For most of my life, the current world we are living in to me was unsustainable. This had as a consequence that I was not able to imagine a world evolving from it. Any future vision of a society I could think of were some kind of post-something scenarios: post-collapse, post-partial-collapse, peak-oil scenarios, environmental disaster, societal saturation and revolution, economic instability and chaos, and so on.
Even in my most positive outlooks, the picture was drawn from some limitation imposed by a major event. At some point I dreamed of ecovillages, later of technologically advanced ecovillages, and even later of networked societies in a rhizome configuration [MSc dissertation].
But – I never tried to imagine a world where we could thrive as a species on this planet without the need of a big-impact limiting event.
Why not? I think the major stumbling stone is sustainability itself. In order to survive as a multi-billion species on a limited space called Earth, sustainability is key. What if we’d define sustainability just as the ability to live on this planet, to be able to sustain life, nurture and regenerate it – how would that look like?
For much of our last centuries, using such vocabulary wasn’t very common. Our world view was impregnated by notions of progress, industrialization, innovation, growth. Our relationship towards the planet had connotations of colonization, conquest and domination.
This era brought us a surge in technological advancements, wealth accumulation in many areas – and a taste of limitlessness. For decades, it seemed we would be able to master nature, to make it serve our needs, while we would all become rich, healthy, long-lived and invincible.
Today however we reached a close to undisputed realization that continuing in this manner could terminate our own species, and possibly many more. We cannot just extract and pollute back, ignoring any effect these actions have. We live in a complex system called planet Earth. We are embedded in this system as part of it. We participate in its cycles, we are fed by its products. We are nature! Our bodies are made of nature, I repeat, we are nature! There is no saving the planet, or save the environment. It’s not something “out there” – it’s us! And whatever we do to this body, will feed back to us.
For me sustainability is becoming the art of nurturing life, while losing the focus of limiting something, doing less, or reduce. If we feed something living, it grows, it multiplies, it flourishes. Everything we do should feedback into the system of life. Not only not to produce garbage, not to pollute, not to something – but to actually actively grow life.
That might be working only for me, but this confers to me much more impetus to think of beautiful futures, of cities, buildings and spaces full of living matter, of energy generation based on life (solar or algae, to name a few). In future posts I plan to describe how I could see possible thriving futures.