Sunday, February 28, 2016

In The Pursuit Of Happiness

How is our relationship with the environment affected by our definition of happiness?
How our views on progress are affected by the way we measure it?

This week in our Earthkeeping class we were addressing these questions based on the knowledge we have of our human nature. This week we started reading Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" and Bouma-Prediger's book "For The Beauty Of The Earth." (You can read an excellent review of the book following this link.)
In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle brings back the idea of balance within temperament and action. Citizens should have a balanced approach between what we need and what we want. Starting in the first book Aristotle points out that "every art, every inquiry, every action, and pursuit is thought to aim at some good." Later Aristotle defines what this "good" is based on the idea of what makes people happy. So the first thing we have to articulate and define is the meaning of happiness. Aristotle refers to happiness using the Greek word Eudenomia or Eudainomia  that translates also as "welfare" meaning that in that mental state people will flourish in their lives and endeavors.

Here we bring Bouma-Prediger's book where he is first describing where we are in the evolution of our society. How our definition of progress based on material possessions has missed the point of human well-being and welfare. Bouma-Prediger describes how we have to use a different approach to how we measure eudenomia. Maybe using some kind of index of well-being and happiness.

The questions posed at the beginning need further analysis, so we will have to come to them later on. For now we can stop and think what was declared in 1776 as the United States became an independent nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."     

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ecocentrism and Sustainability

What is our worldview that guides our relationship with the environment? Are our neighbors an influence in our relationship with the environment?

Questions that come to mind when thinking about political processes that affect how we live.
In today's post I want to analyze how we develop a worldview that becomes the context in which one acts politically. So it may be appropriate to first try to clarify what do know about our worldview and how do we define a relationship with the environment.
In the beginning of our human view of the world we had us as the center of all, what is called an anthropocentric view of the world, the environment surrounding primitive societies was just taken for granted and humans worried only about how to survive and so they as nomads moved from place to place gathering and hunting as they found best.

Later they started to settle in a way that they had to care for the animals and crops that provided sustainment, they amplified their view of the world making all living things the center of their activities, developing a bio-centric worldview. Expanding their activities not only for the immediate survival of their humanity but recognizing that their survival depended on the well-being of the living surrounding. Other resources such as water and land were taken for granted as they seem to be infinite, inexhaustible. But then humans became (or are becoming) to realize that we don't live on an infinite, inexhaustible world of resources. That water, land, and air are finite resources that easily can be polluted and exhausted. Now we are developing an eco-centric world view.

In this worldview we find the question about our relationship with the environment that is influenced by our neighbors critical. As it becomes a political question. More so because our systematic relationship is in continuous adaptation and it's been re-defined due to competing need of our society.
So when we hear the word "sustainability" different ideas come to mind depending on our social status and background.

Language matters. That is why we must be continuously aware of the fact that we need to get to a consensus about the meaning of certain words; words like neighbor, and sustainability. So let me state that for me, we are all neighbors, regardless of where we live, what language we speak, or what religion (or none) we profess. As humans in this world we are all related through the same atmosphere, the same oceans, and the same Earth.
For a definition of sustainability we can use what the UN says when speaking about sustainable development as the use of resources without affecting the needs of future generations. Sustaiable then gives the sense of process, where continuous activities with positive outcomes that will not have adverse effect on future generations.

Today we celebrate Saint Valentine's day, the day we celebrate love. There is no better way to demonstrate our love than taking care of the Earth, taking care or our neighbor, taking care of the environment.