<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Sustainability obstacles and support

In terms of the evolutionary argument I am outlining here, our ability to grasp the sustainability imperative faces two serious obstacles. The first is psychological, namely the inherited mental frameworks that reward us for the normalization and simplification of complex realities. The second is social, namely our economic and institutional arrangements designed to protect us from material wants, as well as from risk, shock, disorder and violent change. Both these psychological and social features of our lives militate against an ecological, systems-based worldview.

Luckily, our cultural institutions have evolved to offer a counterweight to the complacency and inertia encouraged by the other simple, security-focused principles governing our lives. If society is founded upon the principle of security, and promotes our complacent feeling of independence from the natural world, we might think of culture as the conscience of society. What culture does, particularly in the arts and sciences, is remind us of our frailty as human beings, our vulnerability to shocks and sudden changes, and our connectedness to the earth’s natural systems. In this sense, the arts and sciences, though we conventionally view them as opposites, in fact perform the same social function: they remind us of what lies beyond the dominant security paradigm of our societies—which tends to a simplified and binary view of human being and nature—by bringing us closer to a complex, systemic understanding of how the natural world works and our embeddedness within it. Whether by means of an essay on plant biology, or a stage play about family breakdown (like Hamlet ), the arts and sciences model complex worlds and the systemic interrelations that shape our lives. They expose complexities and connectivities in our world, and emphasize the material consequences of our actions to which we might otherwise remain oblivious. The close relation between the arts and sciences in the Western world is evidenced by the fact that their concerns have largely mirrored each other over time, from the ordered, hierarchical worldview in the classical and early modern periods, to the post-modern focus on connectivity, chaos, and emergence.

Life in the pre-modern world, in the memorable words of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, was mostly “nasty, brutish, and short.” By contrast, social and economic evolution has bestowed the inhabitants of the twenty-first century industrialized world with a lifestyle uniquely (though of course not wholly) insulated from physical hardship, infectious disease, and chronic violence. This insulation has come at a cost, however, namely our disconnection from the basic support systems of life: food, water and energy. This is a very recent development. At the beginning of the 20 th century, for example, almost half of Americans grew up on farms. Now, fewer than two percent do. We experience the staples of life only at their service endpoints: the supermarket, the faucet, the gas station. In this context, the real-world sources of food, water, and energy do not seem important, while supplies appear limitless. We are not prepared for the inevitable shortages of the future.

On the positive side, it is possible to imagine that the citizens of the developed world might rapidly reconnect to a systems view of natural resources. One product of our long species evolution as hunters and agricultural land managers is an adaptive trait the ecologist E. O. Wilson has called “biophilia,” that is, a love for the natural world that provides for us. In the few centuries of our fossil fuel modernity, this biophilia has become increasingly aestheticized and commodified—as landscape art, or nature tourism—and consequently marginalized from core social and economic decision structures. In the emerging age of environmental decline and resource scarcity, however, our inherited biophilia will play a key role in energizing the reform of industrialized societies toward a sustainable, renewable resource and energy future.

Review questions

How has the human capacity for normalization both helped and hindered social development, and what are its implications for sustainable reform of our industries, infrastructure, and way of life?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Take an everyday consumer item—running shoes, or a cup of coffee—and briefly chart its course through the global consumer economy from the production of its materials to its disposal. What are its environmental impacts, and how might they be reduced?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
is this allso about nanoscale material
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where is the latest information on a no technology how can I find it
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply
Practice Key Terms 2

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now

Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation' conversation and receive update notifications?