More on Sustainable Truths

In my yesterday’s post (More than seven-plus sustainability wonders, I talked about John Ryan’s book “Seven Wonders” and Donella Meadows article on the same…one thing I didn’t mention and I truly like from this book (a little book, easy to read, and available for free from Surrey Public Library) is something that I’m not even sure that the author noticed (or was intentional) when the he wrote the book: that every one of the seven wonders he writes about deals with at least one of the causes of our current predicaments. Let me explain:

As mentioned in my post, seven wonders talk about processes, tools, uses or things that are kind on the planet, easy to use or achievable to all, promote or invite fairness and inclusiveness, make people healthier, happier or more resilient and are fairly easy to build, maintain, learn and use.

However, I missed mentioning what type of causes, problems or issues these sustainability wonders “solve” or “point out”.

Let’s see:

  • The bike tackles how inefficient and ineffective our current transportation system is, requiring the building of parking lots, roads, fuel and maintenance stores with all what that means on our planet and the future generations.
  • The condom brings up another situation: a taboo we have on speaking about overpopulation, overshoot and unsafe and unplanned sex. Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room, but the reality is that we have growth from roughly 2 billion in 1900 to 7 billion in just one hundred years…and we are expecting 9-10 billion by 2050! When are we planning to stop? Apparently is better to have billions starving, living below the poverty level or fleeing their home countries due to lack of opportunities than openly talking about something we do all the time but as everything in life, requires a bit of care and thinking in its consequences.
  • The ceiling fan and the clothesline both tackle our unsustainable use of energy and non-renewable resources. They also point out to our willingness to “hide” things we consider low or “private” (such as our underwear, sheets and towels), no matter how hard that may be on the planet and the future generations…we rather use air conditioning or a dryer machine than spend some more time hanging clothes and waiting for them to dry naturally, or using a plain fan…that replicates in many other of our behaviours: taking the car instead of walking or using the bus, throwing instead of reusing, buying instead of reducing or asking friends and neighbours…etc.
  • With Pad Thai as an example, Ryan also tackles how unsustainable and unhealthy our current diet is: how we (again) seem to be willing to accept apples from Chile when we could be growing them in our streets, or we quietly “choose” eating meat and be blind to the fact that that cow, pig or chicken was living under miserable conditions and that its raising put a horrible weight on the planet resources (like growing grain to feed livestock instead of humans, cutting forest to grow grain and raise livestock, like the methane livestock produce each day…). We call these a matter of “personal choice” (whether eating organic, local and meatless as opposite to cheap, monocrop, fossil-fuel and water thirsty, high on unsustainable and unfair meat consumption). Personal choices to damage the planet that is our common ground and only home, personal choices to become sick and put a burden in our already dysfunctional health care system, paid with our own dollars…personal choices to steal from our children and other people’s children future, personal choices to steal from our fellow human beings and our own pockets!
  • With the public library as the sixth of his seven wonders, Ryan brings up another current subject: the way we get and share information and the way we “entertain” ourselves. Our unsustainable way of living allows us to think that we “have” to have that book, CD, DVD, electronic, dress or whatever we think we deserve. Public libraries are a symbol of open learning, democratic distribution of resources and sharing beyond the “me and mine” thing…
  • Finally, with the mention of the ladybug, Ryan makes us think about how we tackle our problems. Although he focuses on the agricultural problem of how to deal with what we call “pests” (and, as an extension, how to handle fertilizing, etc.), the ladybug example can be used in many other environments: in this unsustainable way of living we have built, we attack things when we don’t like them (i.e. use of pesticides instead of natural predators such as ladybugs) and we start wars and conflicts everywhere. The solution is always to cut, shup-up, force withdrawal, blame, complain, etc. instead of observing how things flow and use natural forces to keep the balance…we also address other problems with quick and short-sighted solutions without checking the potential consequences, such as when we use artificial fertilizers instead of enriching the soil through natural methods, allowing nature to heal itself by the use of microorganisms and natural “waste”. In our lives, we take supplements and build barriers such as houses, cars, status and all types of judgment and rules, instead of becoming strong in “natural” ways such as making friends, collaborating, opening our houses to others, sharing transportation, eating healthy, sharing tools and knowledge freely and being open to learn from others and accept their mistakes.

The more I think in what this small book has taught me, the more it continues teaching me even long after closing its pages. Thank you John Ryan!

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