Sustainability and Evolution

Sustainability – in the sense of the continuation and preservation of what is – is not a realistic long-term option…

Thomas Lombardo in Future Consciousness

It’s a bit of a shock to realise that Lombardo is probably right.

Psychologically, evolution is the key to understanding this. We seek not to go back to some previous situation, but to evolve and grow to a new, transformed level, where we have learned from the past to address the challenges of the present new situation.

Evolution does not demand that we abandon technology and go back to feudal times, that we abandon large scale farming for rotation farming of small plots, that we stop travelling around the world, that we become Luddites and reject all new technologies, and retreat into our localities. Life does not, cannot, go backwards.

Evolution does demand that we, and the system of which we are a part, evolve and grow. We must transcend and overcome the problems that have emerged from previous stages of our development, from the over-development of the little ego, from the corresponding misapprehension of the role of the egoistic ‘sovereign’ nation state, from the lack of recognition that the economy is part of the ecology rather than a competing and overwhelming competitor, from the lack of real empathy with others and the natural world. This is what climate breakdown, pollution of land, sea and air, species extinctions, gross economic inequality and associated problems are teaching us.

The longer we take to respond, the more extreme the provocations caused by ourselves become. We have so-called ‘leaders’ acting like spoilt children, trying to inspire populations with supposed earlier glories and visions of becoming ‘great again’, trying to win some great power game against each other. This is all illusion and regression.

It is time for humanity to grow up and flourish through addressing these problems, rather than retreating to supposed former glories while they overwhelm us.

This is the evolutionary meaning of sustainability.

Competition and Co-operation

Having watched Rich Hall’s recent excellent BBC4 programme, ‘Working for the American Dream’ on the development of the USA, and coming across the United Nations focus on sustainable development, led me to this reflection.

The USA was built on conquering supposed virgin lands, and people making loads of money by exploiting those lands, their resources, indigenous peoples, and the people who actually did the work. The system was essentially competitive, and at the top the US system still is. It appears to be still dominated by those with money and power, and there is an apparent aversion to co-operative ideals – hence the bizarre denigration of ‘socialism’ as in some way bad, and the refusal to countenance universal health care.

Due to the size of the USA and its economy, this system has to some degree been exported across the world, but significantly resisted by more co-operative or collaborative approaches, notably in Europe, where provision of social and health care are regarded as important. US disdain of this has become clear, in the shape of the Trump administration, which even appears to seek to undermine the great collaboration of the EU.

Meanwhile, the UN wrestles with the issue of sustainability in a world of incredible challenges on climate, biodiversity, resource depletions and all their consequences. What is clear is that there are now no virgin lands to be colonised, and indeed we must create some to give nature adequate sanctuaries. It is also clear that the world’s problems can only be resolved by co-operative approaches.

Of course, in psychological terms the adolescent stage of development of ego is characterised by differentiation and competition. As we develop and grow psychologically we naturally open up more to love, empathy and co-operation. A similar process operates at a ‘nation state’ level.

The world cannot wait for the USA to ‘grow up’, but if only it would.

Featured image shows tug of war at 1904 Olympic Games, St. Louis,
by Charles Lucas via Wikimedia Commons

 

James Robertson

james-robertsonI was sorry to learn that James Robertson is to no longer produce his regular newsletter or maintain his website, This is a great shame, but one can well understand it at the age of 89.

I first came across James at Schumacher Lectures in Bristol, maybe in the 1980s, and was inspired by his ideas on economics and the money system, which originated in a career at times closely associated with UK governance. This inspiration has continued over the years since then, in his articles, books, talks, seminars and then his regular newsletters – Turning Point 2000 up to the turn of the millennium, and his regular email newsletter since then.

James’s ideas deserve to be more widely known. I won’t try to summarise; the following from the front page of his website gives a good idea. This truly does indicate a necessary component of a New Renaissance, as indeed James said in his Knutsford Lecture in the 1990s.Read More »

Inspiration from North Wales

It’s difficult to recapture that oppressive atmosphere of the early 1980s – Thatcher, Reagan, US missiles in UK, the threat of nuclear winter, Greenham Common, support of unsavoury regimes… A time when things did not make sense. Environment and recycling didn’t get much of a lookin.

Then we took the children to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology in a reclaimed quarry near Machynlleth in North Wales. What a refreshing experience! Here sustainability was king – alternative energy sources, solar panels, windmills, recycling, composting , growing vegetables, conserving energy, explaining nuclear dangers… I still recall the relief that someone was taking these things seriously and doing real practical stuff. I’ve supported CAT and its development ever since.

Research and education have always been key themes for CAT. Leading light Peter Harper gave an inspirational talk as part of our series of  New RenaissanceLectures in Knutsford in the early 1990s. I’ve added used cardboard to the compost heap ever since!

It was a pleasure to recently receive Issue 100 of their magazine Clean Slate, still going strong, with news of the latest developments at CAT. In case you’re not aware, CAT is leader of the Zero Carbon Britain initiative, a source of inspiration to many across the world.

Congratulations to all involved with CAT, and may you continue to inspire us for many years to come. The need for your work is as great as ever.

Incidentally, the centre an excellent place to visit – friendly staff, good displays well explained, water-powered funicular, ‘green’ café, child-friendly, nature walks,…

Featured image of CAT funicular courtesy of Dr Neil Clifton , via Wikimedia Commons