In reading that word – sustainability – cradling the head of our current Guide Dog puppy in my hands, her deeply pleading eyes looking up at me, I am reminded that this word not only describes what we at The BeZine – and indeed many, many more people around the world – more commonly come to understand of its meaning.
I have hitherto thought of sustainability as the fundamental process, nay philosophy, that needs to be adopted in order for the Earth to continue providing for all the life that inhabits it. But it also reflects human behaviour; it expects a certain attitude; it assumes that an essential ingredient to the achievement of a sustainable World is that the human beings, who inhabit the Earth become determined to adopt a way of life that is … well, sustainable!
It is an unfortunate character of the human condition that it is not until we lose someone that we become much more conscious of their value to our own life. It seems, whilst they are still around, that we prefer to focus more on their faults and shortcomings than on their virtues and strengths. We are even more prepared to abuse or betray their trust, than to respect them. So too, our Mother Earth.
As I regularly drive the roads around us, particularly the lanes of the beautiful countryside that surrounds us here in Yorkshire, I am reminded also of one of those human faults, anxiety, and of all the consequences of that condition: stress, impatience, fear, anger, aggression, depression. All too often, when I glance in my rear view mirror, I see another car race up behind me and sit so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their number plate; at speeds and in situations in which it would be lunacy to contemplate overtaking. It is as if they are tempting me to yield, give in, pull over into a ditch and let them pass … and claim me as another victim! It isn’t necessarily that, I know, but it feels like that and, even in my advancing years, with the wisdom and insight of the road that I’ve gained in fifty years of driving, along with lowered testosterone levels, I sometimes feel like retaliating … and we all know how that could turn out.
The Dalai Lama it was, who attributed anxiety or agitation as the root of all conflict in the World. There is no doubt that he is right. Yes, I hear the academics, anthropologists, psychologists and any number of other -ologists, state the obvious, that Darwinian principles of evolution and survival in the animal kingdoms, of which human is one, dictate this behaviour. Our base instincts are therefore not to respect any forms of life outside our own sphere, outside our immediate survival zone; to consider them a threat to our survival.
We are beyond this, surely, aren’t we? Can’t we exert more control over our behaviours, or are we simply hopeless victims of our own psyche; our individual intractable personality. For many in the Western World, the need to survive, to subsist on what our local environment can provide us, has long since turned into higher and higher material expectations. Each generation starts with more, but wants still more than the previous generation. Our survival instincts have turned into greed; at the expence of those on the margins, particularly in the overexploited so-called Third World. Are these expectations a consequence of some out of control unconscious driving forces within us, or could we re-educate ourselves. I believe the answer for some, sadly, is ‘no’. For others it would be ‘yes’.
I contend that the World could continue to support all life, even with its currently burgeoning (human) population. If only we were able to overcome our unreasonable expectations, there is one overriding benefit that could accrue from vanquishing our own greed … we could begin to feel what it is like to live with less poverty in the world, and less debt; less personal debt; less corporate debt; less national debt. Currently the only way Western governments can see to pay off the latter, is growth, economic growth, which has become the unquestioned Demi-God of economic and political policy objectives; growth is, I believe, a largely misunderstood, overused and abused tool of political rhetoric. This is, unfortunately, a vicious circle. I’ve heard growth described as a means of servicing our national debt. Long term, this does not make economic sense and surely cannot be sustainable!
So, what are we to do? Save more? Conserve our resources, however modest they may be? Adjust our expectations and those of our children? Their generation and the ones that follow, will otherwise only continue this roller coaster of a suicidal ride into debt and debt slavery; a World in which the super wealthy few have more and more control over the increasingly debt-ridden many. Freedom from debt, however you achieve it, whatever the cost to your expectations, your dreams, has to provide the way to a more sustainable World, and …
It. Is. Liberating.
Otherwise, our greatest and only means of survival, our patient and beautiful Mother Earth, will expel us, rich and poor, forever, and no-one will inherit anything! Space exploration to find a new life sustaining planet somewhere out there in the vastness, is pure fantasy … and vanity!
What can be done to reduce your anxiety? A starting point for me is to have a hug with your best friend, be they human … or puppy dog.
“The Great Divide“
Crossing the great divide
between the dark age
and a brave new world,
sailing from the safety
of knowing your place
into uncharted waters.
In a deep and sickly swell,
an ocean of uncertainty,
struggling to recall
the purpose of the mission
for control of life, of lives,
and death by ownership.
From a certain time when
the have-nots had not
to one in which they have
a chance to trade their life
for aspiration, for riches,
for stuff and things,
for dukes and knights,
for castles and kings,
in suits that shine
with lights and bling,
but didn’t see the price
they’d have to pay.
Rivers flow with mighty force,
and carry away the memory
in a flood of whys, for what
and where will this all end?
Where are we now,
where will we be …
may be Utopia, the place of dreams
that while away our wild ambitious schemes?
We fail, as long as we can feel the pain
of having less than someone else’s gain.
Or we, by virtue of the coin’s toss,
have more by far than someone else’s loss.
© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved
3 thoughts on “Crossing the Great Divide”
Thank you, John, for your insight. I think that all of us who are concerned are trying to find the key concept, the fulcrum where we perhaps – as individual, community, nation, species – can turn our behavior around and start going in the other direction. I think that the idea of “debt” can indeed be one of these key concepts, as long as we understand the term not only as a real world practical problem but also as an interior psychological problem. I welcome this dialogue. Thank you.
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Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It always feels good to hear from a kindred spirit … and the BeZine is chock full of writers and artists of like mind. There is hope for the World of humans and, thereby, Mother Earth.
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“Our survival instincts have turned into greed; at the expence of those on the margins, particularly in the overexploited so-called Third World.”
This is so true, and I think, the crux of the matter. There are not many who are suggesting the absurdity of going back to the Stone Age of living, or even “off the grid”, although that is still gaining in popularity, albeit slowly. But it seems that because of Greed, not many want to give up whatever material wealth that they have in order that others who have so much less might actually have enough to enjoy life, not merely ‘survive’.
We in the West have it so very good, when compared to those places in the world where humans are simply “existing”, scraping by, unable to enjoy each day because of poverty, food or water scarcity, the basic tenets of survival that so many of us take for granted. I think the key is showing people how we are ALL connected — everything is connected — humans, nature, Mother Earth…for our actions, there are reactions and ripples, all over the world. Once people truly SEE that connected-ness, it is very hard to un-see it, and perhaps directs their actions more toward conscious sustainability. So, how do we show people how connected we all are to everyone and everything else? 🙂 Getting rid of the Ego Cage is a good first step, maybe.
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