Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What came first and the wisdom from the world

I hope to tie together a few threads of thought with this post today. I mentioned in a couple of posts (here and here) the fallacies and deficiencies of the current framework of "sustainability" thinking. What the dominant framework does is the following - it puts "economic" sustainability on the same footing as "social" sustainability and "environmental" sustainability. The global North, i.e. the agenda-setter and dominant rhetorical force, has successfully morphed the concept of "sustainability" to mean "sustainable development," the foundation of which are these deeply ingrained notions of what "economy" means (and you can read about that in those posts I've linked). At the very heart of this "economy" is the notion of technology, and the new. The new has come thick and fast in our world, and not a month goes by without us being bombarded with advertisements and images of what other people think is "good" for us. New knowledge is being successfully marketed and turned into products so that people can make money. In fact, it is this notion of new knowledge that the global North, and increasingly the large nations in the global South, thinks will get us out of this "sustainability" bind. But, with this new knowledge has come constantly increasing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

This world existed long before humans arrived on it. Epochs and eons have passed, species have gone extinct, and new forms of life have constantly evolved and appeared. A tree is the outcome of millions of years of slow and steady and constant evolution. A tree is a beautiful example of the outcome of a dynamic equilibrium; the tree has responded to changes happening so slowly that you cannot see them in happening now. These responses are delicately balanced, guaranteeing the survival of the tree. Such is the wisdom of from world. This wisdom stems from the dynamism of population and the unforgiving forces of air, land and water, driven by the sun. This is the wisdom that has led to the adaptation and evolution of rivers, lemurs, bats and snow leopards. With this wisdom, we realise that how these creatures have behaved and evolved has allowed them to fill a role and fill a place, just perfectly. This has inspired the greatest human thinking. Countless people have wondered about nature, and I hope we all have. The wisdom from the world has imprinted on Onwas and the Hadza, who have survived successfully for thousands of years, and are in tune with place and time. Yet with our definition of "economy," we have moved away from this natural wisdom, and are now desperately hoping we can get it back. But this wisdom exists, and is lying dormant. Our "economy" we feel is the best driver of human action, and is the only raison d'etre for human life. Some hope that the "economy," based on new knowledge, can lead to "sustainability." In effect, we have tried to, in a couple thousand years, tried to accomplish what it has taken everything else on Earth much longer to come to - a dynamic equilibrium, constantly evolving, yet inherently sustainable.

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