A fascinating and realistic perspective on sustainability and human nature!
"I saw Dr. David Suzuki give his legacy speech in December. The speech was positioned as the summary of Suzuki’s learnings from his long, illustrious career as a leader in the environmental movement.
One observation he made really stuck with me. He pointed out that humans are up to 90% water – yet we deliberately pour our most toxic waste into our water supply. If we saw any individual poisoning a glass of water, then drinking it down, we’d surely put them on suicide watch.
Then he talked about the air we breathe. Again, as an element it’s vitally important. But we pollute it as if we had a death wish.
Suzuki went on to draw similar conclusions on our shabby treatment of the soil, the oceans, and other organisms we depend on for existence.
His conclusion was that we show all the symptoms of suicidal insanity. We know we’re killing ourselves, but it doesn’t seem to slow us down.
UBC professor of ecological planning William Rees provides this insight:
The real problem is that the modern world remains in the sway of a dangerously illusory cultural myth. Like Bjorn Lomborg (author of The Skeptical Environmentalist), most governments and international agencies seem to believe that the human enterprise is somehow 'decoupling' from the environment, and so is poised for unlimited expansion.
Malcolm Gladwell goes further, stating:
The fact is, we can be law-abiding and peace-loving and tolerant and inventive and committed to freedom and true to our own values and still behave in ways that are biologically suicidal.
This leads me to two obvious questions – what could be causing us to behave this way? And what could get us back in sync with our environment?
In actual fact, we are not all behaving this way. Guy Dauncey writes that it is in fact a small group with interests vested in unsustainable industry and production that needed to be targetted and turned. But he is hopeful:
The real story here, which merits attention, is how fast we humans are learning to use our collective pressure to achieve this end. We succeeded with slavery, votes for women, labour unions, civil rights, overthrowing kings and tyrants. Will we succeed with the world’s big corporations, whose leaders currently sit on top of the pile…?
Climate Counts does an annual climate action audit of hundreds of leading US companies. They are, in fact, seeing year over year improvements across the board with these companies. So, in fact, consumers are having an impact on producers.
But will it be too little, too late?
I’m an innovator and believe there is a way we can speed our recovery. We can take a tip from traditional marketing strategists and innovatively link happiness with sustainable products, services and business models to shift society from the brink. Or go one further, we could link happiness with spiritual fulfillment.
It isn't a terribly new idea. In 1972, Bhutan's former king coined the concept of Gross National Happiness which defines the quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms. The four pillars of GNH are sustainable development, strengthened cultural values, conserving the natural environment, and good governance.
If this sounds a bit kumbaya, consider companies like Patagonia. They work on a GNH model, and thrive financially.
Not that Patagonia is an anomaly. Innovations like social media have pushed corporations toward greater transparency. That means even non-believers in the C-Suite are recognizing the importance of transparency, greater sustainability and, well, playing nicer in the environmental sandbox.
Are we doing enough yet to stop our collective suicide? No. But is there room for rescue? I believe so.
Our brains landed us in this pickle. And properly engaged, our brains can pull us out of the vinegar. Couple humanity’s brainpower with the earth’s remarkable ability to heal its scars, and you have a recipe for hope.
Hope may be just what the suicidal patient needs."
Here, here, Marc!