Thursday, June 23, 2016

Consumption Junction IV: Everyone

Defend or dissect, you decide!
In the last three Goodness First articles the nemesis that is unmitigated human consumption was pared down into three digestible (urp) chunks. First, a saber was lifted in defense of the environment, the veritable source of all physical matter and energy that the human species draws upon.  Then, in the form of empathy, a heartfelt dagger was armed toward understanding the needs of life, beauty, humans and humanity.  And finally at the ready, the laser edged scalpel that is efficiency was presented to demonstrate how sharpened scientific rigor, technology, and downright common sense can be judicially brought to bear to minimize consumption and maximize comprehensive goodness.

It might go without saying that each of these progressive weapons requires us, human and humanity, to wield.  Yet because of this it is too important not to emphasize loudly that WE hold the handle of each of these allegorical Excaliburs!!!  Each of us!!! Everyone!!! must therefore rise to the challenge to leverage our heartfelt desire for change, tempered with mindful reflection and cooperation.  For if there is one thing that we have the greatest effect upon in life, it is our very own and subsequently collective behavior.

Of course the wielder that is Everyone is itself a double edged sword.  The immense numbers of the human population are by definition proportional to the magnitude of the impacts of human consumption on the world.  Yet, each of us humans also has the capacity to reduce the average world impact by factoring in Earth's environmental impacts, our empathic understanding of the world, and the efficient implementation of our desires and concerns.  Thus, we can turn the tide long term toward goodness.

Human population just might naturally slow and then decline as rational education suffuses civilization.  Nevertheless, if we can leave the mythically sacred human soul behind, our weaponized species can transform its mindset from attack and consume toward protect and conserve.  At that time humans might very well consider themselves to be one part of a healthy world.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Consumption Junction III: Efficiency

We Feed the Machine
At its core, anthropocentric consumption reshapes and devours matter and energy 365 days a year on Earth, year after year after year.  Our hungry civilization has evolved into a vast macro-organism-machine whose seemingly insatiable appetite reshapes the very planet itself. Surely, some worthy production flows from and within our planetary society, alas the massive inputs and outputs need to be thoughtfully considered if we don't want to poison the well that is our home for us and the living world.

Reducing the human population long term seems like the best path to mitigate local and worldwide impacts of our species, but in the near term one of the most effective things that can be done is to dial up efficiency in all aspects of human living. In a sense modern society is riding the benefits of efficiency already as leveraged by science, technology, and business savvy. Without the refined processes of agriculture developed over millennia, for instance, the existence of billions of humans on this planet would be entirely unsustainable.

Efficiency at its heart is embodied by the common sense to reduce and minimize unnecessary consumption in the first place.  Market forces, and the wealthy stockholders behind them, all too often seek to encourage consumption for the sake of profit. Economic revolutions aside, we as individuals and communities do wield the real power, as ironic as it may As we are the literal consumers that drive the market forces the powers that be pay attention to.  So, as an organized collective we can channel change through many paths including our governments, flexible boycotts and individual behavior.

In the real world, whole industries have the potential for significant consumption reduction.   Personal tranportation which maximizes fuel efficiency can be pursued with better engine technology and public transport, but also with more walking, bicycling and telecommuting.  Food production efficiency can be tremendously improved by simply moving away from archaic (and inhumane) animal products and toward plant-based nutritional production.  Land use can be minimized through tiny home philosophies complemented by mega-city development, each simultaneously encouraging wildlands stewardship.  Even the elimination over time of the enormous misguided spending on military efforts can free up resources for investment in education and mindful infrastructure development.

The list goes on and on, and I encourage you to pick your favorite category and envision a short and long term efficiency plan.  Sure, the world won't change overnight; that's because changing reality takes patience and effort longterm, but we can do it across generations with our capabilities.  It all starts with each of us reducing consumption in our lives today and encouraging others to do the same tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Consumption Junction II: Empathy

Embrace Every Species...
Human consumption tends to ignore the impact on sustaining a healthy global environment (see last week's article).  On the other hand, human consumption at its core feeds off of human desire.  If we can channel human empathy to play a larger role in energizing these desires, global goodness would, no doubt, improve tremendously.

The ability to empathize with other humans, other animals, and even plants and microorganisms can serve the planet well. Empathy is about putting oneself in another's position and responding as best we can to accommodate the others needs balanced with our own.  This applies both to caring for individuals and communities of our species and others.  Of course, at the moment, when it comes to caring about other species, it tends to take the form of anthropomorphizing and caring for the cuddly creatures we keep for human benefit. Alas loving our trophy animals and plants kept in captivity does relatively little to strengthening the fabric of global goodness.

