These lyrics aren't new.
“One Love, One Heart
Let’s Get Together and we will Feel Alright.
Give Thanks and Praise to the Lord and I will Feel Alright.”
Whether you’re religious or not, the words in his song have some weigh if you really think about the root of them.
As a naturalist, a sustainability analyst, and a lifelong outdoorsman, I feel that it is our individual role as people on earth, and fellow biomass with the rest of the species on earth, to behave in a manner that is consistent with our ACTUAL, and BIOLOGICAL needs FIRST; before we cater to “needs” that society and personal experience has conditioned us to desire. Some of these things are way beyond logic, but are just blindly accepted constantly by everyone due to, what I suspect is something like the diffusion of responsibility and a sense of an individual's lack of power and sway.
Sustainability is about accomplishing effectively infinite productivity while having “no impact” on future generations’ ability to continue the same practices. Unfortunately, this is a super blurry field because we don’t even know what’s next, let alone how to keep doing it forever with no adverse environmental impacts. How do we make sustainable decisions when we can’t predict what we are going to need next?
However, after multiple decades of living, working, learning, and being on earth, I have come to a conclusion that I thought was worth sharing, but requires some context.
If you'll allow me, please let me explain, but tldr; skip to the end.
The United Nations presents 17 sustainability goals for development and continued growth/success of humankind.
Think of them almost as an “ideal list of universal rights for anyone, anywhere”.
These goals are listed here:
Sustainability (at least as it was presented to me) is about accomplishing and preserving this sense of growth and productivity forever without infringing on some unknown future user.
As a millennial though, I have learned that “growth” and “more” is somewhat of an American mindset that doesn’t necessarily match with environmental physics, global culture, or sustainability very well. Or at all in some cases.
For instance, ever since I was young, the amount of storage space or processing power in my computer or phone has never been top of the line, because the line is always moving higher, farther beyond my reach, my perceived or even my actual needs.
Marketers will try and convince you otherwise though…
You NEED to upgrade to keep up. In some cases, you HAVE TO because of software updates.
You could’ve spent hundreds on something a few years ago that’s effectively worthless now.
Not necessarily because it doesn't work though.. More often, it’s just because it’s not the newest model anymore. I still have mountains of “old” technology that I “can’t use” because it’s “too slow” or because I “can’t update it” or whatever the reason.
My IPod still works with my IHome.
My 8MP Camcorder is still fine, although less than half as clear a picture as my phone is now.
My bajillion sets of headphones are all 3.5 jack but I was gifted a bluetooth set, so now what do I do?
It’s not like the headphones are bad. It’s not like the camcorder doesn’t do what it was made to do. It's just not up to a set of “expectations'' that society has been conditioned to have where i live.
Honestly, I hate it…. I miss the good ol’ days with corded controllers. I miss the days when efficiency wasn’t on my mind constantly.
Back in the 90’s, mere bytes of space were thought to be plenty. NASA made it to the moon using handwritten math, a reverence for intelligence, and a computer with processing that took up an entire building. It was less powerful than most of today's modern smartphones, but they made it safely to and from the moon, something that man-kind had merely dreamt about for millenia.
However, in just 30 years, we went from bytes, to megabytes, to gigabytes, to terabytes, and now even petabytes (1 million GB) and beyond! Where is the end? How can we practice sustainability when we don’t know where the line is? How much do we actually need?
This sort of manifest expansion is present across almost all lines of business. Everywhere you look.
GMO’s, bigger faster better.
Finance, crypto and energy consumption exponential growth.
Tech, aforementioned. Speed, capacity, power, utility, capability, name it.
Architecture, amazing and shiny structures made of materials shipped thousands of miles.
Fashion, more types, kinds, styles and options, universally available, ship to your door NOW!
We’ve moved from cobblestone and brick to Italian polished marble and processed asphalt.
From horses and wooden buggies to million dollar cars with 500 horsepower.
Buildings made of stone, clay, straw, and other natural fibers used to be the norm, but now it has to be concrete, glass, steel, and other “regulated” materials.
What is the baseline though? What would just get us all by? What do we NEED to sustain us?
I mean, obviously there is SOME level of variability, just based on the climate that we are in, but still though. Every human plus or minus 200 lbs needs approximately the same amount. Right?
Some of the oldest, healthiest, and happiest people in the world have scarcely had anything other than chicken, fish, beans, and rice for their whole lives. Some of them have lived effectively completely exposed to the elements for their whole lives.
Is that sustainability? Or is that lack of access?
It depends on who you ask, and what your expectations are. What social norms you are accustomed to. But that doesn't change the fact that one lifestyle can be much less consumptive and yet also much longer than another. So how can we define AND accomplish sustainability when we also have social expectations that simply don't fit and can’t be justified?
Personally, I just find it helpful to be mindful. But I have realized that the more mindful I am, the more things I see surrounding me that I dislike and feel burdened by. Although I don’t have a direct answer for my question, I have developed a better way of thinking about where to start looking for one.
