Saturday, February 26, 2011

Article - "What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial"

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift from the old ways of understanding reality to a more sustainable civilization. William Rees wrote an article that articulates key concepts.

In summary he writes: 
"In 1992, 1,700 of the world’s top scientists issued a public statement titled The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. They reported that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.” More than a decade later, the authors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment were moved to echo the scientists’ warning asserting that “[h]uman activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.” Ours is allegedly a science-based culture. For decades, our best science has suggested that staying on our present growth-based path to global development implies catastrophe for billions of people and undermines the possibility of maintaining a complex global civilization. Yet there is scant evidence that national governments, the United Nations, or other official international organizations have begun seriously to contemplate the implications for humanity of the scientists’ warnings, let alone articulate the kind of policy responses the science evokes. The modern world remains mired in a swamp of cognitive dissonance and collective denial seemingly dedicated to maintaining the status quo. We appear, in philosopher Martin Heidegger’s words, to be “in flight from thinking.” Just what is going on here? I attempt to answer this question by exploring the distal, biosocial causes of human economic behavior. My working hypothesis is that modern H. sapiens is unsustainable by nature—unsustainability is an inevitable emergent property of the systemic interaction between contemporary technoindustrial society and the ecosphere. I trace this conundrum to humanity’s once-adaptive, subconscious, genetic predisposition to expand (shared with all other species), a tendency reinforced by the socially constructed economic narrative of continuous material growth. Unfortunately, these qualities have become maladaptive. The current coevolutionary pathway of the human enterprise and the ecosphere therefore puts civilization at risk—both defective genes and malicious “memes” can be “selected out” by a changing physical environment. To achieve sustainability, the world community must write a new cultural narrative that is explicitly designed for living on a finite planet, a narrative that overrides humanity’s outdated innate expansionist tendencies. "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"a new cultural narrative that is explicitly designed for living on a finite planet"...

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