The question to be asked here is, "what would it take
to create a global sustainable society?" Is anyone
It's the most important question, yet we are lost
because we are asking smaller questions. Our energies
are diffused, our understanding of the future is
clouded. We don't know where we're going even though
we rush more quickly through each successive year.
Who would we suspect of asking what it would take to
build a global sustainable society?
Politicians? They pander to the public. Most
specifically, they pander to the private holders of
money, so they can do more pandering to the public.
Their policies are, as a result, likely to reflect the
private interests of the private holders of money.
Their promises of a global sustainable society are
likely to be public relations gestures with no
substance. Why should we trust them?
The environmental left? When we get past the
bickering egos, we get to this conclusion: they're
divided everything up into "issues," and none of these
issues is directly connected to the project of
creating a global sustainable society. Issues
politics is about changing one thing about society and
leaving everything else the same. Politics on such
terms is all about whether or not one supports or
opposes the most recent legislation -- it's a game
based upon what other people say and do. The
environmental left plays that game.
The universities and colleges? Their game is called
"turf," and it's about generating enough of the right
of conversation to make tenure, adorn a resume, and
build the ego while paying the mortgage. Beyond the
level of generality reflected in academic discussions
are particular self-interests. Action and thought are
held separate, mutually irrelevant to each other, in
the academic mind.
The "sustainable development" crowd? They're
interested in building environmental credentials so as
to generate the "right kind" of business. Their plans
have nothing to do with real sustainability,
everything to do with looking "sustainable" while
quieting the moral panic associated with the dawning
realization that capitalism is destroying the global
Religious people? Religion is about adapting the
individual to the status quo. Creating a global
sustainable society will entail creating a new status
quo from scratch. Changing one's spiritual outlook
may be a necessary part of building a global
sustainable society, but
creating a global sustainable society will be like
building a building -- something must be done. Will
religion do that? It hasn't so far. Perhaps we will
have to create a new religion that will actually do
The permaculturists? They're probably into the
question more than the other groups, but their flaw is
that they're usually too narrowly focused upon the
moral propriety of their own personal situations. The
world will still be destroyed by capitalists if I buy
a farm tomorrow.
The revolutionaries? Now these people have something,
as well. But they come in several groups, most of
them too small, and each of them with their own
The anarchists have a lot of spirit and are doing some
of the right things -- but they have barely anything
of a theory organizing their efforts, and so their
long term effect is likely to be a matter of blending
back into the "mainstream" anti-ecological society.
Many socialists are not ecologically-conscious -- and
so they do not recognize the sort of ecological
transformation that ending capitalism will require if
it is to have any chance of success.
Animal-rights revolutionaries are too concerned with
individual animals, not enough with whole species.
Harming dogs and cats is bad -- but there are enough
dogs and cats. Harming endangered species provokes
extinction, and extinction is forever.
Environmental revolutionaries, besides committing
petty acts of terrorism that encourage the FBI to spy
upon us all, simply do not have enough of a
consciousness of the struggle within society that
keeps society on its destructive path. And so their
consciousness of the human-environmental relationship
does not connect environmental predation to other
social problems. Like with the environmental left,
nothing gets solved because everything is chopped up
I am not asking that we change our lifestyles, or do
anything in particular. But I am asking what it would
take to build a global sustainable society. The
well-being of future generations is at stake. Are we
having children in order to throw them away, along
with the world we're created for them?
We can no longer pretend that there is some group out
there that is already focused upon the current
situation in a direct way. It's not happening.
Nobody else is doing it. Some people are dreaming of
a global sustainable society, it is true. Some people
are doing things that might lead humanity to adopt a
global sustainable society. But a lengthy meditation
on what it would take to create such a thing...
Let me suggest some basic measures that would focus
the attention of the world's people (who are, after
all, the ones capable of taking responsibility) upon a
global sustainable society.
1) Ending the cynicism. The common way of getting
along in this world is through pandering -- most
especially the pandering to those who have money
required of all those who live under capitalism.
Thus, whenever relationships of trust have to be
created, often they have to be created anew, because
distrust is assumed to be the common background of all
participants. Clearly what is needed is a civil
disobedience movement against the background of
cynicism and distrust that capitalism engenders. Such
a movement would have to create institutions that
deterred cynicism while encouraging honesty and mutual
2) Sharing. Get everyone off of the poverty treadmill
-- end hunger, clean up the devastation, plant a new
world, clear away the ground currently occupied by all
about who owns what, who deserves to live and who gets
to die. Abolish the big property holdings, phase out
the use of money, share all that can be shared.
3) Peace. End the phony industry that promotes
"security" through weapons. Weapons don't provide
security. Trust provides security.
4) Slowing down. Most "news" is nothing new. The
problem extends beyond the mass media -- its root
cause is in the excessively speedy pace of production
under current conditions. We need to slow down human
society to allow nature to grow.
The above are just suggestions for starters. The
important thing is to clear away the mind, for a
moment put aside all the stuff about "issues" and
personal matters of immediate survival, and focus on
the question of "what does it take to create a global
sustainable society." This is where the debate should