Environmentally sustainable human well-being is what we call Sustainabilism.
The question Sustainabilism answers is, can we have universal human well-being without ruining nature? The answer is yes, but not the way we are currently going about things.
Environmental sustainability is a problem of resources. Currently, humans use over one and a half times the resources that the earth can renew each year. This is an average for all people, those people in affluent countries are using many times more resources than average. This is clearly unsustainable. The question remains, how can people live better lives and yet consume considerably less resources?
The answer lies in simple living.
In the Western world at least, people generally have more than enough to fully satisfy their fundamental physical needs. It really doesn’t take that much to satisfy these needs.
However, why is that that some people can be perfectly happy with ‘enough’ whilst others are never happy no matter how much they have? It’s obviously a difference in mindset. The problem is that far too many people don’t feel satisfied with having only enough. There are a number of reasons for this, including:
- Others have more than they do. For people, well-being is relative, not absolute. This is the animal instinct of envy getting the best of rational enlightenment. For a lot of people ‘getting ahead’ literally means getting ahead of others. This is a game where no-one wins and everyone loses. Life really is not a competition, even though we are led by our cultures to believe that it is.
- Systemic enculturation, the expectations of employers and politicians, advertising and market messages, as well as peer pressure, all constantly tell us we don’t have enough and that we should get more.
- People are led to believe that extrinsic goods and services can fill in an intrinsic void, and so they keep shopping, acquiring and hoarding. However, there is plenty of evidence that people who get away from the proverbial rat-race and lifestyles of over-consumption and materialism are happier than those who don’t.
A sustainabilist mindset is where you realise that happiness doesn’t come from what you have but from the way you live life. The benefits of simple living with sufficient consumption include:
- We will work less on average
- We will have more time for the things that make us truly happy and fill our lives with self-fulfilment, love and joy.
- We will feel more financially secure and freer of debts, outgoings, obligations and expectations.
- We will be more self-sufficient with more independence from the produce-consume system but more interdependence with our families, friends, neighbours and communities, which is what we call ‘mutual self-sufficiency’.
Environmentally sustainable human well-being
A simpler life is different for different people and it is not black and white either. You can start today by reducing the amount of stuff you have and step by step over time you can reduce your footprint and increase your freedom and joy of life.