Here is my realization,
If you ask me, some of these United Nations Sustainability goals are VERY important, but not ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, right now in the scope of human history and development. I believe that, although environmental challenges will always be present in the scope of human occupation, I believe there are some environmental challenges that are significantly more important to address FIRST, before moving on to ”bigger and better things” like we always do apparently.
As of right now, there’s too much inequality inherent just based on geographical location, let alone access to financial and technical resources.
If you are familiar with the Debt Snowball method from Dave Ramsey, he speaks about attacking the smallest, highest interest debt first, so that when it comes right down to it, you have a clearer picture of your finances, and more intentionality when it comes to spending hard earned money.
No one wants to throw money at interest endlessly. It sucks when paying the minimum balance doesn't make the balance of the loan go down, because variable interest makes it go up even more.
The debt snowball helps people focus and define what is important; but even more than that, it is a way of thinking about things one step at a time so that your effort doesn’t go to waste. It is a method for prioritizing your actions so that you ultimately save yourself TONS of money and hard work. It’s a perfect example of “work smarter, not harder”.
I think, as a whole world of people, that we need to approach our access to natural, essential resources, and our survival this way as well.
Debt Snowball for the environmental damages we have caused since the Industrial revolution.
WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY and ability, and time, and resources, to fix all of the small, high interest problems in your community first. Once we do, we can work up towards bigger goals that could involve more parties and other important things. Ultimately, the goal being notable and recognized progress towards the 17 UN SDGs at the end of that debt snowball, and access to essential life-giving resources from anywhere in the world FIRST.
When you fix small things that really matter, many other things fall into place much more easily because you have set yourself up for success.
For instance, which one is more important to be handled first?
If you had to pick between being smart, and being fed, which would you choose? Well, obviously you gotta be fed in order to have a working brain. So food is more important FIRST than education in this example.
Or if you had to pick between clean water and living in a community that’s “below the standard of living”.... You need to have clean water to even be alive. Worry about your wealth and opulence AFTER you have fresh water to drink.
(Think of this in a different way for a minute; What is it worth to have a billion dollar home on a mountain with a view, if you can't get food or water supplied consistently enough to provide for your life there?)
War and strife is often caused by unequal access to BASIC resources like water and food.
This brings me to one point I need to make:
All of us are in the same boat. We all share something in common. We all live, breath, and exist on the same playing field. Although it may be a globe sized map, and even if you believe that “we all live in a simulation” or “all birds are drones” or even if you just think of yourself more highly than you ought to just because, we are all still relying on one another for the success of the system as a whole.
You could be the richest, or poorest, most arrogant, or most humble, biggest, or smallest person anywhere in the world, but no one is immune to the human condition - Reliance on a habitable planet and nature's long established processes for a comfortable and peaceful life.
Therefore, it has become my opinion - based on thorough experience and evidence - that most humans need much less than we think we do and that we should work for common good together, rather than individual good, alone. Find people who want to make the community and the world better, and then do things together to that end.
We are blinded by our own conscious experience to think that the things we don't have are what we need, and that what we do have just isn't enough (the grass is always greener). I personally have struggled with mental health issues and a feeling of imposter syndrome for “not being good enough” for whatever I am trying to do.
Ultimately though, I think that is an intrusive thought that has been derived from a cultural condition. Here where I live, we add too much to our lives that convolute things more than create peace and safety and contentment. If we stopped to think about how to effectively utilize our own spaces to sustain us where we are, rather than with things from elsewhere or relying on externalities, we could save millions of lives, billions of dollars, and trillions of hours of stress and work on “interest”.
It isn’t easy though! It requires sacrifice, patience, and a willingness to learn. Just like in finances, you have to put more than the minimum payment down if you ever really want to make progress. It requires personal practice of the UN 17 SDGs. But more than that. It requires sacrificing potentially multiple decimal points from your profits, SO THAT you can experience sustainability of life, of mind, or community, and of peace.
We can’t be a sustainable world if we don’t practice sustainability across all facets of life. Sustainability can't be cherry picked in small areas but not others.
The environment on Earth is like an engine. Sure, you can try to harvest from its collective parts, or take energy from the system, add, or remove pieces to make the engine better or more efficient; but the long and short of it is that the engine won't run if ALL the pieces aren't working. You could have the best engine ever built, but if the parts aren't connected, nothing will work right and you won’t make it very far.
Earth is the same. We need to work together. We need to improve our awareness of the ways that each part of the earth connects to itself and our local environment. Political squabble is doom. Patience, humility, cooperation, and environmental awareness are life and peace.
That is where, the majority of the American public at least, is totally off base.
We WANT things… Fast cars. Fast foods. Fast lives. And Fast Service… OR ELSE…..
And it’s an endless search for more, just so we can barely “keep up with the standard of living”.
Personally, I think we should start looking for a more refined definition of what constitutes “sustainable living”.
We need to define a baseline of survivability, and then DO it. Everyone on earth has the same basic needs. And in my personal opinion, I believe everyone deserves access to those things without conflict or anxiety. But we haven't gotten around to those yet for some reason.
FOOD, WATER, and SHELTER… then the rest of the important things will happen
The SDGs are fine and all, but where is the Master Plan to accomplish them? Where is the agreement that we all have to do our part? Who’s going to actually DO it? And HOW?
