The medical profession has long realised that prevention is better than a cure. For example, it is better to help people quit smoking than to treat lung cancer and it’s better to provide vaccines rather than get diseases like malaria, measles and influenza. We use seat belts, crash helmets and life-jackets to prevent injury. We wear sun hats and use sunblock to prevent injury and disease. Exercise and good nutrition will reduce susceptibility to illness and it also makes you feel, well, well!

Cures can be difficult and expensive. Even worse than that, they can be ineffective or just too late. In some cases there simply is no cure.

When it comes to the environment the adage is the same. It is always much better to prevent environmental damage than to fix it after the damage has been done. In too many cases the damage is irreparable. Whole ecosystems have been lost. Nobody knows how many species extinctions there have been due to human development but there are at least hundreds a year, possibly thousands.

For the sake of the present and the future we as a society need to prevent the harm we are doing to ourselves and the environment. The only viable way to do this is to significantly reduce our ecological footprint as individuals and as a society. In addition we need to take the precautionary principal when it comes to applying new technologies. It’s no good to implement technologies and then say ‘whoops’ after it has caused harm.

All measures we take to reduce our ecological footprints will actually enhance our well-being. Too many people think that reducing their footprints means they will be deprived, this is not the case. The notions of voluntary simplicity and living deliberately change the focus of prosperity away from material wealth and towards non-material wealth including things like relationships, creativity, health, self-fulfilment and happiness.

Material wealth and a consumer lifestyle are not the ‘cure’ for lack of well-being, in fact they are often the cause. Well-being starts with preventing the harm that consumer lifestyles cause by living simple and authentic lives.