Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our Sustainability Problem

I have been working on the sustainability issue for many years and I believe that fundamental changes in the way we see human nature may actually enable us to grasp our predicament regarding sustainability. The concept I use is "Divine Primates." I focus on how our human nature has been manipulated by our cultures, politicians, religions and economic interests so that we crave consumer goods and are judgmental, greedy and self-centered despite the spiritual and common sense values that should lead us towards better caring for our fellow beings and our planet.

I present this idea in more detail in my future book, and its website - Traditional cultures have used the images of primates to portray human nature's peculiar curiosity and quirky risk-taking. Today, there is a vast body of scientific literature demonstrating how many of the human traits are shared with other primates and other species. If we can begin to see ourselves as primates, perhaps we can bring a good-natured understanding of our role on this planet. We should not monkey around with our environment. We are prone to getting carried away with pointless, self-destructive "needs" and habits.

This is not a new idea, of course. But I do believe that misconceptions about human nature and perfectability are at the core of our irresponsible environmental attitudes and behavior. If we can see ourselves, and our nature, as less god-like and more ape-like we may be better able to keep a sense of humor and not expect ourselves to come up with infinite technological miracles to sustain our unsustainable lifestyles. If we're "just primates" perhaps we can allow our egos to focus more on enjoying our communities and other intangibles and less on hoarding and consuming material goods.

If you believe that we could work together in some way, I'd be happy to hear from you. It is my hope that a concept like "Divine Primates" could help our cultures to understand the impertinence and foolishness of human cultures who behave more like the Chinese "monkey king" or our "curious george" than like the rational beings we falsely believe we are. The human race is wonderful and amazing, but we need to grow up. While disasters will eventually force us to act, I am most concerned that not taking charge of the problems before disasters hit will result in wars, famine and the encouragement of totalitarian states. We need to grow up more quickly.

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