Humans first. Arguably, as Americans we celebrate to a great degree the end of slavery.  Sure there are still challenges ahead to leveling the playing field when it comes to economic disparity and human thriving, in general. One ought to consider the tremendous success reflected by our numbers alone; a population of nearly eight billion humans speaks volumes.  Still, we should be empathizing with those that are struggling and implement efforts to reduce population, improve living and working conditions, support fair trade practices, reduce barriers between "castes," and ensure fellow humans have opportunities for education and progressive, meaningful participation in global affairs.   That said, efforts focussed on human benefits are probably already consuming 99% of our energy, time and resources daily.  It's high time that we ratchet down our numbers and focus a bit more attention on the rest of the species in this world.

Perhaps, very gradually, some humans have begun to turn their empathy toward the organisms that contribute, past, present, and future, to the Earth's amazing living environment.  Take caution; there is a naturalistic fallacy in believing that how things used to be ought to be the target end condition. Nevetheless, how nature "ran" things before humans showed up should be part of a long term vision. Humans and human civilization are responsible for numerous destructive changes over the last 20,000 years, including many species extinctions.  Wouldn't it be better if we set aside enough space for all the other creatures of Earth to thrive as well?

...And Let Each Species Thrive in the Space They Need!
A progressive solution might encourage altering human consumption behavior to reflect the diverse conscious and thriving living states of other organisms.  Demonstrably, humans are innovative with our current technology to create all our products and entertainment without the need to keep captive or kill thinking creatures, in spite of our historical record.  The captivity, abuse and slaughter of all animals is simply unnecessary for our civilization to thrive.  Speculatively, maybe one day even plants will be recognized as organisms worthy of not killing.  3D Food Printing and micororganism cultures may be a path in the far future, and deserve mindful consideration.  For now as a global culture, humans need to do more to reach inside and empathize to draw a line in the sand of subjective ethics toward removing all individuals within the animal kingdom from our consumption menus and give them the space they need to thrive.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Consumption Junction I: Environment

There's no escaping the fact that the human species has an incredible impact on the world.  With more than seven billion individuals and growing. In the long-term humanity should target reducing human population sensibly, as our sheer numbers underlie pretty much every challenge facing Earth. Nevertheless and in the meantime, it is decidedly important that we as individuals, as communities and as global culture encourage human behaviors that minimize human impact on the landscape and environment.  This is not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of living individuals of all species, and the beauty of Earth itself.

You are what you eat! Chew mindfully.
No surprise, the human industrial consumer culture is in full swing.  Wealth is measured in dollars and euros and leisure time. Understandably, developed nations and developing nations alike want consumer goods to generate this wealth so that many can live the good life.  As savvy individuals, we can guide this consumer economy down a less destructive path.  Our many life choices are critical: whether choosing to drive a hybrid car, live in a tiny home, or travel locally, each decision add to powerful positive effect on the environment. Far too often individuals purchase things because it is their "right" to buy anything they  want,without considering the "responsibility" that goes into choosing to consume that item.

The choice of food we eat is the archetype example, if only because we do it so frequently while thriving on the act of eating both sensually and nutritionally. The average American eats a meal three times a day 365 days a year.  Add in a couple daily snacks, and we are talking upwards of 1500 times a year we decide what food will cross our lips. If we want to make a large positive impact on environmental impact, the hands down best choice is a plant-based food lifestyle.

The environment benefits immensely when more of us eat more grains, vegetables, and fruits, primarily because the food is much more efficient to produce. Producing animal products and by-products (particularly meat, milk and eggs) are significantly more damaging to the environment, simply because the trillions of food animals raised, caught and killed annually need more space to inefficiently consume large amounts of plants.  A small percentage of an equivalent amount of plants would feed human civilization fully.   But because of our inherited human culture, particularly profit mindedness, resource investment in animal products continues, creating substantially more deforestation, pesticide and fertilizer use and sewage runoff, not to mention significantly greater greenhouse gas production than plant food production alone would.

Even when it comes to capturing wild animals for food, especially sea creatures, the natural balance of ecosystems is greatly disturbed.  Maybe there was an era thousands of years ago when primitive human predation could be absorbed by natural replenishing cycles, but with billions of humans choosing to remove trillions of creatures from wild oceans and lands, nature cannot keep up.  The sensible choice is to reduce these highly inefficient food sources for the good of the planet.

Of course there are other factors involved which should contribute to our mindful consumption behaviors other than environment.  The humaneness, personal health and aesthetic joyfulness of consuming will each will be discussed in subsequent articles.  Yet, based on environmental impact alone, if we want to keep Earth's environment healthy, we can all make a difference.

Take the time to consider how your choices impact the environment. The Earth, of which you and everyone you know and do not know, are a part, will thank you!