Where Sustainability Becomes Philosophy

November 23, 2009 at 10:39 am 1 comment

No one can disagree with sustainable principles – that we be able to sustain ourselves, our families and our communities.  The questions arise when the discussion enters the abstract of scope and time, but coincidentally this is also where the realm of philosophy begins.  It seems to me that it is commonplace today for most people to compartmentalize these life-guiding ideas into one of the neatly packaged religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity or Hinduism without really questioning the source or meaning of their beliefs – and, that is okay – it is human nature.  The challenge of any of the great prophets has been to make the people of their time recognize societal changes and the religions that arose were that people’s adaptation to that new reality.

Well, we too have entered a new reality for which our current systems and beliefs are no longer adequate.  People don’t object to the principals of sustaining a way of life for them or their children.  And, it is within this narrow circle of interest where “modern civilization” as we know it seems feasible.  But humanity’s new reality lies in the domain of scope and scale.  In terms of scope, I’m talking about economic well-being for the people we don’t see or meet or hear from – i.e. everyone, all humanity.  In terms of time, people relate mostly to their own time scale which is their lifetime and maybe their children’s.  And, again the abstract asks the question: What about their grandchildren, their children’s children and so forth.  The notion of 1000 years is beyond most people’s calculations and grasp.  So, it’s in striving to achieve solutions which can be sustained for all humanity and across the millennia where we can realize this stark reality: the norms of today will not suffice.

While I believe compassion for our fellow man lies in the hearts of us all, it is fear that is guiding our societal decisions.  In English we have an expression “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know.” And it probably offers some wise advice.  However, in Mexico there is a similar expression with very different implications.  They very often say “Better the devil we know than the angel we don’t know.”  Personally, I find this expression disturbing, but I feel is a better reflection of societal attitudes toward achieving a sustainable future because we do possess the technology and know-how to achieve that future – what we lack is the will.

And, ultimately these abstracts are irrelevant because to know the fears, hopes and dreams of others, we need only look at the fears, hopes and dreams of ourselves.  You do not need to personally know or meet the starving Sudanese child to what he or she or their parent hopes for – the same opportunity to fulfill their potential as you wish for your own children.  I believe people can and will agree to sustainable principals – not as a result of a logical explanation, but from a leap of faith to these principals because they are common to all major religions and are therefore ones which we already know and believe in.

We have arrived at a time of choice created by our own technological success that has allowed our population to swell and has simultaneously been impacting our environment.  A philosophy is ultimately a set of values that guides us in our day to day decisions of life.  If we make our choices based on our fears of what we will lose, I believe we are doomed.  However, if we make those same choices in hope of what we can become, then the “tough” decisions will become easy and humanity will face a bright future.


Entry filed under: Life, People, Philosophy, Population, Sustainability, Thoughts. Tags: , , , , , .

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