Sustainability is at the core of evolution, evolution being the slow march towards progress and efficiency. As a species, we have evolved from individual hunters to tribes of hunter-gatherers to villages of agriculturists and beyond. This evolution occurred hand in hand with a conscious realization our species had over time that to survive, we must create systems that work—long term. The invention of agriculture, a sustainable system of producing food, freed up humanity to focus on things other than basic survival. As a naturally curious species, the freedom we won from the daily grind of “hunt-kill-survive” allowed us to focus on our intellect. Philosophies and languages were created to express ideas and thoughts. A universally understandable system of symbols was invented which has evolved over centuries to provide a platform on which our scientific theories can be expressed, challenged and improved upon—essentially, a system that can evolve sustainably in tandem with our ever increasing understanding of the planet and the universe.
One of the reasons why we are at the top of the food chain is our instinct of curiosity. Given enough time, we are instinctively (and curiously) able to create robust, efficient and sustainable solutions to everyday problems. Ironically, however, each time we achieve a level of progress, we invariably wind up ignoring this instinct. A basic study of history shows that previous attempts at “civilization” have followed the same steps—a “civilization” rises out of chaos, creates various systems that allow it to thrive and then, eventually, begins to neglect these systems, which leads to an eventual decline. The decline too, follows a pattern of overpopulation, denial and an indiscriminate use of resources. The people who created the systems that fuelled the initial rise to power usually become either over dependent on the systems to produce results or too comfortable with the gratification that the systems bring. What swiftly follows is a near dogmatic adherence to previously held beliefs with no room for discussion and evolution. Demands and desires begin to out-weigh intelligence and sensitivity and the systems, once built to sustain progress, become its undoing.
The current phase of human planetary civilization is probably the largest and most sustained progressive step we have taken in recorded history— predominantly because we have used science and invented technology. We have systematically industrialized as many aspects of our lives as we can in order to free up our time, by reducing the need for manual labour and maximizing output. This mechanization and industrialization has had far reaching effects, but the sheer size of the planet ensured that the ever-expanding human empire did not feel the catastrophic results of indiscriminate expansion directly for a long time. While we are all sensitized to the horrors of wars and epidemics, never in history have we realized the scale of environmental havoc that has been wreaked in the name of progress.
It is widely accepted (and literally perceived) that the weather is changing—rapidly and mostly adversely. While many opponents of the global warming phenomenon would like to live in denial, the intensity of the weather has seen a rapid change over the last few decades. Air pollution is out of control in the “production friendly” parts of the world—mainly India, China and Bangladesh where air and water pollution levels are alarming. The entire eco-system has begun to change in these countries—rivers have changed colour, children are being advised to stop playing outdoors, the elderly are being over medicated and the working class is being kept busy with their ever-mounting debts—thanks, most of all to the unsustainable consumerist lifestyle being propagated through every media channel possible. Our lifestyles have become un-sustainable to the point where we are in a collective “Stockholhm syndrome”—harbouring a love for the very things that not only cause us harm, but also keep us enslaved.
Being enslaved to unnecessary comfort and apathy, however, is a choice. As a revolutionary thinker once pointed out, we can choose to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery and free our minds. The tyranny imposed by desensitization can be overcome with curiosity. Curiosity is the catalyst that has propelled the human race from the beginning. And it is curiosity that can be our guide, if we just pay attention to that—our most basic instinct.
We must learn—learn to teach ourselves where our “things” come from. We must assess the “real” cost of the physical adornments we choose through understanding the environmental impact that our clothes and accessories have. This is no small task and like any knowledge that is worth gaining, it requires patience and a realization—a realization that compels every sensitive human to question the status quo.
So choose awareness, not dogma. Choose research, not hearsay. Choose love, not apathy. Embrace positive change and watch in wonder as positive change embraces you!