Sustainability is:
a balance in environmental, social, and economic consideration of all components of the world's living and non-living systems. To fit into this balance, humanity must achieve resilience, continued learning, and consciousness of our relationship with the Earth.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Breakdown

Beauty, this is why I am doing what I’m doing. Natural beauty is why I care about being here, getting something out of this time. And I have gotten a lot of out of this. My opinions and thoughts have a purpose, something I’m trying to fight for, conserve, and see in an every changing light. Human’s mindset towards nature is one of the most powerful things that can sway our future completely. How we see ourselves as being a part of this world and connected to all things hits at the heart of every issue. When I think about our systems, social and political I always just step back and say “international cooperation” is what we need. Now, it’s more of human cooperation, finding what they love about the earth and appreciating it. Respecting it.

There is a growing inequality between the first world and the third world. Obviously we experience inequality everywhere but there is far more than half of the population in developing or undeveloped countries. How does this make sense? How did countries ever get the right to exploit, demand, damage, buy, and sell things that were never within their boundaries or sovereign land? There needs to be a new example of development. No one should ever develop in the same way. There should be no created route towards a development, especially not one that is written by a developed country. Development is something that should happen within and amongst communities of people. It should cater to what those people need in order to survive. Growth will happen naturally, and growth without an overarching goal of “luxury globalized wealth”, that development will most likely come as something necessary yet limitless for the future.
There are specific reasons however, why countries haven’t been able to develop to the level of development we see as the standard today. These things mostly have to do with where these countries are geologically and geopolitically located. Whether or not a country is landlocked will affect most trade ability and economic growth in that country. If other countries that have a long history of conflict are surrounding an un developed country, it will hinder its ability to create a stable infrastructure. If a country has an abundance of natural resources, this surprisingly will diminish that country’s development. Because this is the imbalance begins. An undeveloped country with natural resources won’t need to overuse those resources, but a more powerful country that needs those will immediately start crossing boarders. There is also the issue of overall bad governance. This comes as no surprise and is usually one of the only things thought of when it comes to developing countries, but a lot more than just bad governance goes into this issue.
These “traps” as Paul Collier explains them in his book, The Bottom Billion, are what we need to move past for future sustainable development. I believe that countries need to start giving aid and governance in different forms. Money won’t solve everything, and more money without proper infrastructure will only accentuate the problems. We need to start giving aid in the way of setting examples and spreading education. Governance needs to come from neighboring countries banding together. Breaking down some kind of boarders and becoming a collective system with one another. They will build each other up; create local economic systems that work with each other’s strengths. Their infrastructures will slowly build in a natural way, and a natural growth will be encouraged. It will start to break the global system down to a local level and take the time and focus to strengthen across. Hopefully once this system is globally re-introduced it will have created a new kind of economy and political system.

I started thinking back to one of my favorite quotes of all time, “And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty, and beauty stayed his hand. And from that day forward, he was as one dead.” I’ve always found this quote to perfectly show the power of beauty and not the kind of beauty as in physical human beauty but inner beauty, natural beauty, untouched, uncontrolled, ever strong, ever-alive beauty. This kind of beauty overcomes and stops “beasts” in its tracks. This kind of beauty I have been experiencing here. This is the kind of beauty I cherish in my life and what has caused my passion for all I’m learning and doing. Now it’s a different task to identify who the beast is in the quote. The meaning of this character has changed many times in my life but also just today. It’s easy, in the environmental field, to see humans as this “beast” that challenges the place, safety, and even existence of beauty. When we all watch movies that tell about Monsanto (and most mass food production) or read articles on the “average” human consumption I just feel so bad and feel like such an ugly part in the natural world. We as humans have developed with an intelligence that sets us apart as a species. We can think of the future and implications, and can imagine outside ourselves and can release our basic survival instincts and think about others. I am starting to realize that our place in the world is to figure it out. We are created with the capability to make mistakes and see and learn from the consequences. We didn’t harm our planet with the point to harm the planet. We didn’t evolve technologically to further remove ourselves. We aren’t terrible people because we can begin to understand what we have done and do something about it. The quote still has relevance to me but after my experiences here, both sides of the story hold beauty within.

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty. –Jon Kortajarena, in A Single Man

Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it. –Confucius

Beauty happens. It’s a startling event one collides with suddenly. It is like truth. In the face of another, in the felicity of a phrase, in the dancer’s line, it occurs. And familiarity is never its enemy. It is not novel but profound. The same face, the same phrase can occur and occur and occur. The same beauty can stir you forever. –Richard Ford

People are so consumed with arguing whether or not we caused environmental degradation, they can’t see that our environment is something to value and the fact there is any degradation is something we need to act on. Somewhere along the line, the society and cultural values we have created has separated humans from nature. We think we can live without it, control it, and replace it. Despite this, we are still natural creatures and are directly connected to, and are part of, our environment. Whatever damage we cause the earth is damage we are causing ourselves. We end up destroying the system we can’t live without by creating lifestyles we can live without. If people stopped seeing ourselves as separate from our environment we would all start to clearly see the values in preserving what we have and once had. We would start looking towards a more sustainable future and start emulating the systems nature holds. If our mindsets changed we could make waste inconvenient, we could move beyond blaming the west for our problems and start becoming role models for developing nations, rising powers could realize their opportunity for leadership and reverse the detrimental development path they’re taking. Cooperation amongst nations could exist if our values and societal infrastructures shifted towards the same mindset that the environment is something to appreciate, and we can start giving back.
Our entire existence we take and take from the earth and in that way we are separate from natural cycles. We need to bring ourselves back into the natural cycles we were once part of. This is the only way we can collectively change the way we are degrading our environment. We shouldn’t underestimate the power we have as individuals. Any individual’s action can have limitless effects on other people who in turn can affect even greater numbers until a true change has happened. Even if we can’t come to a consensus whether or not humans are the cause of environmental degradation we have a responsibility as people of the earth to move beyond. If we start looking ahead with clear eyes and realize what we are capable of we can change the course our environment is heading in.

Some people take these choices for their grater purpose. I see people using technology and education and growing on their best abilities that they then share with the world and in these days, the whole world and I think it’s a beautiful thing. With these choices, abilities, and opportunities that we currently have available to us, we can do great things. We just need everyone in the world to see what may be unnecessary for them and have them make an informed choice to get rid of it all and then they can have a clearer path to be the best person they can be. We as human beings also need to realize our individual power. We don’t need a market to tell us what is good, the best, or necessary.

Christina Donovan 

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