November 23, 2015

The Problems with Unsustainable Growth.


We live in an egocentric, technological super-age in which fashion, accessory and lavish objects of desire are a necessity; or at least a necessity if you want to be taken seriously in modern society.

With short attention spans and an insatiable lust for instant gratification, instant access to entertainment, information and resources, we have become almost completely dependent on the technology that provides us with these utilities (or luxuries when compared to the living standards of people in underdeveloped countries).

But to people in developed countries, I suppose they’re just usual aspects of life. Human beings never seem to stay amazed by scientific advancements in medicine or electronics for long before they become just another historical article for the scholars, a fact I think is a great shame considering the rich heritage of our existence.

I think that the constant need for new ideas to seek new heights is both a blessing and curse; both creative and destructive.

It could be seen in either a positive or a negative light, as curiosity or greed. Whatever it is that causes us to dig deeper beneath the surface of what is immediately apparent of our surroundings is a uniquely human attribute.

Growth has been historically linked with prosperity and better standards of living but growth in first world countries like the USA and the UK has reached a damaging level where our impact on the planet due to increasing demands for raw materials has become a serious problem.

Exponentially rising human populations and a limited supply of natural resources mean that immense pressures are placed on economies and the ecology of the environment.

Currently, we are dependent on nonrenewable fossil fuels for electricity; which are an absolute necessity in modern life.

Our energy demands are far too high for our supplies, both presently and in the long run, and projections show that if we continue to consume in our current manner, we will run out within a matter of decades.

Growth is becoming a cause rather than a solution to many of the world’s problems.

The future looks bleak and it has become hard for me not to imagine a world in which people are able to put aside the luxuries that they take for granted in order to live in a way that is conducive to a habitable planet for future generations.

However, I don’t believe this has to be the case. To me, it seems reasonable to believe that sustainable growth is possible, and also a necessity if we are to survive and thrive as a species in the coming decades and centuries.

While I know it’s something you’ve heard a thousand times over, I think that at the center of the solution to the problem of modern greed and lust for money is a more conscientious outlook on life. People need to be reminded of the vulnerability of their existences.

A major reality check is needed if we are to make it through the next few thousand years and emerge on the other end thriving.

Perhaps the greatest cause of global problems facing the human race today is the ignorance of the masses on the things that really affect them. The trivialities of modern life offer a warm and cozy alternative to occupying the mind with the world’s most prevalent problems.

This kind of blind distraction is not a sustainable solution. Frankly, it’s no solution at all.

In fact, I would argue that it exacerbates the problems.

In time, they will manifest themselves into greater and greater problems. As these problems get worse, people will distract themselves further and thus the problems will continue to grow while we comfortably assuage our consciences by tricking ourselves into believing that nothing really bad could ever happen to us.

It is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle that can only be disrupted by conscientiousness and pro-activity.

Before big change comes about, people need to be made aware of the fragility of the lives they take for granted, and in order to do this, governments need to prioritize education on environmental issues, politics and economics.

These important subjects need to be taught at a young age and need to continue to be taught throughout school but not, in my opinion, in a linear fashion in which we are taught facts and learn them so that we can fill out an exam like a survey.

Discussion and debate need to take a more central role in education because they allow greater expression of each person’s thoughts.

Greater emphasis needs to be made by governments on the importance of living in a sustainable manner. The need for new renewable energy sources is perhaps one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Renewable energy sources, sustainable food sources, environmentally friendly industry and respect for our surroundings are vital commodities of the future. But they will only be attainable if large capitalist companies are either willing or forced to cooperate with this effort.

Transnational companies need to take responsibility for what are essentially crimes against humanity and corrupt governments need to be recycled and purified with a greater emphasis placed on international relations and sustainable, symbiotic relationships with the rest of the planet.

If different countries and companies are trying to solve the world’s problems in different ways without cooperating with each other, then their actions are bound to clash and cause even more problems.

Hence, global problems need global solutions.

At first glance my line of argumentation might seem circular and therefore useless. I have argued that in order for government to change we need to be more conscientious and hands-on but have gone on to argue that this conscientiousness must be facilitated by government.

You might be asking: If government and big business are the problems, but also the means for the solution, how can we expect things to change?

Big business and government rely on each other. Government must keep the status quo in order to stay funded and facilitated while companies rely on government for policy.

How can we expect any major change to occur if the only people with the power to cause change are those whose agenda is in direct opposition to it?

It seems that the only way that change can come about is if the government itself is changed, and the only way that this can be achieved is by the common populace.

This is why I find it necessary to write about the subject.

Through the sharing and discussion of ideas, people become more aware and like-minded people begin to rally under common banners of thought for common causes. But someone has to initially raise a banner, otherwise there won’t be anything to rally around in the first place.

In the past, individuals have tried to bring about change, and occasionally they have been successful, but not without the help of others. If change is to be brought about it must be done through the convening of people with a common goal.

The combined effort of a group will always be more effective than individual efforts and the magnitude of results they produce will be in proportion to that effort.

While the future looks dim, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

Change can happen.

It’s happened before and it will happen again, and I’m not just writing that to round off this piece optimistically.

Ironically and almost paradoxically, change is the only constant in life.



There’s Only So Much Ocean to Fill. (How to Live More Sustainably in an Unsustainable World.)

Author: Isaac Saxton-Knight

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: akshay moon/Flickr

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