In order for sustainability to become a reality, humanity needs to make a quantum shift in consciousness. A shift in thinking of human beings as singular entities, to understanding our plurality. A shift away from greedy selfishness and towards inclusive generosity. Presently, most people are motivated by “me” rather than “we.” This self-centered mindset is destroying our planet. Resources are being depleted at an alarming rate, and the future of the planet looks increasingly bleak. We are at a tipping point. For our world to become sustainable, humanity must join together globally and unite in its efforts to introduce truly sustainable practices. This unification begins with each individual realizing they are an important part of the macrocosm, and that their efforts do make a difference.
According to UCLA.edu, “Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” Sustainability has three main pillars: 1) Economic or profit; 2) Environmental or planet and; 3) Social or people. Each of these aspects can either contribute or detract from the goal of establishing, human-ecosystem equilibrium.
Though I remain an optimist, after completing my research for this article I was dazed by the dire environmental circumstances we now face. Also feeling a bit hopeless, I turned to my inner Michael Moore and went about interviewing a number of people of various ages and backgrounds regarding their perspectives on sustainability for the earth. This is where I found hope for sustaining for our world.
The first group I interviewed live on a communal piece of land in upcountry Maui. They grow their own food, generate sun and wind energy, and share community meals and chores. One member, a father of two, shared his believe that a universal currency could potentially support sustainability rather than defeat it. Another resident, age 24, excitedly shared with me the findings of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current. Tesla also discovered a very low cost way of wirelessly transmitting electricity, but this technology was never developed, largely due to economic interests. I felt a strength and humility in both these young men, who are doing their part to change the world. Their simple lifestyles and mindful consumption make for a very light carbon footprint. They are living examples of affecting the three pillars of sustainability: economy, the environment and people, in a positive way.
Yet, the fact remains that this little farm is the exception rather than the rule. Many people, as their incomes rise, automatically adjust their consumption accordingly. They purchase bigger cars, houses, trips, toys, and so forth. We have set the example for the world, and as such, as third world countries rapidly develop, they too are becoming more soul-sick, buying and consuming more and more without any thought of the environmental costs. Overwhelming as it may seem, it is important to not lose sight of what it could look like in a world where harmony and respect for one another prevail.
Imagine everyone on the planet worked together to care for the resources, and shared them so no one went without adequate food, water, or shelter. There are no separate countries, instead, there is a global consciousness of “one world” where unity, harmony and peace prevail. In this alternate world, scientists focus on discovering new renewable energy and life giving solutions to health concerns. The economy is based on helping people rather than hurting people. Animals and plants are revered and the population feels a part of the life cycle rather than the dominator of it. Unlike planet Earth now, where wars, poverty, and cruelty to humanity, the animals, and the environment prevail, this new world is peaceful, abundant and conscious of the underlying interconnectedness of all beings. There is a profound understanding that if you hurt one, you hurt all. Fear and greed are not the driving forces, and instead, life is honored and united.
Perhaps this is just a utopian idea that we may never see, but we cannot give up on the inherent goodness of human nature and the Earth’s ability to renew herself. Everyone I interviewed, both young and old, felt that it is not too late to turn things around. They each cited examples of alternate energy sources and innovative ideas for sustainability. We have to remember that each of us truly does make a difference in our world. For instance, Costco now sells organic foods because that is what people want to buy. As we change, and alter how we spend our time and money, we change our society, our economics and our environment. We are the quantum shift in creating a sustainable world.