Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just a little green...

Sustainability – in its broadest sense – is about our desire to feel at ease and balanced in our lives – in our work and play (for the many of us who have rigid divisions between these), in our families and other relationships.

Work and relationships and lives that are unsustainable are work and careers and lives that we hate and resent and that we are afraid to be ourselves in; relationships that are unsustainable are relationships based on manipulation and unexamined erroneous assumptions. Our relationship with our environment is just one small part of the broader desire for sustainability, where we take and give in ways that promote balance, not disharmony and dis-intergration.

I am interested in both the psychology and poetry of sustainability By psychology I mean the wants and needs that underlie patterns of consumption, and the way these impact on both local and global resources. In both developing and post industrial societies people are continually encouraged to consume as a way of redressing an implied lack, deficiency or incompleteness. Until an internal psychological state where people are reasonably content with what they have is achieved, where they feel resourced, we are likely to continue devouring resources at an unsustainable rate.

"Lay me down in green pastures, lead me by peaceful waters" (Tehillim - Psalm 23)
Diamond Bay, Sydney on a rainy day

The psychology of sustainability also means the architecture of choice and the bearing this concept has on our internal and external environment. How can people’s very real, but often limited, desire to make a difference be best supported, by presenting them with easily accessible options which allow them to do this? Under what circumstances will people choose a long term benefit over a short term one? At present, making sustainable choices often means greater initial expenditure than the non-sustainable choices.
Indeed it is one of the great contradictions of sustainability that in order to lead a simpler and more environmentally friendly lifestyle, a lot of money is required. Why, therefore, would people who are stretched financially and emotionally choose the former? Let tomorrow take care of itself, they say, and with great justification. This dynamic has to be considered when planning for sustainability.

In terms of the kind of "spiritual" work which underlies some environmental concern (I place "spiritual" in inverted commas because the word is much used and abused but rarely has any definable content, except by negation - as the domain of non-material things and activity) here are some interesting websites. The people they feature invite us to pick up and take responsibility for our psychic rubbish as a precursor to handling the physical variety. Watching skilled practitioners like Gangaji and Byron Katie helping people clean up their mental rubbish is - for me - a liberatory and beautiful way of spending my time.

I believe that most issues will not be resolved or released if they are only looked at - or addressed - symptomatically. Everything causes everything. And it always starts at home, with ourselves. For we have met the enemy, and he is, indeed us....and that enemy is potentially our biggest ally.

Connecting "Green" with "G?d" ( in keeping with each individual's evolving conception of that also much used and abused term) is , for me, another important piece of the puzzle. Of course the domain of "spirituality" is even more prone to commodification than the domain of the work- a-day world, and charlatans and hollow idols abound. Its up to each person to retain a healthy degree of skepticism and autonomy while investigating which of those who claim to be enlightened teachers seem to have integrity. For help with making up your mind re various "self-help" practitioners, check out the blog of Gurubuster

The poetry, for me, lies in an ongoing discussion with myself and others around how living a more balanced lifestyle can help us satisfy some of our deepest aspirations.

I’m interested in systemic solutions rather than ad hoc ones that address symptoms in isolation while ignoring the fundamental malaise. Haranguing individual consumers, for example, about not taking plastic bags at the till may be less effective than lobbying the boards of Coles and Woolworths not to offer them. (Why can't entrepreneurs also be visionaries?), or then lobbying state governments to make plastic bags illegal.

And finally I'm interested in solutions which take into account the management of our internal resources as much as our external ones, because I believe this is where true abundance, and the reduction of suffering, lies.

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