What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Eighth Deadly Sin by Dave

We've all heard the rhetoric of "growth". It is a word that carries heavy and sacred freight whenever uttered within financial institutions, or on the world's airwaves. It's fundamental to our concept of economic health. If a pundit should detect figures that indicate growth running at 1 or 2 percent, it would be labeled "anemic" and "worrisome". I'm no economist, but as far back as I can remember, I've been troubled by this convention, especially since the publication in 1970 of our first photo of the entire planet seen from space...it looks blue and round, beautiful but fragile, and emphatically finite. Yet 38 years later, we never hear economic experts question the illogic of endless growth within a finite system.
What can this wealth we speak of be, but the systematic mining of the world's resources? To improve our mining techniques doesn't change the equation, it only postpones the eventual reckoning...a reckoning the pioneer biologist Robert Malthus would recognize immediately; i.e. a smaller rabbit population leads to a smaller wolf population which leads to a larger rabbit population which leads...etc.
Can we be more logical than rabbits or even wolves? Can we project our destinies into the future based on all the self-evident data? Certainly we can. Our failure to do so is caused by mere unwillingness...by fear. Of course a paradigm shift of this magnitude makes people fearful- we've been growing exponentially for at least 250 years. But does the alternative have to be scary? I submit that it's less scary than "staying the course".
The alternative is "zero-growth", a state that has lasted a lot longer than 250 years. Equilibrium or balance need not be a frightening scenario. On the contrary, it could prove to be the restorative that our species needs most. "Balance", as any athlete will tell you, is the most basic attitude to adopt in order to acheive maximum physical proficiency...in any discipline. Our species has lived in balance before...we can do so again.
As we seek this sustainable equilibrium, we'll need to re-visit religious and moral concepts, rejecting some values, while re-emphasizing or inventing others. A starting place that comes to my mind are the infamous "seven deadly sins", sloth, gluttony, envy, lust (what are the other three? somebody help me out here...avarice?). I don't think I'd take anything off the list...they're all in synch with the ideal of sustainability, but I'd certainly add a new one...Waste.
The false ideal of endless growth has enabled the appearance, at least in the developed world, of the eighth deadly sin. Perhaps the most appropriate icon for this sin, both for it's revolting vividness and the universal sense of wrongness it engenders, would be the vision, in the late 19th century, of hundeds of thousands of buffalo carcasses rotting in the sun, stripped only of their hides and tongues. An act so morally bankrupt as to leave Native Americans paralyzed with the shock of it...what is this white man not capable of doing? How can the Great Spirit allow it?
As we move forward into an uncertain future of dwindling resources, we must all train ourselves to consume with the same level of awareness and balance practiced by the North American plains Indians....oh Great Spirit, deliver us from the eighth deadly sin.


C Robb said...

Nice idea. Waste lies at the heart of our problem. How many of us can remember our grandparents and their ways of thrift. This culture of waste has not been long in the making, a generation or two maybe? If it can appear that quickly, can we make it go away even quicker? I'd like to suggest an easy behavioural change that everyone can make to start dealing with it. Save the aquifers, save petroleum, save money, save wildlife. Stop buying bottled water.


I'm working on it personally, in lieu of dealing with lust! I'm not sure I'm ready to banish that one from my life.

Jamie Bull said...

Wrath and pride are the two you missed.

However, I don't think we need a new sin. Gluttony accounts for using up anything to the point of wastefulness. And greed covers the grasping, growth paradigm. Those ancients knew what they were doing.

Interesting blog though. I'll keep watching.