Wednesday, July 29, 2009


When it comes to saving the world from human depredations, the bottom-line question is if and how it’s possible to change our minds and behaviors to accomplish that feat.

First, have we identified all of the harms and stresses that our species’ presence inflicts on the Earth, on the well-being of our ecological habitat?

After that, have we developed sufficient ways to lessen our negative impacts? If so, what changes are required, and how will people comply?

Our root problem, though, comes from those who live in cultures that promote striving for all we can get, where maximizing our acquisitive consumption is a virtue, rather than a disorder called affluenza.

Thus, our clearer thinking about how we damage our habitat and how we might avoid doing that avails us not unless we can unlearn the self-aggrandizing values that drive our present recklessness, and unless we can learn the values of sustainable frugality grounded in the egalitarian principle that justice requires that all people deserve a fair share of the pie. And that the rights of all species to flourish matter just as well.

Our master meme and dream of Eldorado will die hard, however. Once we’ve seen and lusted after lavish Luxury (or if not that deity, then the lesser gods of Comfort and Convenience), how can we wish for less? Who will opt for Voluntary Simplicity other than an occasional oddball like Thoreau? Robinson Crusoe made do with little, but not voluntarily.

But then, might we be persuaded toward Higher Ways than those of material luxury? Nuns and monks renounce worldly surplus for spiritual sustenance, living not for lusts but for Love, not for abundance but for Beatitude and supernal Bliss.

In this conflict between Greatness and Grace, can we grow disenchanted with the ideal of opulence and settle happily for simplicity—the simple graces of sufficiency and sharing, modesty and the Golden Mean—instead of Eldorado?