Thursday, May 14, 2009

Biodiversity and the Quest for Balance (II)

The trends we see at the first post in:
- amphibians
- bats
- songbirds
- general ecosystems

are a clear call for greater understanding and action

However, ultimately, these issues are not simply an issue of forging better environmental policies or implementing better practices. At their core, the issues we are dealing with are issues of values, mindset, and spirit, requiring a fundamental shift in how we relate to, and act in, the world. Perhaps the key defining moral failure of our times is the failure to recognize the right of other species and ecosystems to exist.

In not recognizing the rights and value of biodiversity, we create the many bizarre situations in which we currently find ourselves. For instance, rather than ban toxic substances outright in the shared recognition of the paramount importance of the protection of life, we instead permit them to be legal, and subsequently spend tremendous time, resources, and energy toward using as little of them as possible. How much easier would it be to simply ban them outright? How many toxic products do we really need? Even more importantly, how often do we really need the short-term beneficial results these toxic products produce?

Yet, countless efforts are put forth to show how we can't shift away from toxic substance use, or cut our energy use in half, and the excuses are endless. Doing what's right isn't feasible. It's too expensive. We can't get by with less resource use. We can't survive into the indefinite future in a sustainable way, never mind the fact that we as a species have been doing so for millennia.

Our mindset is _so_ key. In nations where basic needs are already met, the mindset that humans have the right to do as we please, and take as much as we want, is at the core of many of our most basic problems -- habitat destruction, loss of species, obesity, energy wars, and water shortages. The bottom line in these five issues is . . . hunger . . . and with this mindset, hunger is never satiated. It ignores responsibility. It drives an incessant collection of things, and keeps us so attached to those things that we spend significant resources on property insurance, storage, and security systems for their protection. It exacerbates the very real global hunger of those who cannot meet their basic needs, by artificially inflating our demands on the earth. And, the mindset maintains the fiction that we cannot afford to live sustainably (i.e. live with less resource consumption and maintain the same quality of life).

With a simple shift in mindset, suddenly "never enough" becomes "more than enough". The food that we have is enough, the property we own is enough, and the energy to which we have local access is enough. It’s simply a common sense approach to life. If certain things are non-negotiable, then you organize your life to get those things done. If the kids need to get picked up at 4 PM, then you figure out some way to make that happen. So too is a goal like 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction by 2050 -- it's a pragmatic goal to manage against the impacts and risks of climate change. Thus, we need to make it a reality.

We need a worldview that respects the need for balance, shares resources with our fellow beings, and acts to maintain the web of life that supports us all. We in the developed world who have the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and water need to recognize that we always have enough. And we need to allow other peoples and species to have their share.

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