Transformative Views & Values
We need to see the forest as well as the trees.
Industrial societies are organized to maximize production and consumption. Capitalism, the form of industrialism that dominates the world today, intrinsically requires endless growth. The industrial world-view regards nature is a storehouse of resources for capital accumulation. It focuses on quantities rather than qualities and often neglects the larger social context. It can’t see the forest for the trees, which have value only as lumber.
Because values such as love, truth, faith, and beauty are not quantifiable, they are not given much weight by decision makers. As a result, industrial civilization knows more about destructive weapons than constructive relationships, more about wealth than happiness, and more about illness than wellness.
A sustainable global system will be able to function only if it is based on a global systems world-view. This integral perspective is multirelational. It emphasizes dynamic processes as well as the interrelationships between parts and wholes and between quantities and qualities. Because forests are living ecosystems with many social, economic, and environmental values, we need to see the forest as well as the trees.
The Requirements of a Sustainable Planetary System
The global system is now environmentally and socially unsustainable. It is based on destructive views and values that promote competition, exploitation, inequality, fear, violence, and waste. For a global system to be sustainable, it must be based on constructive values that enable environmental, social, and individual needs to be fully met. We need to support their development through presenting a clear and unifying vision of a sustainable alternative. The Earth Charter is the cornerstone of this vision.
Systems Thinking: The Key to Survival
The survival of our species is now at stake. This threat has the potential to unite humanity around a common task — developing a sustainable culture and economy. Our challenge is to explain clearly the global emergency and provide alternative pathways to a viable future. If we recognize that a systems-based world-view is the key to the organization of a sustainable society, we can help develop congruent social structures and technologies. Once a new system attractor has evolved, rapid structural transformation will be possible.
Healing Ourselves and Healing the World
For many people the meaning of their lives is derived through consumerism. Hence, any shift from a consumer to a conserver society is often met with resistance as well as denial. However, as subsystems of the larger social and biophysical systems, we are progressively being forced to change the way we live and consume. What has been referred to as “affluenza” is an addictive condition whereby many are substituting their true needs with addictive behaviours. This article explores the parallels between addiction and unsustainable growth, as well as highlights the growing trend where people are creatively redefining growth.
A Vital-Needs Environmental Ethic
The emergence of an ecological consciousness is not in itself enough to resolve the issue of our treatment of non-human creatures. Arguably, a key ethical principle of a non-exploitative, sustainable civilization is the right of all sentient beings to exercise their natural powers in pursuit of their flourishing as individuals. To this end, this essay articulates the “vital-needs rights view” as a philosophical basis for reconciling animal rights with the satisfaction of human vital needs. The vital-needs rights view supports a defensible environmental ethic.
Inhaling All the Forces of Nature: William Morris's Socialist Biophilia
Despite the lasting appeal of his art, William Morris has received little attention from the environmental movement. This is unfortunate, since in his writings and lectures, Morris sought to describe the connections among capitalism, daily work, and environmental degradation. His key insight was that the project of improving human life through conquering nature is incoherent because human well-being cannot be divorced from the well-being of the environment. Appreciating what he called “the natural fairness of the earth” is a vital need, one that can be fully satisfied only with the dismantling of industrial civilization.