Towards a Philosophy of Sustainability

"Who wants to be a millionaire? 
 I don't
 And I don't
īCos all I want is you!"

It's a lovely song, which says that when you are in love with someone they are worth more to you than all the riches of the world.

In reality, of course, we all do want to be millionaires (or better still, multimillionaires), i.e. to have the money to do and to have all the things we want. Some we would spend on good causes, no doubt; but most we would spend on ourselves, our families and friends (because we love them so much).

If we really do love our spouses, and even more so if we love the children and grandchildren they have given us, and if they mean more to us than all the riches of the world, then we need to ask a very important question:

How many millionaires, multimillionaires and billionaires can our planet support?

It depends on what they make and spend their money on, of course. If it is on supporting a sustainable, moral, fair-trade economy and lifestyle (see The straw(s) that broke the camels back), our planet can support any number of them. If, on the other hand, it is on supporting a non-sustainable economy and lifestyle, there is most definitely a limit.

Generally, the rich and super rich are far more involved in plundering our planet than in helping to preserve it, not least because there is much more money to be made from the former; and many are famous for their extravagant and anything-but sustainable lifestyles, which is often why they want to be rich in the first place; it is what most ordinary people envy and admire, and what the media celebrates them for.

Money is power - in its most versatile form. It can be made, spent and invested in helping to preserve and enrich our planet, or on plundering and spoiling it. At the moment I estimate that more than 95 percent is used - not intentionally, of course, but effectively - on the latter.

As a result, we are heading rapidly towards global catastrophe and possible extinction. You think I'm being "alarmist"?; There is every reason to be alarmed!

There is mounting concern at all levels of society, global warming being the most wide-spread, but touching all aspects of the environment and sustainability. Nearly all of this concern, however, is focused on the symptoms of non-sustainability and on how to deal with them, rather than on the underlying cause, which is an economy and lifestyles based on values, attitudes and aspirations deeply rooted in man's "more animal than human " nature.

In view of what Charles Darwin and evolutionary theory tell us about our animal origins, this should not surprise us. But just like Christian fundamentalists, we are not facing up to it. 

Why? Because it undermines many of our core beliefs too. Only ours are not so much religious as economic and lifestyle-aspirational.

There are in fact more and stronger forces keeping the rest of us in denial of the truth (about human origins and the consequences thereof) than there are keeping Christian fundamentalists in denial.

We have a choice: between extinction (or worse) and coming out of denial to create an economy (and a whole socio-economic order to go with it) rooted in our more enlightened (far less materialistic) human nature.