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S is for Sensible solutions for sustainability

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 8, 2002


"In nature there are neither rewards or punishments-there are consequences." — R.G. Ingersoll

I love watching Star Trek because it allows me the illusion that humanity will somehow survive itself. In the future of Captain Kirk, Jean Luc Picard, and Seven of Nine, human beings have evolved beyond fossil fuels, mind numbing pollution, and crippling over population. Going where no one has gone before, at least once a week, presents an ideal worth believing in. A blue print if you will, of prolonging our tenure on this small blue planet.

Gene Roddenberry's self made universe is a product of our time. A love poem to our technological fantasies, it is still fantasy, because without a connection to the natural history of our biological past there can be nothing more than a collective grasping for something better. Simply put, we cannot invent our way out of the problems facing us at the beginning of the 21st century.

It seems to me, as a species, we are painting ourselves into a evolutionary corner, made comfortable with air conditioning, central heating, and 500 channels reminding us that there is always more. In a constant quest for convenience, we make things more difficult, and call it progress. Hungry for answers we refuse to accept the most obvious of truths.

"Too much of a good thing is never a good thing" may be a cliché but it is so apropos when one considers how small the margin of error has become for America. The recent corporate scandals and roller coaster stock market is a fitting analogy for describing our relationship with the environment that supports life on the planet. Three hundred years of a bull market, with no sign of restraint, has left many of the invested ecologically bankrupt as they chase the almighty dollar, and a trail of victims to long to list here.

There is a way out however. I know restraint has long been considered anti-American, and sacrifice no longer necessary in a world of instant gratification, but its those two things that will put us on the path to sustainability. The thing that will keep us there is enough humility to take a few steps back from the edge of oblivion, and ability to admit that we went wrong somewhere around the start of the industrial revolution.

Americans must come to terms with simple fact that everything is finite including their reign at the top of the food chain. Consuming everything because he can makes Sam a short-lived boy. Instead of embracing the ideas of our best and brightest, such as Daniel Quinn, Amory Lovins, and Julia Butterfly Hill, we export at gunpoint the avarice and arrogance of Donald Rumsfield. As other nations embrace alternatives to the fossil fuels choking our planet, the Bush Administration is desperately trying to corner the market, while actively undermining any attempts to curb the pollution associated with petroleum production. Go figure.

A constant in the environmental movement has been the mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" to which I would add "Resist and Return." So let me break these down for those of you still unfamiliar with the concept.

With resist I mean reject the culture programming aimed at your very existence. The best way to resist is to shoot your television. Not only is television programming a death blow to your critical reasoning skills, its sole purpose is to make you feel bad about yourself while manufacturing a desire for what everyone else is buying. If a semblance of quality of life is to be maintained, Americans must resist the consumptive brainwashing urging them to consume.

The call to reduce is obvious, and is tied directly to the need to reuse and recycle everything. Not surprising, these three things are the antithesis of what corporate America and their army of economists what you to believe.We must learn to live with less soon or later. Due to over population Californians have perfected the art of conserving energy and will soon be asked to severely cut back on water use. It's a shame we can't do the same when it comes to curbing the senseless shopping we call culture.

Last, and most important, of our sensible solutions is a return to a paradigm that equates gaudy displays of wealth with moral corruption, and views over indulgence and waste as ethical failings. We as a culture must return to a place where we take no more than we need, while understanding the gulf between want and need is as wide as the space between survival and extinction.

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