Self-interest

Oct. 28, 2016

We have known since the 1970’s that this country needs to deal with our dependence on fossil fuels for so many reasons: global climate change, political instability in places that have petroleum resources, oils spills, and just the simple fact that petroleum is a limited, non-renewable resource. People just do not seem to get that one day, it will be gone. Will we wait for the crisis to react? To be honest, I am constantly amazed that environmental concerns and ecological sustainability are not in the forefront of our politics, urban planning, and education at all levels.

Most people are out of touch with the daily ways in which our lifestyle choices affect the ecosystem and, for that matter, where it all comes from and where it all goes when we are done with it. Because we are so far removed from life sustaining systems, we give them little thought.

“If people knew even a little bit about the plants, animals, soils, waters                                   and atmospherics of their places, and how they fit together in a fragile                                     and functioning whole that utterly supports us, I don’t believe they would                                 permit our present course.” (Pyle, 2008, p 169)

The American Dream of consumption, convenience and comfort and the common belief that American know-how and technical innovation will sustain unlimited economic growth is just that, a dream. Unfortunately, there are limiting factors to this lifestyle. Comfort and fitting in seem to be our goals, but these are adolescent values conditioned by advertising and mass media. We approach the environment with the recklessness, arrogance and ignorance of a teen-ager. We lack wisdom, humility and the ability to think beyond the moment. We suffer from a sort of environmental autism and dissociation that fails to respond emotionally to “Mother Earth” or have empathy for other living creatures. If we, as a culture, remain stuck in adolescence, we will never mature to our full potential.

Our culture needs a perspective transformation from consumerism to sustainability, from separation to belonging, from short-term thinking to long-term thinking. The fact that we live in relationship to ecosystems and that our survival is interdependent with global and local environments should be central to this transformation. Ultimately, seeing the ecosystem as an extension of self will contribute to better outcomes through enlightened self-interest. Perceiving the land as our home, the place where we belong, will encourage responsible behaviors in our home.

Pyle, R. M. (2008). No child left inside: Nature study as a radical act. In D. A. Gruenewald & G. A. Smith (Ed.), Place-Based Education in the Global Age. NY: Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.