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Envisioning a sustainable society


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Posted 07 December 2004 - 12:33 AM

WNSO Newsletter, Vol 1, Issue 7
-----------------------------
BY :- Krishna Pudasaini.
Australian National University.

The 1992 "Earth Summit" at Rio popularized the goal of sustainable development. Most of the heads of state meeting there believed that goal could be achieved by developing better technology and by writing better laws, agreements and treaties- and by enforcing them better. Unfortunately, their approach was flawed and will not achieve sustainability because they do not understand the nature crisis in our earthly home.

Imagine that, suddenly all the humans disappeared, but all the building, roads, shopping halls, factories, automobiles and other artefacts of modern civilizations were left behind. What then? After three-four centuries, building would have crumbled, vehicles would have rushed and fallen apart and plants would have re-colonized. Water air and soil would gradually clear up; some endangered species would flourish. Nature would thrive splendidly without us.

That mental experiment makes it clear that we do not have an environmental crisis. We have a crisis of civilization. Heads of state meeting at earth summit neither understood nor dealt with civilization's most crucial problems: humans are reproducing at such epidemic rates that world population will double 10-11 billion in 45 years.. resource depletion and waste generation will triple or quadruple over that period; waste discharges are already beginning to change the way of biosphere works; climate change
and ozone loss will reduce the productivity of ecosystems just when hordes of new humans will looking for sustenance and will destroy the confidence people need in order to invest in the future.

Without intending to, we have created a civilization that is headed for destruction. Either we learn to control our growth in population and in economic activity, or nature will use death to control it for us.


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#2 admin

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Posted 07 December 2004 - 12:33 AM

Present day society is not capable of producing a solution because it is disabled by the values our leaders constantly trumpet: economic growth, jobs, consumptions, competitiveness, power and domination. Societies pursuing these goals cannot avoid depleting thin resources degrading nature, poisoning life with wastes and upsetting biosphere system. We have no choice but to change; resisting change will make us victims of change.

But how do we transform to a sustainable society? My answer which I believe is the only answer is that we must learn our way. Nature and the imperatives of its laws will be one most powerful teacher as we learn our way to a new society. Most crucially, we must learn how to think about values.

Life in a viable ecosystem must become the core value of sustainable society; that means all life, not just a human life. Ecosystem function splendidly without humans, but human society would die without viable ecosystems. Individuals seeking life quality require a well functioning society living in well functioning ecosystem. We must give top priority to the ecosystems that supports us, and second priority to our societies. A sustainable society would affirm love as primary value and extend it not only to those near and dear, but to people in other lands, to future generations, and to other species. A sustainable society emphasizes partnership rather than domination, cooperation over competition, love over power. A sustainable society affirms justice and security as primary values.

A sustainable society would encourage self realizations- helping people to become all they are capable of being, rather than spending and consuming as the key to fulfilling life. A sustainable society would make long lasting products to be cherished and conserved. People would learn a love of beauty and simplicity.

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#3 admin

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Posted 07 December 2004 - 12:33 AM

A sustainable society would utilize both planning and markets as basic and supplementary information systems. Markets fail us because they can neither
anticipate the future nor make moral choices between objects and between
policies. Markets also cannot provide public goods such as schools, parks
and environmental protection, which are just as important for life quality
as private goods.

A sustainable society would continue further development of science and technology because we need practical creative solutions that are both environmentally sound and economically feasible. However, we should recognize that those who control science and technology can use them to dominate all other creatures; we must learn to develop social controls of science and technology to make our society more sustainable. We should not allow the development of powerful new technologies that can induce sweeping changes in economic patterns, lifestyles, governance and social values without careful forethought regarding their long term impacts.

Conscious social learning would become the dynamic of social change in sustainable society not only to deal with pressing problems, but also to realize a vision of good society. Meaningful and lasting social change occurs when nearly everyone learns the necessity of change and value of working toward it.

Ecological thinking is different from most thinking that guides the modern society. Ecological thinking recognizes that a proper understanding of the world requires people to learn how to think holistically, systemically, and futuristically. Because everything is connected to everything else, we must learn to anticipate 2nd, 3rd and higher order consequences for any contemplated major societal action. A society learning to be sustainable would redesign government to maximize its ability to learn. It would use the
government learning process to promote social learning. It would require that people who govern listen to citizens, not only to keep the process open for public participation, but also to cultivate mutual learning between officials and citizens.

Our species has a special gift. The ability to recall the past and foresee the future. Once we have a vision of future, every decision becomes a moral decision. Even the decision not to act becomes a moral judgment. Those who understand what are happening to the only home for us and other species are not free to shrink from the responsibility to help make the transition to sustainable society.

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