Sunday, February 13, 2011

On change

I have tried to write over the past few weeks about the economy and its relationship to sustainability. My intention with this blog is to try to lay the foundation of understanding problems facing society and the Earth, with the hope that this rudimentary foundation will serve to guide introspection and action. Today's post is about both introspection and action. I want to talk about a word so incredibly overused in the recent past, and a word that is now bubbling to the surface again with the new election cycle - change.

In a recent episode on Being, Krista Tippett spoke with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Tippett articulated that we have placed incredible trust in something that we assumed was logical and rational, that is, the economy, which was in fact highly irrational. With the decline of the economy and staggering numbers of foreclosures across the country, people stood shocked that something like this could result from a free-market, deregulated financial sector. In fact, irrationality and unethical practices were paraded with the mask of profit and social good, especially with the mortgage crisis. With a declining economy, our government and financial institutions have tried to "reform" corporate behaviour to a certain extent, with significant backlash from those with vested interests in the economic system staying the way it is. Thus, the notion of change, the locus of President Obama's election campaign, has been highly tempered, such that dominant principles of conduct have gone largely unchanged. In this context, Tippett quoted Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist scholar and spiritual teacher, who said "Change and suffering are inevitable parts of life."

With ever increasing amounts of ecological degradation, change is at the very heart at the concept of sustainability. A true and radical change is necessarily at the opposite end of the status quo, and any tempering of the concept of sustainability means that meaningful and durable change will always lay beyond arm's reach. Unfortunately, the dominant discourse around sustainability has been around the concept of "sustainable development." In fact, "sustainability" has come to mean "sustainable development," especially within the circles of the governing elite, including the United Nations. The most commonly cited definition of "sustainability," the definition of the Brundtland Commission, is an elitist definition of "sustainable development." This definition in no way questions or changes current structures of governance and societal behaviour, but rather further embeds past behaviour in future visions of the world. Aidan Davison wonderfully critiques the notion of sustainable development, in his book Technology and The Contested Meanings of Sustainability. 

Do you have any thoughts on the concept of change?

No comments:

Post a Comment