The Butterfly Effect

July 24, 2012 at 7:17 am 3 comments

The Butterfly Effect is used to illustrate an element of chaos theory.  It suggests the possibility that a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a hurricane on the other side of the globe a few weeks later.  As far as affecting weather, this seems to be more of a mental exercise rather than a meaningful explanation of weather.  However, in our globalized consumer economy, it demonstrates how a seemingly innocent action in one place can have large, unintended consequences on the other side of the planet.

Examples of ill considered consequences of our economic system include growing corn for fuel which raises the cost of staple items in Latin America.  Our disposable attitude towards technology leads to environmental pollution and poisoning in China.  Making the automobile the cornerstone of our mobility increases productivity everywhere so that the society can afford them and then estranges those in a society who cannot (see The Transportation Trap).  The connections are infinite and ubiquitous in our everyday lives and only seen by those who take time to notice.

What future do we want?  Well, the one we’re going to get is the one we are building now and this is not the future I want.  For myself, I do not want my prosperity to be the source or cause of someone else’s suffering – whether I understand the intricate linkages or not.  I am sure many will disagree or have an opinion about.  However, it’s an important enough question that we must openly and seriously discuss and debate it.  It is not enough for governments to hold a conference; rather everyone must become engaged and involved in the conversation if we are to have a meaningful mandate for a change to sustainable systems.

I believe humanity has reached a unique point in its evolution – a place in time when we can and will define our character as a species.  The difference between a child and an adult is in acknowledging their responsibilities. A modern world cannot ignore the “negative externalities” of its economic system and an advance society cannot ignore its responsibilities.   So too, we cannot consider our civilization to be “grown up” until we acknowledge our responsibilities.

The challenge humanity faces is not a technical one – we already have the know-how to make our world sustainable.  The challenge we face is one of collective will – we fear the uncertainty of change.  I have a belief (probably naïve) that, like myself, the great majority of my fellow humanity does not want their prosperity to be the cause of another person’s suffering.  If so, the means to bringing about a sustainable world may be found in tapping into this sense of compassion by making people aware of the Butterfly Effects of our globalized, consumption economy.  The problem is: how?  My next blog entry will propose a relatively simple, inexpensive and non-regulatory solution.  My sincerest hope is that we choose a future we all want.

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Entry filed under: Consumerism, Design, Economics, People, Philosophy, Population, Sustainability, Thoughts. Tags: , , , .

The Responsible Society Understanding Our Impact

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lisa Gautier  |  July 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    There is certainly value in taking personal responsibility for our actions, considering how what we may be doing (or not doing) impacts others. One way in particular I have found critical is acknowledging my own sin before the Holy God who made our universe, and then receiving the forgiveness for my failure to meet His standard through the righteous blood of Christ Jesus my Savior. Having owned my failure and received forgiveness, in Christ I have the power to change and do things differently in the future – hopefully hurting less people and bringing forth greater life.

    Reply
  • 2. Understanding Our Impact « The Sustainability Puzzle  |  July 31, 2012 at 4:56 am

    […] my last entry, The Butterfly Effect, I suggested that people would make different choices if they had a better understanding of the […]

    Reply
  • 3. Casey Jackson  |  August 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Could not have said it better myself. Great post! And proof that there are many out there like us that want the same thing.

    Reply

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