The August National Geographic magazine has an article written by Bill McKibben called "A Deeper Shade of Green". Mr. McKibben is an environmental essayist, activist and the author of "The End of Nature".
In this article, he talks about the fundamental premise that drives just about all our actions:--Will this expands the economy?. If it will then anything--globalization, factory farming, suburban sprawl, is good. Period. As a result of this premise, the massive use of cheap fuels and its production of CO2 were accepted without condition. The resulting environmental destruction was also accepted--air, water, earth were by-products of economic expansion that were accepted as necessary because 'expanding the economy' was good. Environmentalism's focus was to ameliorate as much as possible the destruction and from a Life Puzzle model--it was a reactive, fix it after its broke, 0-5 response on the Choosing Continuum.
Environmentalism has done as good a job as possible--but a 0-5, reactive response will never be good enough. And now with China fully entrenched in the Western premise of 'Will it expand the economy?' fueled of course by cheap fuel, the massive increase in CO2 emissions makes environmentalism's 0-5 response hopeless. There is no way to 'clean up' the mess this will create.
He challenges in this article that it is time for a change--it is time to see ourselves differently. We need to stop asking "will this expand the economy?" and start asking "will this pour more carbon into the atmosphere?". With the new question, we make very different choices. We choose life over money.
I would rephrase it.....we need to stop asking "Will this make money" and start asking "Will this improve the community of life?" It's a shift from 0-5 on the Choosing Continuum--the grow up, get a job, house, cars, kids, stuff and maintain status quo to a 6-10 on the Choosing Continuum--recognize self as a physical, emotional, thinking, sexual and spiritual being and create a LIFE that honors the whole. This dramatically different view of our selves on an individual level enables us to choose to create a dramatically different view on a community and global level.
If we change our view of self, then our choices are predicated on "will this enhance life?--for me, yes...but since I am dependent on the earth for life--every choice I make must also ensure that the community of life--animals, plant, air, water etc., is maintained as well. " If everyone woke up this morning from this "will it enhance life premise", our daily life and global life would be fundamentally different. And don't laugh when you read that--because this morning you woke up under the premise of 'will this expand the economy?" and your daily life is shaped by that! You crawl out of bed to get to work, make more money, buy more stuff....
He talks about several areas of our lives where we could today begin to make this shift.
1. Food--eating local vs. shipping food (CO2 emissions!)
2. Housing--returning to simpler, smaller houses that take less energy to heat/cool
3. Concentrate housing in urban centers--reducing sprawl and the need to drive to everything.
In a nutshell, it is to live simpler. To spend more time building your life and less time buying stuff (and all the fuel that goes into its production, shipping, buying). The result? Less CO2 emission and more life. More time to take care of your body (walk more!), more time to connect to the community (friends, gardening, volunteering) and more happiness.
A previous blog on Happiness shows that we're not a happy country and I think it is due to the premise of "anything that expands the economy is good" because the cost for this has proved to be the thing that makes most of us truly happy: community--of people and animals, plant water, air--LIFE.