Monday, March 17, 2008

Who Do We Think We Are?

As an inhabitant of the developed world I consume far in excess of my fair share of the world's resources. I accept that the level of consumption in our society is not only unsustainable, but is leading to tragic consequences for those in the remainder of the world who have access to less than their fair share.

"In 1950, there were about two poor people for every rich person on Earth; today there are about four; in 2025, there will be nearly six."(Homer-Dixon)

I want to develop my vision of the type of world I believe we need to move towards. I want to connect not just with my friends and neighbours, but with the skeptics amongst you to encourage discussion and activity on this issue. I want to challenge us all to understand that, for our children, and all future generations, we must begin to re-orient our lifestyles in radical and substantive ways. I urge us to consider voluntary simplicity as an important step in this evaluation process. Consider the words of Mohatma Ghandi, who asked us to...

"Live simply that others may simply live."

I believe it essential that we recognize that we cannot grow our way out of this problem. We need to encourage a SteadyState economy that is based on and promotes quality of life, not ever increasing quantity of consumption. To do this, each of us must begin the process of evaluating how much we consume and accumulate. If we find we are taking more than our fair share, then we need to change our behaviour. Once again, to quote Mohatma Ghandi,

"There’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed."

To continue to build and believe in a society that encourages us to have and consume more in the face of dwindling resources is the greatest problem we are creating for future generations. It is a sad and most shameful legacy. Regardless of your age, try to visualize for a moment the type of world you are leaving for your grandchildren, if the world continues to consume and pollute as it does today. Will there be anything left for our future generations, our children and grandchildren, to enjoy? Would you want to live in that world with them?

As Ted Mosquin and J. Stan Rowe have stated in A Manifesto for Earth:

Humanity's 10,000-year-old experiment in mode-of-living at the expense of Nature, culminating in economic globalization, is failing. A primary reason is that we have placed the importance of our species above all else. We have wrongly considered Earth, its ecosystems, and their myriad organic/inorganic parts as mere provisioners, valued only when they serve our needs and wants. A courageous change in attitudes and activities is urgent.

We have failed to understand that we are part of the environment. We have been treating it as one more commodity to be bought and sold. How foolish of us. The environment ultimately will find balance and heal itself. The question is whether or not we, as humanity, shall choose, through our actions, to continue to be part of the equation.

I am seeking ways that I can be a part of re-directing society. For me, it is not enough that I may be able to proclaim how I have reduced my consumption. I need to be part of the movement that is convincing others that this issue must be confronted. If anything that I create here persuades one person to reduce the size of their footprint on this planet, or participate in the discussion, then I have succeeded. My hope, of course, is for far more.

It is essential to hear from the skeptics. I want to engage with those who do not believe that climate change is a result of human activity. I want to debate with those who believe that we can continue to consume at our current rates. I seek to understand the reasoning of those who argue that the best way to deal with the deleterious effects of continual economic growth is to continue to invest in growth for growth's sake. We need to talk. To those of you who share my perspective, we also need to talk. We need to find ways to work together to further our understanding of where civilization is headed and how we can be a part of the solution to the greatest threat facing humanity. We need to find ways to engage with those who do not share our perspective.

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