Friday, January 2, 2009

The Year, The Word, And The Resolution Is “Sustainability”

As the new year rolls in, it is time for a few activities. It is time to reflect on the past year’s successes and mistakes and learn from them. It is time to think about what one wants for the future. It is also a time to make resolutions. I was involved in all of these activities over this first week and realized something I have never quite fully recognized before. Almost everything we long for is about sustainability. Ecological, economical, social, and personal physical and mental sustainability is what we in no to obvious or direct ways are trying to achieve.

The eco fanatics for years have been talking about “ecological sustainability”. But what do they mean? M-W.com defines it as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” This is what “green technology” is about. In order to sustainable ecological practices, it requires understanding the reaction to every action. This is very difficult for modern man who has become so far removed from the world he host himself upon. In fact, even though it is akin to the people of the 15th century and beyond that still believe the earth was flat, many people still resist the indisputable fact that we are making life unsustainable for human life as we prefer it. This is in spite of the very long winded but cool explanation I presented in the post, Global Warming- Not Just Science It's Also a Diet Plan. I Guess even then I was making the connections.

I have been hearing some of the top resolutions this year. The first two are always the same. Loose Weight and quit smoking top the list in alternating order from poll to poll and year to year. However this year number three has been reported as sentiment along the lines of “spend less”, “get out of debt”, or “make better financial decisions.” Loosing weight and quitting smoking are both about achieving sustainable health. Let us face it, those of us who enjoy eating or smoking wouldn’t bother to consider cutting back or stopping the activity if it didn’t make us unhealthy. We adjust our behavior because our habits are unsustainable for the continued function of our bodies. The third resolution is the same. We are not pledging to restrain our spending habits because we have purchased all the stuff we have ever wanted and no longer find joy and buying stuff. No, it is because if we keep spending at the current rate, we are not going to be in a very “sustainable” spot even if we do manage to remain employed. Should such financial travesty visit our (or rather the bank’s) house, we want to improve our chances of not having to stand in soup lines with smelly bums and muscians. The truth is that all of our ills are a result of unsustainable activity.

They teach the “laws of conservation” in physics. They teach equal distribution in math. But these concepts should be applied and should be taught in every discipline. Working out problems of dealing with these laws requires considerations to both sides of the equation. The action is an explosion, the reaction is that it pushes against the wall of the jet engine. The action is water flows. The reaction is that the waterwheel turns. That is how it works in physics. There are studies that break those functions down even further to their atomic and elements. That kind of in depth is what needs to happen with politics and economics. If the action is making a purchase of cheap Chinese goods at Wal-mart, then what is going to be the reaction. If the action is placing a factory with good paying jobs in the middle of a farming community, then isn’t a rise on the cost of living for the entire community expected as the reaction? If the action is to send out $10 billion in economic stimulus money, what is the reaction going to be broken down to its atomic level. Where is the money coming from, where is it going to? If a foreign government supports, trains, and arms one side of a civil war, that is the action? What are all the possible reactions in the immediate and distant future? These concepts should be discussed in our classrooms as well.

So if you are looking to figure out a doable New Years Resolution, resolve to live a more harmonic life. Look to not spend as much on new stuff until you have paid off all of your old stuff. There are going to be a lot of businesses affected by a large portion of us who resolve to do that, but that is this going to be an issue they address with their own resolutions. Go back and find ways to enjoy your old stuff. If dieting, quitting smoking, or exercising are failed past endeavors, then instead, resolve to just find ways to be healthier. Take up a hobby that is fun, but also requires energy. If ideas such as getting more organized is on your mind, It means that you are going to have to allot time to do it. Think through your normal activities and figure out which ones are going to get either trimmed or eliminated to make time needed for organization. This applies to anything that is going to require time.

In the end we should all look to live our lives more aware of our impact. The bad news is that change is the hardest thing we creatures can do. We resist it even when it is necessary and we begrudge it when it comes forcefully. We all seek the path of least resistance, or at least the one that appears that way. The good news is that there is so much fat in our western style of living small changes can make a big impact. Start by questioning your own motives and beliefs. Dig a little deeper. Peel back one more layer of the onion then we normally would. You don't have to critacally think down to the atomic level, but just consider the question "then what would happen."

Happy 2009, all. Brace yourself. Change is coming like a drum solo whether you like it or not.

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