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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Growing Level of Environmental Awareness

"As the planet's population continues to urbanize, and as technology continues to develop, our daily exposure to the natural world will be significantly reduced. Nevertheless, our reliance on those natural systems will continue as long as we need to breathe air, drink water and eat food. If technology someday makes it possible to supplant those natural systems, then we might be able to create a world devoid of nature. We are nowhere near that stage of technological development now, and if we move in the direction of a renewable economy, there will be no reason to develop technologies to do the work now done by natural systems. But there may come a point where the survival of natural systems will depend on our ethical sense of right and wrong and a culture valuing nature for its own sake. Some day we may be able to live without natural systems--but would we want to?
The cultural shift now underway leads us in a different direction. Just as the forests of Costa Rica are being replanted*, we are slowly moving in the direction of harmonizing economic development and ecological well-being. This requires that we pay more attention to our use of energy, water and other material resources. It also requires that we learn enough about our planet's ecology to project the impact of production and consumption on natural systems. Once we learn what those impacts are, we need to develop the organizational capacity to manage them.

The goal is a high consumption economy that protects the planet while it enables economic security, leisure time and personal growth for people everywhere. For this to happen we need to change the definition of consumption. In essence, we need to increase the proportion of software (ideas, education, social interaction and entertainment) to hardware (material goods) in the economy. We need to ensure that the material part of the economy reduces the one-time use of non-renewable resources and increases the use of renewable resources. The value change we see in Costa Rica and China** indicates the potential to develop a political, economic and organizational management approach built on the principles of sustainability. The potential exists--we just don't know if we can live up to our potential." 

*On Costa Rica's restoration of forests:
**On Chinese public's environmental concern: