Is there such a thing as sustainable development? Is sustainability good or bad? Is it just a way of assuring our guilty conscience whilst the moden capitalist machine destroys the natural world? Well, yes.
Sustainability hasn’t always been this way. And it’s to do with endless subtle but influential changes that have endlessly nudged the sustainability juggernaut in a new direction. What does this mean? The green movement started out campaigning to sustain nature. It was about protecting wild spaces from industrial development and ensuring that wild animals and ecosystems had the space and peace to thrive. And then people started adding the word development, completely changing the notion of sustainability and the meaning of the word, so that is has come to actually mean… development. Ironically the very opposite of what the sustainability movement set out to achieve.
But we can wrest back control. We can remind people that sustainability should be about sustaining nature, about protecting it from development and the two words should never be put together to create the oxymoron sustainable development. Because sustainable development excuses corporations, governments and societies at large from the horrific damage they inflict on the natural world in the acquisition of human wealth.
And this is also why the environmentalist movement is so confused. They have placed sustainable development, which is a term we have identified as simply development, front and centre in their manifestos for social change. The environmental movement is now a movement campaigning for the industrial development of renewables, electric cars, massive biofuels plantations and so on. I feel connected to nature when I am in a park, a woodland, a river or a mountain. Why don’t adults climb trees? Because have somehow removed ourselves from the things that make us feel natural – and it just doesn’t seem quite right to behave in this way. We need to change this mindset.
A lone man walking in the woods may conjure up associations with malicious intent. But this shows us how far removed our modern world has come in relation to nature. We are so disassociated from it, that we can somehow feel like aliens in a lost land when we make our way through natural spaces.
My connection to nature has always been heartfelt because I just feel good outside and especially in natural spaces. I was lucky to grow up deep in the country, spending time in rivers and woodlands and exploring and watching the wild creatures who make those places their homes and rear their young despite all the challenges life throws at them, non-complaining, satisfied, connected in every way with the intricacies of the world around them. Somehow, for us humans, I think this connection is being lost.
And it’s very difficult to care about something when you do not feel deeply connected to it. Which is why the sustainability movement seems hell bent on destroying the planet. It’s not because they don’t care, they just care about the wrong thing, about the wholescale development of renewables and other green policies that will enable our species to keep on track, expanding at an ever growing rate.
A renewables future doesn’t save natural spaces from annihilation; it just means more people can survive in more remote natural areas, where renewables tend to be most plentiful and profitable, either off-grid or via the development of large scale renewables projects and where every growing human societies can continue their wholescale destruction of the planet.
This is why the sustainability movement is enabling the destruction of Earth.
And so sustainable development continues to be promoted by the green movement in the pursuit of this strange hollow goal called the reduction of carbon emissions. Environmentalism has obsessively fixated on this as if it were the answers to all our environmental problems. It’s not that carbon emissions are not a serious issue, they are, it’s just adopting this very narrow approach fails to looks at the human environmental problem holistically. It doesn’t take into account the plastification of our oceans, of the fastest rate of extinction that the planet has ever know; nor does it understand the original goal of the sustainability movement: to sustain nature.
That is why the green, environmental movement needs a complete rethink. The harvesting of the planets natural energy, in some of the planets most remote and wild locations is not the answer. We cannot build our fake sustainable development projects all over the world in these natural spaces in order to sustain the massive human conglomerate that we have created.
We need to focus on sustaining nature.
So if you’re an environmentalist who campaigns for sustainable development can you really call yourself a true environmentalist? I don’t think so. Your heart might be in the right place but at the end of the day you are actively campaigning for industrial development.
But if you’re an environmentalist who campaigns for nature, for wild spaces and the protection of whole ecosystem and the species within them… then yes, you are working towards the benefit of the natural world. We can show the world that its business as usual approach will not work. The self absorbed human narrative, in which which the arts gets more funding than the protection of the planet in which we live, needs to be destroyed and rebuilt with a nature-centred approach.
We need to reconnect people with nature, to remind them that this is an intricate relationship in which we are a small actor sharing the stage with millions upon millions of other forms of life and we need to understand our link in that web.
Dr Paul Ehrlich makes the case in Scientific American
“We have the potential to educate the entire public about what is actually going on in the world, but we aren’t doing it,” Ehrlich said. “For example, we should start teaching about the environment in kindergarten. Instead of saying “See Scott Run,” we should say “See the Plant Grow in the Sun,” to start making the connection to photosynthesis. The average faculty member at a major university couldn’t give you a coherent story about how we know that there is a huge human factor in the climate impact story, because we don’t train people that way.”
We can make a difference; but instead of simply doing everything we can to eek out our current modus operandi for as long as possible, we need to face up to the difficult issues no one really wants to talk about: we need to destroy the concept of land ownership, enabling us to rewild huge areas of land; we need to tackle our numbers, controlling and reducing the human population and its footprint on the planet and we need to prioritise the protection and rewilding of natural spaces over the elevation of all of humanity to some imagined, largely Western ideal of wealth and health, that will only be achieved by repurposing all of the planet’s natural resources to the benefit of humanity. It’s no coincidence that the most environmentally friendly countries on the planet also happen to be amongst the poorest, undeveloped countries. This is not a bad thing. We should all be seeking to un-develop and de-industrialise.
This will require massive, social changes that will change the face of humanity. It will also only happen if we change something deeply rooted in ourselves; if we realise that the eradication of human poverty should not necessarily be pursued by the eradication of our planet and if we discover that deep and meaningful connection to nature that we once had, but have now lost.