“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muiradvertisement - learn more
A Gradual Awakening
Having spent many years working in the business world, being seduced by the gods of progress, I experienced a gradual awakening that reshaped the way that I saw the world. I began to realise that what I had been taught at university and other tertiary institutions just did not stack up. It became blindingly clear that the current economic model with its fixation on growth was highly unsustainable and detrimental to our society and environment. Our entire financial, economic and social systems are hinged on the premise that markets will continue to grow. This concept itself is unsustainable as we live in a finite physical world. Yet every business listed on the stock market is dependant on continuous growth. My question was simple. How can economies continue to grow indefinitely? The answer. They cannot. After years of research and questioning it became obvious that we are on the verge of a quantum shift. Our society, economies and way of thinking will have to radically change if we have any chance of surviving as a species. We need a collective evolution and we need everyone to work together to make it happen.
Understanding Our Connection Is Crucial For Sustainability
I realised that a significant piece of the sustainability puzzle is not in technological improvements and developing more advanced systems, but rather in the way humanity sees itself engaging within the natural systems. There are a number of recurring aspects that play a significant part in a person’s life, all of which are influenced by how we interact with and impact the environment. Sustainability is much bigger than simply developing more efficient ways of doing things. It is about the way we view the universe, it is about our humanity and touches on the spiritual realm. Einstein eluded to this paradigm shift when he said: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” At the end of the day, sustainability and the survival of the species is about understanding what is important in life. It is about reassessing what we want from life. Do we want to live on a planet that is devoid of diversity and beauty? Much of our current way of looking at things is based on old ideas and paradigms which stem from our conditioned states. Once we examine why we do the things we do, it becomes obvious that we have separated ourselves from the very thing that gives us life and makes life worth living.
“Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” – John Muir
Sustainability and living in harmony with each other and our planet is essential to our existence. As many of our ancestors discovered, sustainability is crucial for survival. Ironically the last century has been fuelled by our use of non-renewable resources. Unfettered exploitation of the earth’s resources in an effort to bring economic prosperity has led to widespread destruction of the very systems we need to survive. This dependence is causing instability in the way these natural systems function. Since the industrialization of society over the last two hundred years, humanity has physically and mentally remained unchanged. We have however, surrounded ourselves with accessories, added layers of complexity and confusion to our lives. This urbanization has reduced humanity’s connection with nature. Connection to the land and natural environment has been replaced by freeways, cities and concrete landscapes that bring little solace and opportunity for reflection for individuals. Inner peace and happiness can be hard to find in a world of constant diversion and distraction. The ability to witness nature and live in harmony with the natural cycles provides unquantifiable experiences for those living a simple life.
Henry David Thoreau, the great American naturalist and author wrote that humans have four basic needs. These consist of food, shelter, clothing and fuel. Thoreau spent many years living in a simple cabin in nature where he wrote the classic ‘Walden.’ He felt that once these primary needs were met, there was little else to need or want for human existence. He believed that one should make enough money for these basic necessities in life and no more. Thoreau believed that much of society lacked originality and most people due to laziness and insecurity sacrificed their identities for conformity. The comfort and stability of sheer habit as well as the fear of change leads the masses to a life of mediocrity and constant distraction away from deeper more meaningful aspects of life. Much of what Thoreau articulated in his 1854 published book holds true today in a rapidly changing society which is on the brink of redefining itself.
So what can we as individuals do to make a difference? Humanity must make a massive change to the way we live so we avoid economic, social and environmental disaster. While there are many people out there acting and trying to educate others, the inertia and lack of political and corporate will stifles the majority from becoming aware of the seriousness of the issue. That is because we have let it. Our distraction with being entertained and believing the propaganda we are fed leads to conformity, self-denial and inaction. It will take a collective effort to be able to shift the paradigm to allow society to thrive and prosper more meaningfully. Humanity has been given the ingredients for a sustainable life throughout the ages. The ancient scriptures and teachers have told us what we need to do to live a happy and prosperous life. We have been told to live simply, cultivate happiness from within and to treat all living creatures within our environment with respect and compassion. Yet we have chosen not to listen, as we think we know better. Understanding how our actions impact and influence others and our environment is crucial to progressing on our journey toward sustainability. The key to sustainability is awareness and simplicity. It is time to reassess. Do we want to move forward in a sustainable manner or do we want to go on living lives that are focused on self-interest? One of these paths leads to a life of suffering, pain and eventual capitulation, while the other path leads to a brighter, more resilient, collaborative and sustainable future…the choice is ours.
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