There have been a number of interesting articles recently on the need for alternative ways of living if we are going to have any chance of dealing with the pressing ecological issues such as global warming, resource limits and loss of biodiversity.
Below are a couple of articles that highlight the need for a wider and deeper examination of the world we live in and the alternatives ways of living, that go beyond the simplistic push for renewable energy that seems to dominate the media.
In “Human Rights – help or hindrance to combating climate change?”, Dr Natarajan explores the reasons why the global community has been unable to act decisively on the major environmental issues of our times:
From climate change to the mass extinction of species, from desertification to deforestation, when faced with global environmental challenges the international community has been unable to cooperate effectively towards stemming harm.
While barriers to cooperation are manifold, they can be broadly characterized as falling into two categories: first, an unwillingness to address issues of environmental inequity and injustice between and within countries; and second, an inability to imagine alternatives to current patterns of economic development.
She concludes that we need to go beyond the human based thinking and imagine an alternative that is embedded in our connectedness to the rest of the planet.
In an intertwined state of being, where each entity’s survival depends on its relationship with others within an ecosystem, the distinction between human and non-human is untenable; the non-human ‘other’ is essential for human life. Whatever we do to the other we are also doing to ourselves.
Environmental crises are leading to a collapse of the planet’s ecosystems, posing an existential threat to the human species. The modern understanding of ideas such as law, economy, culture, and the ‘human’ take for granted the stability of the underlying natural order. But the consequence of these modern worldviews has been to destabilize some of the fundamental conditions for life. As such, the situation demands a reconceptualization of law, economy, and other disciplines, whereby humans are understood within the context of our environment, rather than separate from it.
Environmental crises may serve to do nothing more than accentuate the existing inequities of globalization, adding environmental degradation to the litany of sufferings already inflicted on the poor. Alternatively, if we meet environmental challenges with a fundamental reassessment of our assumptions about ourselves, and our place in the world, then we may find that there is a link between the way we treat the non-human environment and the way we treat each other. If so, in seeking a solution to environmental crises we may also find our humanity.
While Dr Ted Trainer describes a simpler lifestyle in “The ‘simple life’ manifesto and how it could save us” that as an alternative way that may just save us from ecological catastrophe.
If the expected 9 billion people were to enjoy the ”living standards” forecast for Australians by 2050 (assuming 3% yearly economic growth), the world’s total consumption would be about 30 times as much as it is now.
Importantly it is not based in the idea of denial but rather in a radically different value system and way of living.
The biggest and most difficult changes will have to be in our outlook and values. The present commitment to individualistic competition for affluent “living standards” and ever-increasing wealth would have to be replaced by a strong desire to live simply and frugally, cooperatively, and self-sufficiently.
Living more simply does not mean deprivation or hardship. It means being content with what is sufficient, and seeking enjoyment from non-material pursuits. Living in ways that are frugal and that minimise resource use should not be seen as a burden or sacrifice that must be made to save the planet. These ways can be sources of great life satisfaction.
Neither does it mean turning our backs on the modern world. The Simpler Way would let us keep all the high-tech ways that are socially desirable. We would have far more resources for science, research, education and the arts than we have now because we would have stopped wasting vast amounts of resources on non-necessities.
Of course neither of the ideas raised in these two articles are easy to implement but they offer valuable insights into the depth of changes that are going to need to occur. As Dr Trainer concludes in his article:
Obviously at present the chances of such a transition being achieved are very poor. But the global situation is rapidly deteriorating and increasing numbers are realising that consumer-capitalism is not going to solve our problems.
Many in the Voluntary Simplicity, Permaculture, Downshifting, De-growth, Eco-village and Transition Towns movements are now enjoying living in the ways described and are working for transition to some kind of Simpler Way.
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