Through lifetimes of consideration and thought, governments and entities way beyond the comprehension of most of us have designed and built systems around ideas that preserve environmental value in a capitalistic way.
Ex. Think about the Great Wall of China - This environmentally focused wall was built in an effort to preserve the value that had been long established within it. Keep others out. Keep the value to the empire.
Think about the California Water Project or the Aqueducts of Rome - Transporting life giving and life preserving water from places of abundance to places of rarity, at the expense of the environment from which it was taken.
Think about the impacts, the lives that were changed or dedicated to these projects, and the attitude of the culture that has been facilitated through these major endeavors.
In some of these major instances, people have pushed the boundaries too far and have paid high prices for trying to control nature in this way. Even major civilizations have been eradicated by mother nature's swift hand because they were not ready for the possibilities.
Development of essential services, structures, and resources has become so politically driven that we often lose sight of the purpose.
It seems like someone always has to take credit. Or always has to be blamed for it. Names can be bigger movers than politics. Ideas can be more powerful than nations.
Like I said, our priorities are wrong though. We need to start working for our communities locally, and helping one another by sharing resources.
If we utilized our technology collectively and allowed individuals to work together in collaborative ways, rather than forcing all development into boxes of code compliance and regulatory allowances, we may find ourselves building a better future together, today!
As of now, many major companies' only real metric for sustainability is profit. And they’ll claim sustainability with the same foul conditioning that has always been used: greenwashing, or campaigning with big names, or by spreading misinformation.
No! We must fight back with truth. We must fight for our communities together and realize our shared commonality, relationally with nature.
We are so angry and stressed out about restrictions and politics and consumption that we haven't stopped to focus on how to pivot into a better, healthier, fuller lifestyle.
People are so ready to sue, protect their rights, or otherwise step on one another to make more money that we are building “great walls” around our personal lives and our properties to match the Emperor himself.
This is ineffective and gives rise to more conflict and inefficient practices that will slow down our transition to a sustainable future. It’s almost counterproductive if you ask me.
It’s an immature, teenage mentality. Fighting and campaigning to keep people out of a nice place only increases the desire to sneak in.
Putting up walls that only cater to some instead of others is the wrong way. Cooperation and sharing resources and education and open mindedness is the right way.
Trying to protect, preserve, and hold onto “wealth” is wrong. Opening up channels for engagement, investment, and awareness of our common struggle, and thinking collectively on solutions for ALL instead of ONE is right.
We can’t keep trying to force every subject into unilaterally defined, political, or social boxes that cater to SPECIFIC people groups (sorry, but I think finding pastures for the whole herd is a much more important first step).
Trying to cater to everyone's individual specific needs and beliefs before our total collective needs is inefficient and will lead to our doom. If we don’t address our essential and universal needs first, we will perish before we realize our efforts. However, labeling an entire line of thought as Either one or the Other has created despicable and disrespectful social conditioning in America where disagreement seems to be encouraged for the sake of viral news sensationalism.
This is not that! I am not here to tell you what to believe, how to feel, or that you have to cease and desist all “unsustainable” activities.
No. To be honest, we need WAY more than that. We need a paradigm shift.
We have a NEED to come together as a world of people and begin working towards social and sustainable solutions that take care of our ESSENTIAL needs FIRST - even at the expense of some accustomed comfort, freedoms, and options for a time -
SO THAT - we can pursue advancements in the other sustainability goals that are VERY important for everyone as well.
It is about prioritizing our essential sustainability needs and survivability through existing and furthering advancements that save lives for generations to come.
It is indeed my opinion that we must think outside of the boxes of political agendas, idealism, fear, and discomfort with the unfamiliar. I believe that our future as a species lies far outside of legal compliance with “state goals and mandates” or a “two-party system”.
I believe that disagreements about beliefs and feelings should come AFTER we have addressed universal needs. I am sorry if you disagree…. but I honestly don’t care. Your beliefs and personal struggles and opinions are absolutely unequivocally lower on the priorities list than providing fresh water to everyone on earth.
It is a simple matter of respecting each other as fellow human kind, and acknowledging our place next to one another. Not above. Not below. Not better or worse. Just the same.
I can think of at least a few other cultures where fear and respect for the environment drove people to do crazy things, make crazy connections about events, and believe in concepts that seem beyond logic.
We have always lived on the same earth where our resources are shared. But with improved technology and a vastly larger population now than ever before, we have no choice but to cooperate, even amidst personal disagreements. It is for shared common good that we must.
Our environment, both immediate and external, has a huge impact on our perspective of life. If we only ever digest fear mongering climate science news, or political discourse, we will never enjoy what nature truly is - Our provider and caretaker. Our comfort and home. Our sustenance and Our peace. Collectively.
If we focus on providing, developing, and utilizing resources that satisfy those needs FIRST, then the other problems become much easier to solve over time.
There’s no need for war or disagreement and there’s no room for it either. Just plant a tree in your community; or give away fruit that falls to the ground in your yard. Inflation is the result of hoarding. Don't hoard. Give!
Let’s just try to move forward together.
Thanks for reading,