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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beyond Sustainability

Our Choice

Finding Durable Prosperity

Is there such a thing as sustainability? Some environmentally concerned thinkers are questioning whether there is a need to rethink the concept, to better define the true mission statement required to attain a healthier more naturally balanced world.

Sustainable means "capable of being kept at one level; maintainable." The problem with sustainability as a buzzword is that nothing stays the same in nature. The natural world is described by a dynamic which is ever changing. Nothing can be sustained. Nothing is static. The world can only change. In regards to the quality of life for the inhabitants of this planet, there can only be change - for the better or for the worse. It cannot remain the same.

We as humans are a powerful natural force for change. How we go about bringing this change relates directly to whether the outcome is for a better world or a degraded one. Cynics will say, it doesn't matter how we act. If we don't take the most selfish actions, providing the most immediate short term gains, then we are fools because someone else will. Yet, this point of view is beyond cynicism, it is self-serving denial, making pathetic excuses for destructive behavior. If we deny the importance of taking responsibility for the outcomes of our actions, then we are likely to be self destructive, poisoning our own environment, laying waste to our own nest, and dragging down the rest of the natural world as well.

So if "sustainable" is an unrealistic expectation in a world where change never ends, what is the healthy optimal mission for humans. What is the right way to live, that avoids suffering, and assures that the results of our initiatives build and strengthen, instead of tearing down, the fabric of this incredible world?

Instead of "sustainability" how about if we talk about prosperity. Prosperity is the condition in which nature, including the humans, can thrive, be nurtured, be fulfilled, bringing forth a cornucopia of healthful results for the whole natural order. Prosperity is continuous change for the better. More health, more education, more wisdom, more fulfillment, more caring, more connection, more enlightenment, more beauty, more hope, more finesse, more richness to life.. Along with these increases we can look for ever more appropriate use of materials, an ever lighter footprint upon the earth, a way of living that is integrated with nature rather than at war with it. Out of this "light on the earth" approach to living, will inevitably come rising standards of living for humans and a healthier world for all of the inhabitants of this planet which is, after all, our total life support system, our only home.

If we can imagine this kind of prosperity, perhaps we can continuously set out to attain it. Then should we undertake this mission, perhaps we can find durable prosperity, in which we use our creative powers to bring about continuous change for the better.

There is no question that we have influence in the natural environment. We bias the outcomes at every step. What we do every day is important. Our intention or our obliviousness changes the world. What if we were to start taking full responsibility for the creative power which is our legacy? What if we simply accept that not only must we change the world, but that we must make it better.

History shows that "golden ages" occur from time to time in which durable prosperity abounds and results in a flowering of human potential. Can we have this happen in our times? Yes we can. We can have durable prosperity by unleashing the creativity of the people, by encouragement and education - by challenging ourselves to meet or exceed our highest standards. Then, if our creativity is interwoven with responsibility for the elements of nature that we have influence over, a flowering of human potential in balance with nature will inevitably arise.

This dream of our highest nature is as much a part of being human as the nightmare of humankind as the scourge of the world. So, who determines which aspect of our nature rules? We do.

In Hawaii, it is said, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." The opposite is also thought provoking. "The life of the land is terminated in selfishness."

Our choice.

Jonathan Cole

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