I wrote an article in Spring 2000 entitled “How Much is Enough?” I am reprinting it here because I would write the same thing today. When Clifford and I began our website in 1996 we called it “Raventalk: For a Sustainable Planet Future.” We featured an image of a gleeful little girl standing on the palm of her dad’s hand. The caption was, “Is the Joy of Being on your palm-top?” Here’s my article. You can see the image in the bottom right column of
SPRING 2000: What does the “joy of being” have to do with a sustainable planet future? Let’s first look at what I mean by each of those ideas. The “joy of being” is a spiritual quality. You feel good about yourself. You feel a sense of connectedness and belonging. You feel a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. There is freedom, play, delight and wonder. There is happiness that has nothing to do with money or position. In spite of difficulties and crises, you are essentially glad to be alive,
A “sustainable planet future” is the idea that the way we live on Earth allows us and future generations to live in harmony with all living beings, and with the ecological systems of the planet. It means we live as part of the loop and circle of life. We use and reuse. We do not overuse. We spend within our means. We put back what we take out. We share resources with every living being that lives on this planet with us. We recognize the biological and ecological systems that we are a part of, and live in balance with those laws.
Abundant evidence is available now to show us that we are exhausting the Earth’s resources and living in such a way that destroys the ecological balance of the Earth. We in industrialized nations consume far more than our fair share of resources. The consequences of social imbalance are as potentially explosive and disastrous as the consequences of global warming and climate change. A sustainable planet future envisions environmental and social justice for all.
Do we ever feel we have enough? Are we ever enough just as we are? We are constantly being prodded, lured, enticed, and driven to consume by the feeling that we don’t have enough, or that we are not enough as we are. Advertisements work on our fears, self-doubt, dissatisfaction and sense of insufficiency. We buy to stave of those feelings. We buy to fix what we think is wrong with us. We consume material goods to address every sort of need, be it physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual.
Thus we live way beyond the planet’s capabilities of supporting us. If every person on the planet consumed the way we in the industrialized countries do, it would take four planets to sustain us. We have separated ourselves from natural systems. We know, but are not accepting, ecological realities. We have chosen to be superior to Nature. We have chosen to place a man-made system—the economy—before natural systems. Our economy, and the idea of endless growth—instead of the ecology of the planet—is running our lives. Our current growth economy depends on consuming the very things we need to survive. Contrary to what our government and corporate leaders tell us, growth is not synonymous with progress. Our industrial economies—and that includes the development of the global economy (“globalization”)—grow at the expense of ecosystems, culture, communities and democracy. That was what the demonstrations at the WTO in Seattle in 1999 were all about.
So let’s stop this runaway train that’s rushing toward a brick wall. Let’s look at what’s really important to us. Let’s take a close & truthful look at the consequences of how we are living. What are the real costs to our every action? If all costs were calculated in our Gross Domestic Product, we would not be looking at an economic boom, but ecological doom. GDP does not measure nonmaterial goods and services. It does not measure quality of life or natural resources or pollution. Fortunately, a different measuring system is already in use called The Genuine Progress Indicator.
So what does the joy of being have to do with our sustainable planet future? Doesn’t it seem to you that if people were happy (with basic needs met, meaningful work, leisure time, a peaceful inner life) the planet would not be in distress? Doesn’t it follow that if we work on ourselves, we will ease the stress in our own lives, and the health of the planet will also be restored? We and the planet are one. Let’s work on ourselves and save the planet at the same time.
NOVEMBER 2021: I would add that we also need to demand action from our leaders on every environmental and social issue of our time!
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