion of utopia by suggesting there is a parking space next to the store entrance. Is this what Utopia looks like? Will it be a world without limits and endless convenience resembling the ultimate shopping experience? Today, a utopia is still an idea, a concept. In this state it is something “other” and dream-like that will happen in some vague and distant future. And, it will remain so until we define what it will look like. However, by defining what utopia is, we are taking the first steps towards actually building it.

Maybe we can’t know exactly what our utopia will look like, but I believe there are broad areas of consensus. For example, I don’t believe paradise can exist unless it exists for everyone. And, to achieve this goal I think such a society will have to be “buoyant”. By that I mean just as one should float in water with little thought or effort, so too should our systems be designed to provide our basic needs of food and shelter. But, how? I think we can borrow from the lessons of modern business practices, the system design concept of simplicity and the call of sustainable living to rely principally on local resources. I have written previously on possible solutions for specific needs and each can be resolved on one of three levels: one’s household, one’s community and one’s national government. But, each solution strives to resolve problems as close to the source of need as possible.

  • Food: Our food can be mostly solved at the community level by organizing them under the umbrella of Community Supported Agriculture also known as a CSA. (see Straightening Out a Broken Food Chain)
  • Shelter: Mennonites and Amish demonstrate that housing solutions can be solved at the household and community levels (see The Home: The Cornerstone of a Sustainable Future)
  • Energy: The electricity, heating and cooling we need to live in modern comfort can be produced at the household level utilizing renewable resources (See The Home: The Cornerstone of a Sustainable Future)
  • Transportation: Our mobility is one of the defining characteristics of our modern society. It is an issue that affects everyone, everywhere and a sustainable system will require the resources and coordination of central governments (see The Transportation Trap)
  • Education: Our children’s most profound teachers are their parents. This fact suggests a common sense solution that is rooted at both the household and community levels. However, the idea of equal opportunity through education mandates larger scales of coordination in defining the curriculum to achieve that uniform standard. The Federal government or central authority can empower both households and communities to accomplish this task by providing the systems, tools and framework – specifically a K-12 self-guided curriculum that can be taught in 4 hours of class per day and reinforced by the family during the remainder of the day. (see Educationally Challenged)

While comprehensive systemic design can offer the efficiencies that will fuel the system, the “magic” that we hope for cannot be imposed or created out of design. It is what we choose to do with our newly discovered free time that will make the magic. Will we educate ourselves or pursue our passion? Will we create art or devote our time to our family and friends? When we are no longer burdened with the need to scramble for our survival we will truly experience the freedom to realize both our individual and societal potential.

But, how do we get there? How do we move from ideas to reality? That too will require a paradigm shift in how we each perceive and interact in our world. For sustainability ultimately recognizes that we are all in this boat together. And, it is through this awareness that we will discover the motivation for societal transformation – compassion. This past week the Dalai Lama hosted a conference on compassion. And, while this may strike the western ear as an odd focus for a conference, its importance cannot be understated because it is through finding compassion for our fellow man that we will also find the motivation to transform our world from one of poverty and wasteful consumption to the utopia of our dreams.

Related Entries

The Home: The Cornerstone of a Sustainable Future

Straightening Out a Broken Food Chain

Educationally Challenged

The Transportation Trap


Entry filed under: Design, Environment, People, Philosophy, Sustainability, Transportation. Tags: , .

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