More recently, studies such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment also raised the alarm. That comprehensive, peer reviewed scientific analysis by 1,300 experts “assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being”. The final report concluded: “At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning. Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted”.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen – Anthem
There’s only word for what we’re doing, and that is “insane”. On an ocean planet, we are wrecking the ocean. On an ocean planet, we are wrecking the ocean.
– Bill McKibben
“The visions we are offering our children shape the future. It matters what those vision are.”
– Carl Sagan
“In matters of importance men either act from habit, or from motives that the world cannot penetrate, but in things of a trivial nature are less upon their guard, show their true disposition, and stand confessed for what they are.”
– Sir Francis Grant.
So what? This is what I think now: that the natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain that you are, “a constant striving” […] only adds to this unhappiness in the end — that end that comes to our youth and hope.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
The man I had persistently tried to be became such a burden that I have “cut him loose”.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
So there was not an “I” anymore — not a basis on which I could organize my self-respect — save my limitless capacity for toil that it seemed I possessed no more. It was strange to have no self — to be like a little boy left along in a big house, who knew that now he could do anything he wanted to do, but found that there was nothing that he wanted to do.
I began to realize that for two years my life had been a drawing on resources that I did not possess, that I had been mortgaging myself physically and spiritually up to the hilt. […] I realized that in those two years, in order to preserve something […] I had weaned myself from all the things I used to love — that every act of life from the morning toothbrush to the friend at dinner had become an effort.
At the moment it was a harsh and bitter business to know that my career as a leader of men was over. Since that day I have not been able to fire a bad servant, and I am astonished and impressed by people who can. Some old desire for personal dominance was broken and gone […] A man does not recover from such jolts — he becomes a different person, and, eventually, the new person finds new things to care about.
At three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work — and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.
Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on Earth.
– Muhammad Ali
Around the world people are demonstrating that, not only are there alternatives, there are alternatives that allow us all to take care of each other and the rest of the species we live with, and to direct surpluses from our designs back to this care. These are the three main tenets of Permaculture design. We aren’t waiting for governments, corporations, or bureaucracies to solve the world’s problems. We will do it with or without their help.
Although humans are great at creating deserts and poverty, we also have the incredible capacity to design ecological systems that work for everyone—even some corporations. The argument that we can’t produce enough ecologically is, at its source, promoted by corporations who benefit from a view of scarcity and limited resources which they control
Structural adjustment—the neoliberal formula the World Bank and IMF impose on the developing world—ensures population growth. By intentionally eliminating a secure social safety net as a condition of borrowing money, population growth—and therefore market growth for various consumer goods—continues to grow. Therein lies the rub. If population doesn’t continue to grow, capitalists rapidly run out of customers. Can’t let that happen now can we?
Let’s be honest: real sustainability may not make business sense.
Population control doesn’t rock the boat very much; it doesn’t fundamentally alter the distribution of wealth and power today. Indeed, it plays into a colonialistic narrative that the fecund masses of the global south are to blame for the environmental crisis, and suggests that the solution is more development (with its population-limiting effects). In comparison, it is far more disruptive to the present world order to challenge economic growth, globalisation, and development. We must examine all aspects, economic and ideological, of our growth-dependent system, starting with the rhetoric of development that upholds an industrial, US/European-style society as the pinnacle of human wellbeing, and extending to the monetary system that drives globalisation and the growth of consumption. Whether in terms of population or consumption, sustainability cannot mean sustainable growth.
Our financial system requires growth in order to function. In a system in which money is created as interest-bearing debt, the absence of growth means fewer lending opportunities. Without new money entering the economy, existing debts are harder to repay. Bankruptcies increase, wealth concentrates in fewer hands, and pressure grows to financialise assets, liquidate natural wealth, cut social services and essentially direct all resources toward the servicing of debt. While this is going on, technological improvements in productivity lead to lower employment, which, coupled with rising indebtedness, cut demand and reduce lending opportunities even more.
When I’m not threatened I’m more likely to speak from a soulful place, not an ego-defensive place—and my message is more likely to be well received, even if it is critical.
Depression is not so much like being lost in the dark as it is like becoming the dark. In the depths of depression you have no capacity to step back out of the darkness, or move a bit away from it, and say, “Oh, look at what’s happening to me. What’s this all about?” When you become the dark rather than being lost in it, you don’t have a self that is other than the darkness. Therefore, you can’t get perspective and try to make meaning of it.
When you suffer, if you hold it in the right way, in a supple and open heart, you become much more empathetic toward the suffering of others.
Redefining depression from something taboo to something that we should be exploring together in open and vulnerable ways; from something that’s purely biological to something that has dimensions of spiritual and psychological mystery to it; and from something that’s essentially meaningless to something that can be meaningful—all of this seems to me to be important.
Only in our doing can we grasp you.
Only with our hands can we illumine you.
The mind is but a visitor;
it thinks us out of our world.
Each mind fabricates itself.
We sense it limits, for we have made them.
And just when we would flee them, you come
and make of yourself an offering.
I don’t want to think a place for you.
Speak to me from everywhere.
Your Gospel can be comprehended
without looking for its source.
When I go toward you
it is with my whole life.
Despair, Accept, Act. These are the three stages we must pass through. Despair is a natural human response to the new reality we face, and to resist it is to deny the truth. Although the duration and intensity of despair will vary among us, it is unhealthy and unhelpful to stop there. Emerging from despair means accepting the situation and resuming our equanimity; but if we go no further, we risk becoming mired in passivity and fatalism. Only by acting, and acting ethically, can we redeem our humanity.
– Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at the Australian National University
Therefore, just as a poor person might be forced to steal in order to survive, it is a natural inclination to do whatever is needed to continue an institution’s profitability. This makes it inherently difficult for profit-based institutions to change, for it puts in jeopardy not only the survival of large groups of people, but also the coveted, materialistic lifestyles associated with affluence and power. Therefore, the paralyzing necessity to preserve an institution, regardless of its social relevance, is largely rooted in the need for money or profit.
– Peter Joseph, Zeitgeist Addendum
There comes a time in all of our lives when silence is a betrayal.
– Martin Luther King
If it is reasonable action which is by nature beneficial to truth and justice, then by abandoning procrastination and discouragement, the more you encounter obstruction, the more you should strengthen your courage and make effort. That is the conduct of a wise and good person.
– Dalai Lama XIV
To leave one’s values at home is to assent to the status quo of excessive individualism, consumerism, commodification of myriad aspects of life, environmental decline, and the absence of strong communities.
For a consumer society, having rather than well-being is the raison d’etre. It is powered by polluting energy sources and guided by a pseudo-scientific principle of limitless economic growth.
Technological prowess alone cannot confer contentment or happiness on us: in ‘advanced’ societies, the rates of anxiety, stress and mental illness are greater than ever previously recorded. On a physical level too, cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and auto-immune disease as well as diverse ‘functional illnesses’ have become epidemic.
Human instincts have destructive as well as benign aspects. As much as we may celebrate our art, scientific knowledge or altruism, we can no longer ignore the truth that we are also ‘the most dangerous animal’. Humans are opportunistic, as are all higher animals, and characteristically greedy. Our high intelligence confers the capacity to manipulate others to accumulate power or resources. We are quite easily trained into violent forms of aggression. Now that we have ‘accidentally’ acquired the capacity to destroy the climate of this planet, what will we call upon to restrain ourselves in time?
Environmental and social breakdown is now vast and global in scale. Technological advances have provided the basis for a new kind of social evolution, beyond cultural, religious or spiritual boundaries. Technology, however, is not ultimately directed by reason, but by internal forces of sociobiology and psychology.
The larger system is the biosphere and the subsystem is the economy. The economy is geared for growth, whereas the parent system doesn’t grow. It remains the same size. So as the economy grows, it encroaches upon the biosphere, and this is its fundamental cost.
Consumerism requires and develops a sense of our own impoverishment. By manipulating the gnawing sense of lack that haunts our insecure sense of self, the attention economy insinuates its basic message deep into our awareness: the solution to any discomfort we might have is consumption. Needless to say, this all-pervasive conditioning is incompatible with the liberative path of Buddhism.
It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.
– The Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya
Instead of an economy that emphasizes profit and requires perpetual growth to avoid collapse, we need to move together towards an economy that provides a satisfactory standard of living for everyone while allowing us to develop our full (including spiritual) potential in harmony with the biosphere that sustains and nurtures all beings, including future generations. If political leaders are unable to recognize the urgency of our global crisis, or unwilling to put the long-term good of humankind above the short-term benefit of fossil-fuel corporations, we may need to challenge them with sustained campaigns of citizen action.
It has recently become quite obvious that significant changes are also needed in the way our economic system is structured. Global warming is intimately related to the gargantuan quantities of energy that our industries devour to provide the levels of consumption that many of us have learned to expect. From a Buddhist perspective, a sane and sustainable economy would be governed by the principle of sufficiency: the key to happiness is contentment rather than an ever-increasing abundance of goods. The compulsion to consume more and more is an expression of craving, the very thing the Buddha pinpointed as the root cause of suffering.
Our present economic and technological relationships with the rest of the biosphere are unsustainable. To survive the rough transitions ahead, our lifestyles and expectations must change. This involves new habits as well as new values. The Buddhist teaching that the overall health of the individual and society depends upon inner well-being, and not merely upon economic indicators, helps us determine the personal and social changes we must make.
We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
What we are experiencing in the degradation of the Earth, is a soul loss, a loss of meaning in life itself that calls for a recovery of a sense of the sacred. The Earth must be seen, not as a collection of objects for our use, but as a communion of subjects of which we are all a part. We are all part of a single community that will live or die together.
– Thomas Berry
Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,
I have to wring out the light
When I get
– St. Francis of Assisi
I’m always aware that the world around us is never going to be as beautiful and intact as it is now so I do everything I can to take pleasure in it. One of our jobs is clearly to bear witness to this beautiful world we were given and to understand that it is never going to be quite as glorious again, so we had better pay attention.
– Bill McKibben
If you want an adventure, what a time to choose to be alive — to get a chance to find out what you have inside you in terms of vitality and alertness and courage — what you have to discover in terms of what we can do together. . . . You are born into this. And you are here to love it and see that it goes on.
— Joanna Macy
If we are to survive, all our institutions, structures, and nations will have to become nonviolent, and each one of us is needed to help bring about this global transformation.
– Fr. John Dear
Keep recognising that reality is changing and that your ideas have to change. Don’t get stuck in old ideas.
– Grace Lee Boggs
I know myself to be a person of weakness and strength, liability and giftedness, darkness and light. I now know that to be whole means to reject none of it, to embrace it all of it.
– Parker J. Palmer
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.
In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has
warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with
them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences can-
not locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether
which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and
evil its power for evil, the unified field: Our complex and inex-
plicable caring for each other and for our life together here. This
is given. It is not learned.
– Annie Dillard