Values and Sustainability
Values and Sustainability
February 5, 2008
Intentions matter. This simple wisdom becomes quite apparent the older we become. Though we don’t always have control on the outcome of our effort, our intentions often dictate how happy or upset we are with any of life’s results (a.k.a. the quality of our lives). For instance, if we are committed to become healthy in all aspect of our lives we are less likely to become fat, more likely to eat quality food, and more likely to exercise in ways that bring us joy. If our intentions are to be thin the road we take may be unhealthy, filled with inconsistent weight, and bring us no pleasure. When it comes to living green intentions matter more than we realize because how we define our values towards nature, conservation, and sustainability can greatly impact not only the quality of our own lives, but the quality of life for all living species.
Sustainability is not just about conserving resources for future generations. Certainly recycling, green building, and organic farming practices are part of the solution, but there are many elements to sustainability which are laden in values where no amount of conservation or cleaner production will help. Sustainability is about social justice, human rights, community involvement, work place health and safety, ethics, racism, and governance; all of which impact the outcomes of sustainability and sustainable development. This is because values are always the foundation of our policies and procedures, and our human and environmental values will directly dictate environmental and sustainable outcomes.
Aligning our values with sustainable objectives is no easy task and despite the thousands of environmental organizations active in conservation, litigation, education, and fundraising, we are nowhere near conserving resources for future generations or protecting endangered wildlife. These organizations say the only way to “win” is to increase money, education, and enrollment to their causes. Maybe, but in my opinion these organizations are trying to solve our environmental problems with the same values that brought us to where we are today. The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club, though completely noble in their visions and efforts, are using the same money-making tactics, the same litigation avenues, and the same who’s who hiring practices to “fight” the system that needs reform. The solutions to all our environmental problems does not lie in the capitalistic mindset, the Judeo-Christian value system, or the male-dominated, white cultures of modern man. The solution lies in the values and beliefs of our global indigenous peoples and their deeply spiritual relationship with our earth. The solution lies in the gentle nurturing nature of the feminine and understanding and respecting the mother-child connection. The solution lies in the wisdom of ethnic and cultural associations with unique ecosystems, and the knowledge of the simple farmer. But mostly, the solution lies in aligning ourselves with the values of the millions and millions of other species with whom we share this planet.
All the species of this earth operate in harmony with each other. They never annihilate each other, they never declare war on each other, and one species never dominates and dictates for the rest of the species. They move and operate to the laws of the Universe. Their values are the laws of Universe. Aligning our human values with the laws of nature is the only true sustainable path. How do we do this? For humans, this mean living a life filled with values which need continual examination to insure they are congruent with the greater laws and values of the ecosystems where we reside. The laws of nature are based in an intricate balance of math and physics, biology and ecology, quantification and scale, chaos and order. Because each ecosystem is unique and operates differently, local and grassroots values and governance will always be a core component to our human interactions with each other and the species with which we share our homes.
The laws of nature are also based in intuition and surrendering to a higher order not yet understood or defined (some call this the Complexity Theory and others call it God). It’s about a new kind of human spirituality which is in complete harmony with science and faith, intuition and surrender, and operates in unison while maintaining humility. It’s about changing our human values so that we become a human family, a single species, where justice and equality for all is actualized. The Judeo-Christian value system has been alive and well for almost 2000 years and serves as the backbone to modern democracies, yet it has not brought unity to mankind (murder is a forbidden tenant of the commandments and modern democracies, and yet we confront it every day in the Western world). The peoples of this planet should be open to new and additional Universal values which will unite all mankind. A truly sustainable movement understands the necessary congruency of our internal values which becomes our religion and our external values which becomes our reality.
The environmental movements of today focus too much on human behaviors and needs, yet we are the most successful, thriving species on this planet. Instead, the sustainability movement should focus on the most vulnerable species and ecosystems, begin addressing their needs, and change our behaviors to meet their needs. By doing so we will not only protect these species, but we will begin to embrace the values of those species and understand the laws which govern them. Ancient man lived in harmony with nature, had profound humility, and knew that if they digressed even one degree from the laws of the Universe they would perish. Just because modern man has learned to alter our immediate ecosystems to serve us in the moment does not mean we have concord nature, nor does it mean we understand it. The time has come to understand our home, our fellow inhabitants, and the values which govern us all.
Lena Hakim is an environmental scientist and long term resident of New Mexico. Her graduate research compared ecological and psychometric scale within sustainable indices, and found companies and organization which were value-laden were more successful in making quantitative, green changes. email@example.com