Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SUSTAINABLE LIVING: Living in harmony with Nature and with ourselves…

Taking care of Nature so that Nature can take care if us.

What is “sustainable living”?

Sustainable living is simply living in harmony with nature and with ourselves in conformity with the physical and spiritual laws of nature. On a more pragmatic level, sustainability as a concept has been broadly defined by the Bruntland Commission as living our everyday life in such a way as to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need.”

The commission was created in 1983 by the UN to address growing concern "about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development." In establishing the commission, the UN General Assembly recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and determined that it was in the common interest of all nations to establish policies for sustainable development.

Criticisms of the Brandt Commission report (Our Common Future, 1987)

However, the commission’s report – Our Common Future, published in 1987– has been widely criticized by a number of people and organizations around the world on the following main issues:

Economic growth

Much of the criticism centered on the argument presented in the Brundtland report that global economic growth would have to increase “5–10-fold” in order for sustainable development to be achieved. This is clearly a flawed argument and an oxymoron to sustainability, since economic growth in its current form is at the very root of environmental destruction, human poverty and social misery worldwide.

Environmental issues

In Our Common Future, ecological sustainability is not an end in itself but simply a means to an end. In other words, environmental protection is simply a means to be used to achieve economic growth.

Non-human life forms: economic "resources"

Human beings are put at the center of all concerns in the report, and all other lifeforms orbit around human needs and are simply treated and used as “resources” for human use and as inputs for economic purposes which only have ‘commercial” value.

This is made clear in the Foreword by Brundtland herself:

“But first and foremost our message is directed towards people, whose
well-being is the ultimate goal of all environment and development
policies. Conservation of living natural resources -- plants, animals, and
micro-organisms, and the non-living elements of the environment
on which they depend -- is crucial for development.”

Worse, the Commission readily and fatalistically accepts the extinction of lifeforms resulting from economic growth and choices made by humans to serve their own interests.

“Explicit efforts to save particular species will be possible for only
relatively few of the more spectacular or important ones. Agonizing as it will be to make such choices, planners need to make conservation strategies as systematically selective as possible.”

Promotes mass-consumerism

The Brundtland Report promotes the ecologically destructive lifestyle of the “developed” world as a model to be strived for by the rest of humanity, which paradoxically is at the root cause of environmental destruction.

Fails to address and resolve the root economic & political causes of human poverty

Does not address the root economic and political causes of world poverty ( i.e unfair global trading practices, banking and financial architecture, agricultural subsidies, dumping, debt, etc. People are not going to starve to death to preserve the planet. Thus, economic issues must be addressed and resolved in order to achieve environmental protection & preservation objectives. This is self-evident!

Chemical inputs and GMO’s promoted in agriculture

The commission favors and encourages the use of GMO’s and chemical inputs in agriculture. Although the environmental damage from the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. is acknowledged, the commission contradictorily states:

“The use of agricultural chemicals is not in itself harmful. Many countries can and should increase yields by greater use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, GMO’s, etc., particularly in the developing world.”

Last but not least, there is no emphasis on moral and spiritual values, or individual responsibility in the Brundtland report. Rather the focus is on economic growth, productivity and efficiency gains and collective institutional responses to deal with the consequences.

Logically, sustainability implies sustainable use and intelligent management of the Earth’s natural resources and its ecosystem (soil, water, air, animals, etc.). Sustainability de-facto requires that humanity use the natural environment and its resources in harmony with the laws and the natural cycles of nature and at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. The end result of the unsustainable exploitation of our natural resources is the irreversible degradation of the environment and of the entire natural ecosystem, which will result in the inevitable extinction of human life and of many other lifeforms on the planet.

Thus, sustainability begins with ourselves and the way each one of us individually as well as humanity collectively live our daily lives. The external world is only a reflection of our inner world. As Mahatma Gandhi wisely said: “We must be the change we seek to see in the world.” In fact, every single act we pose in our daily lives has direct consequences on the environment and thus – by ricochet – on our own lives.

Furthermore, even our thoughts and feelings carry far reaching consequences both on this planet and beyond. Thus, sustainable living encompasses both the material and the spiritual dimensions of life. In fact, the spiritual dimension of life should be used as a foundation upon which other pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic, social, political, cultural - must be built upon and firmly rest.

Pillars of sustainability

The United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome Document refers to the "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.

Sustainable “development”: Oxymoron of sustainability

However, in my view, economic & social “development” is an oxymoron to the concept of sustainability, since economic “development” in its current capitalistic form, referred to as Globalization– which is based and prospers on the foundation of both human exploitation and oppression and the unsustainable and savage exploitation of natural resources globally - is actually at the root cause of global environmental destruction, economic poverty and social misery.

In fact globalization is a new form of Triangular Trade which unfairly and oppressively exploits both raw materials and human beings in so-called “Third World” countries, which are then shipped in low-wage countries such as China and other countries in Asia for processing, using both extremely environmentally destructive and polluting processing technologies as well as slave-labor and slave-wages as their “competitive advantage”. The finished product is then shipped in high-wages “developed” countries for consumption. This economic process is called globalization and leads to the globalization of human poverty and misery and to extensive and irreversible environmental destruction on a global scale.Thus, in my view, the erroneous concept of “economic & social development” as pillars of sustainability must be redefined and replaced by economic justice and social welfare.

As Mahatma Gandhi rightly stated:

“You cannot build a non-violent society based on exploitation.
Exploitation is the essence of violence. The extension of the Law of Non-Violence in the domain of economics means nothing less than the introduction of Moral Values to be used in regulating international commerce...”

To so do, we must design and construct an entirely new global economic architecture built on the foundation of non-violence (laid by Mahatma Gandhi), and guided and governed by Moral Laws governing nature and operating within ourselves.


• Intelligence
• Creative Force
• Selfless action
• Sacrifice
• Generosity
• Justice
• Truth
• Love


• Perfection
• Harmony
• Beauty
• Abundance
• Peace


Cultural Diversity

Indigenous people have argued, through various international forums such as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Convention on Biological Diversity, that there are four pillars of sustainable development, the fourth being cultural. The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) further elaborates the concept by stating that "...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”; it becomes “one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence". In this vision, cultural diversity can de defined as the fourth pillar of sustainability.

Political reforms

The political system and its policies obviously play a major defining and driving role within the other pillars of sustainability (i.e. economic, social, environmental, & cultural). Thus, it is obvious that the political system as a pillar of sustainability must be entirely reformed and policies developed and pursued that are consistent and in harmony with the objectives of sustainability.

Note: The pillars of sustainability must be built on the foundation of spiritual knowledge.