A significant aspect of my job is increasing business’ and the public’s awareness of the issues and opportunities to become more environmentally sustainable. As I mentioned last week, with businesspeople I try to do this by portraying irresponsible, unsustainable behaviour as risky, and positioning business sustainability as a risk mitigation and resilience strategy.
If I’m honest, though, I have to admit that the amount of change necessary to really make our economy sustainable is almost certainly beyond the capacity of our economic system to achieve. Business needs to be ‘persuaded’ to be responsible and sustainable, not just by taxes and regulations and incentives and strategic arguments about reducing risk, but also by a drastic change in customer buying behaviour.
How do we achieve that change in buying behaviour? After all, we, the customers, are also mostly producers of some goods or services in a business. As customers we respond the same way that we do as businesspeople — we change our behaviour only when we have no other choice, or when something so astonishing occurs that it changes our whole worldview.
When it comes to our worldview on responsibility and sustainability, we are informed by how we perceive ourselves relative to our society and our environment. Our modern, individualistic Western culture teaches us that we are responsible only for and to ourselves and those we love (“we are not our neighbour’s keeper”) and that ‘the environment’ is something apart from us, something that we manage, own, and keep under our control.
This is analogous to our brain’s belief that it — ‘we’ — are something apart from our bodies, and that we are somehow not responsible for ‘them’ or ‘their’ well-being. Such a belief is ludicrous — and we cannot live without or apart from a healthy natural environment any more than our brains can live well if the rest of our bodies are dying, poisoned or exhausted. But human culture and belief systems are mealleable, and we can, with enough propaganda and reinforcement of others, be persuaded to believe almost any absurd idea.
There is evidence that human societies and other creatures not living wildly out of balance with their ecosystems have an utterly different worldview, one that recognizes that they are inherently and absolutely a part of those ecosystems, one that respects the ecosystem and all-life-on-Earth as sacred and inseparable from them.
But now we live in such artificial, overcrowded circumstances that many of us have no concept of a natural environment — we spend so little time in places even remotely natural we cannot even imagine what it means to be a part of a place, to belong to it, to be intimately and utterly connected to everything else in it. Our human constructs are fragile, unsustainable, and disposable — we can no more be a part of them than a brain can be a part of a robot. If we were somehow able to raise and sustain, for awhile, a brain in a robotic, artificial ‘body’, that fragile creature would not be human, and it would be unable to form any attachment to any ‘living’ creature. Likewise, humans raised in fragile artificial environments cannot establish or even really imagine a connection or attachment to all-life-on-Earth, because they are essentially apart from it, separated, detached.
There are now not enough natural places left to reconnect most of us, even if there were time and will to do so. The nature visits that we send our children on as part of their schooling don’t reconnect them — they merely reinforce the social illusion that the environment is ‘apart’, separated from us like animals in a zoo are separated from us by cages.
Is it possible for us to imagine being a part, given the three million years of our species’ history as a part, which is profoundly coded in our DNA and just waiting to be remembered? Alas, I don’t think so. We are by nature experiential learners. Without direct experience, ‘being a part’ is only something we can dimly ‘remember’, the way we ‘remember’ when we walk into a rainforest that this is, somehow, our natural home.
If we want to be of help, making the world a better place, we need to do what we do when we want to learn a new and strange language — immerse ourselves in it to the exclusion of our ‘normal’ surroundings. That means immersing ourselves in a natural surrounding with as few trappings of civilization as necessary, living simply in self-sufficient, responsible community with people we love who seek to rediscover and share the primal worldview of being a part of all-life-on-Earth. That doesn’t mean isolation or deprivation or ‘going back’ — Internet information and communications, renewable energy, shelter and appliances sufficient for comfort and food preservation and preparation can actually help us do more with less.
By doing this, rediscovering working models of how to live and make a living sustainably, responsibly and joyfully, we can, in a way, reinvent the world. Not our civilized world — it’s almost certainly too late for that. Rather, the world that the survivors of the collapse of our civilization will inherit, hungry for models that work.
We can’t save the world, but we can help those who will create the next, humbler, simpler human society, one that can learn from our mistakes.
And in the meantime, in that joyous, astonishing reconnection with all-life-on-Earth, we can rediscover who we are, and why we’re here,and all the wondrous things that we’ve forgotten.
Category: Intentional Community
Other Writers About CollapseAlbert Bates (US)
Carolyn Baker (US)*
Derrick Jensen (US)
Dmitry Orlov (US)
Doing It Ourselves (AU)
Dougald & Paul (UK)*
Gail Tverberg (US)
Generation Alpha (AU)
Guy McPherson (US)
Ilargi & Nicole (CA)*
Janaia & Robin (US)*
Jim Kunstler (US)
John Michael Greer (US)
Kari McGregor (AU)
Keith Farnish (UK)
Morris Berman (MX)
NTHE Love (UK)
Paul Chefurka (CA)
Paul Heft (US)*
Post Carbon Inst. (US)
Sam Rose (US)*
Seb Paquet (CA)*
Tim Bennett (US)
Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 58 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
Community-Based Resilience Framework (Poster)
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
What Happened When the Oil Ran Out
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
If We Had a Better Story
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
The Problem With Systems
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Systems Thinking & Complexity 101
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
Disruption (Short Story)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
My Other Sites
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.