How do we transition to a (more) sustainable society?

 

This is perhaps the most important question we face collectively today.

Here are some very basic facets:

Information and knowledge plays a role, at least at a basic level. This in itself is not going to do much, but together with other things, it may be very effective.

Meeting people where they are. Speaking a language they understand.  Speaking to their values and interests. (In an honest, real way.) For instance, when communicating with a conservative Christian, it may be helpful to talk about being good stewards of God’s creation, keeping nature and our bodies clean, preserving our community and families (by preserving our ecological support systems), and so on. We need to understand the people we are communicating with, and “what makes them tick” – their values, interests, what’s most important to them. (No matter what is most important to them, at least in this life, it depends on a well functioning ecosystem and Earth to exist and flourish.)

Stopping actions to prevent more damage, including giving legal rights (a voice in the legal and political system) to species, ecosystems and future generations.

Implementing, promoting and developing solutions and good and attractive examples.

Worldview changes, deeply recognizing and realizing that the health and well being of ourselves and those we care about, is intimately connected with and dependent on the health and well being of our larger social and ecological systems. We cannot flourish as individuals and society without a flourishing ecological system, at local, regional and global levels. Also, we can see Earth as a living system of which we are just one of many parts, each one vital and important to the health of the system as a whole. Even further, as Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into awareness, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the Earth and universe. Of these three levels, it’s helpful if many or a majority “get” the first one at a felt and lived level, and if some – not necessarily that many at first – get the second and third levels.

And, perhaps most importantly, structural changes so what’s easy and attractive to do, is also what supports a flourishing ecological and social system and at levels, and also our own flourishing as families and individuals. These structural changes need to happen in economy, production, transportation, energy, education and any other area of society and human lives. Currently, we have social systems and structures that do not take ecological realities into account, and that’s why we are creating problems for ourselves. The main solution is to redesign and recreate these systems so they do reflect ecological realities, and what’s easy and attractive is also good for life at all levels. It’s very much possible. We created our previous system, and did it out of the knowledge and understanding we had then. We can create a new system that reflects the knowledge and understanding that we have today. This is not idealism or airy fairy ideas, it’s very much possible – and necessary for our own continued survival as society, families and even species.

We need a minimum of attitude change to make it possible to create these structural changes. And when these are in place, attitude change – at individual levels – is less important. People will just do what makes sense in everyday life, and it will benefit – or at least not harm – earth and society.

What’s actually going to happen? Nobody knows. As many say, it’s probably not going to be as good as some think, and not as bad as some other think. We’ll probably muddle through somehow, it will be messy at times, it won’t happen without damage and casualties, will will continue to lose species and ecosystems before it gets better, many humans will suffer in the process, and Earth as a living system will survive and eventually thrive again – with or without humans.

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