Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On goodness (and kindness - replace goodness)

Problems of the environment, social justice, and sustainability inherently cut through traditionally defined boundaries of thought, discipline, and government. Much of the cause of these issues is just that, an artificial compartmentalism and reductionism put in place because of a willingness and penchant to see things in isolation, rather than in a whole. At the same time, we have grown to rely so heavily on this compartmentalism that addressing these problems seems too big for any one group of people or any one organisation to tackle. Many, especially those with power, argue that addressing these problems will only affect other problems our communities face, such as unemployment. What many realise now is that traditional modes of thought and behaviour may not be those we wish to pass to future generations. But the question remains - how might we address large problems like sustainability?

As I have tried to point out over the past ten months, personal responsibility is a necessity in envisioning a world less impacted by humans, in which nature thrives and is not toxically contaminated by human activity. Many may say that personal responsibility in the face of large problems can be deflating. Trash continues to pour into the streets and into the oceans, and greenhouse gases and toxins continue to pour into the air. Yet action begins with me, action begins with you, and action begins with us. I have been thinking of ways to adequately communicate responsibility to different people - indeed, there is no common language for the problems of sustainability we face. (Hopefully Sam and I will be starting a project on this soon.) What I am proposing, which is just a thought that passed through my mind today, is that maybe it is easier to motivate action around sustainability by thinking about goodness.

Our schools and colleges, it seems to me, are woefully inadequate in creating good citizens and stewards. Most of us can pass through college without engaging ourselves outside of our major, and it is obvious that the goal of many universities is to create workers to feed a natural resource-based economy. But goodness is something that is more basic and fundamental than a college-level education - it is something moral. Goodness is a moral trait that we all can relate to, understand, and apply to each and every aspect of our lives. Goodness is something that is lacking in our societies, but if adequately incorporated into our thoughts, can have large impacts on everything from our families to mystical ecosystems. When adequately thought about and acted upon, goodness can lead us to ask and answer questions about people's feelings when we disagree with them, the impacts of our choices on people we've never seen, and the fish in deep waters unexplored. Goodness is extremely personal, and works in magical ways - goodness begets goodness. Goodness is a positive energy that can make us feel good, while actually doing good. I know that this concept is incredibly vague and I am definitely just starting to think about it related to the environment. I recognise that many times, we are faced with choices in which just being good may not lead to easy answers. However, that does not take away from the need to be good, for our sake, as well as the environment's. 

Please send me your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting that you used the word "citizen." In my Environmental Stewardship class today, Prof. De Young mentioned how in industrial society, we are nothing more that producers and consumers; this is what our value comes from.

    He mentioned how we are considered "citizens" two days of the year. Voting days.

    Thinking about the word citizen is a bit strange for me, as it brings up strong links to American Pride (think "I'm Proud to be an American playing over and over in my head...) yet when I think of the word "citizenship" I think more about responsibility and community. I think about helping an old lady cross the street or a fire fighter saving a cat from a tree (my thoughts are strange, I know).

    If we are only citizens for 2 days of the year, is our only responsibility to the community to vote (and consume and produce)?