1. Introduction: In search of the truth, “I want to believe”1
Sustainability can be seen through a number of paradigms but it is most commonly associated with the environment and issue of global warming. This association has appeared to hijack the agenda, leaving the notion of sustainability undefined. Thus the sustainability (climate change) debate has been dominated by three main groups. To the left are the ‘doomsayers’2 originating back to the Club of Rome3 forecasts of the 1960s and the evangelists like Al Gore and his “Inconvenient truth”. In the middle are once fringe organizations like Friends of the Earth4 who have become the respectable centered ‘middle-class’ organizations and causes,5 while to the right are the ‘redneck GOP reactionaries’ who espouse the whole saga as a myth.6
They say ‘truth is the first casualty of war’ and certainly the truth has gone out of the sustainability debate. Sustainability means many things to many people, and has been turned into a hollow meaning like ‘the concept of motherhood’. The term is now one of the most commonly used words in contemporary English (and others for that matter), but has lost much of its discernible meaning.7
The meaning of sustainability has also altered over time, depending upon the specific issues of importance of the day. In hunter-gatherer times the concept of sustainability would have been orientated towards security of sources of food, i.e., hunting game, fish, and edible flora. In the agrarian societies like the Anasazi, Easter Islanders, Greeks, Maya, Mesopotamian, and Romans, the management of the eco-system, particularly resources like water, soil fertility, and forestation were of paramount importance. In more recent times sustainability in the industrial revolution referred to continuous supplies of raw materials, and in the 1970s the concept of sustainability was associated with the available reserves of non-renewable fossil fuels. Only in very recent times has the concept of sustainability been associated with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Although sustainability is a complex issue, many shallow and positivist approaches have been devised in the name of solving sustainable problems. The general belief in the capitalist free market economic agenda postulated that through putting a price on carbon, the market mechanism will solve increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than eliminate emissions, one can buy the solution from someone else to be abstained from ‘wrong doing”. Another approach is a carbon tax, conveniently supported by some governments as it coincidently provides a new source of revenue.8 Innovative private organizations have developed carbon footprint certifications. Many major firms have engaged sustainability through investing in renewable resource materials, waste recycling, and CSR programs. Academics espouse corporate approaches to sustainability as a new source of competitive advantage.9
Sustainability has become a franchise where humankind has been practicing tokenism fooling many into believing they are helping to solve the problem. Practicing tokenism helps to create a sense of security, reinforcing the belief that we have the problem under control, when in fact the truth is that we do know what to do. The illusion of certainty leads to the upholding of the status quo, where we become rigid in a dynamic environment.
Sustainability has become a single dimensional idea where in fact it is a rich and complex multi-dimensional concept, rarely given this understanding by the general and academic communities. Sustainability has fallen victim to reductionism where biologists see one aspect, atmospheric scientists see another, and soil scientists see yet another. Most definitions of sustainability are paradigm based. Definitions need to be wider otherwise we won’t understand the problem.10 People are not using the same language and sharing the same meanings in the sustainability debate.
A relook at the sustainability paradigm is necessary to redefine what sustainability really means. The debate needs to be widened from the issues of the physical environment and climate change. The current paradigm of sustainability needs to be humanized, giving direct relevance to both individuals and communities. The definition needs to be wider than what has been rationalized by scientists in their reductionist disciplines. Then one can move forward from the tokenism that has developed.
2. Our shifting beliefs
Humankind’s beliefs were dominated by the paradigm of Newtonian order where the universe was perceived to operate like clockwork in a very predictable manner. The universe was deemed to have a finite life according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics stating that heat dissipates outwards from heat sources towards colder mediums, inferring that stars would gradually dissipate their energies out to the far reaches of the universe until becoming exhausted of energy and bringing the universe to an eventual end. The notion of the Newtonian order also extended to our society, which is supposed to operate on reason, clockwork precision timetables, precise economic and management formulas, where everything is measured and quantified. Students pass or fail at school based on a score, driving licenses are maintained upon scores, and in psychology, even our intelligence is given a numeric score. Our world resembles the left hemisphere of the brain where we are focused upon control, clarity, familiarity, certainty, and the explicit, rather than the right side of the brain which comprehends a world that is continuously changing, evolving, incarnated, implicit, and interconnected environment of emergence.11 Consequently our organizations and institutions resemble the rational being hierarchical, rule and regulation based with information flowing up and commands flowing down. Everything is reduced to the simplistic because of our cognitive limitations for the complex. Our science is divided, countries are divided, society is divided, and our routines are divided. The trade union system is based on division, armies, and the public service are divided through ranking systems, and even political philosophies like Marxism, apartheid in South Africa and the New Economic Plan (NEP) in Malaysia are based on division.
3. We are path driven down ‘the yellow brick road’12
Our society’s evolution over the last century has been along a linear path within a single paradigm. We are a hydrocarbon based society, dependent upon non-renewable resources – the J.D. Rockefeller legacy. Our manufacturing, agriculture, transport, utilities, and service industries are almost completely dependent upon hydrocarbon fuel. All subsequent technology emerging since the Rockefeller days is hydrocarbon orientated; the automobile, the airplane, power production, and other public utilities. Technology has failed (or as yet been unconvincing) to date in providing new trajectories for society to escape the hydrocarbon paradigm, preventing humanity from adapting to the changing conditions of our eco-system and resource depletion; Conditions we have changed due to our habitual activities. Technology is not emancipating us but imprisoning us within the hydrocarbon paradigm.
Oil is the metaphoric lifeblood of the Homosapienphere. Even the advent and adoption of an electric automobile will not change our dependence on hydrocarbons. Carbon based fuels are still required to generate the bulk of electricity, so rather than changing the resources we utilize the electric car will only achieve a redistribution of resources under the current status quo. Without a change in the way we generate electricity our dependence on hydrocarbon fuels will still remain.
Our choices are restricted by what has been invented beforehand and what society will consider as acceptable. In addition, our reductionist disciplines has tended to keep technical evolution at an incremental rather than breakthrough pace. Our society is still living on technology invented almost 50 years ago. Except for new materials, electronics, and ascetics, the automobile still remains much the same as it did decades ago. The Boeing 747 after almost 40 years of service is still the major means of international air transportation, and our stoves, heaters, coolers, and other household items remain much the same today as they were decades ago. Most new technologies come from outside these respective industries. It is only where domains have become trans-disciplinary like communications, electronics and biotechnology that breakthroughs occur. Our range of choice for advancement hasn’t been as wide as we think.
Isolationist approaches to sustainability aren’t advancing our position. They are just placating our own ego, and deluding us into believing that we are doing something positive. Sustainability involves a complex eco-system which can really only be approached in a holistic manner. Manipulation of single variables within the eco-system can lead to the most disastrous of results. For example the introduction of rabbits into Australia from England in the 18th Century has caused mammoth destruction to the eco-system, species ecology, and crops within the farmscape.13 Eco-systems do not behave in linear entropy, they are complex systems where any one of thousands of factors can cause disequilibrium and move the system away from homeostasis. Therefore sustainability must be looked at as a whole and not through the parts if disaster is to be avoided.
Many activities humans undertake will never be sustainable in isolation. The eco-system we work within is part of a larger system, which is part of a larger system. Humankind’s aggregate influence upon the Earth must be sustainable to ensure survival in the long term. This is a complex proposition that is extremely difficult to comprehend, yet be acted upon. However this is the way sustainability must be defined and understood.
4. Towards a paradigm of sustainability – “Darwin’s reefs”
Charles Darwin’s first monograph ‘The structure and distribution of coral reefs’ meticulously explained a theory of reef development that he postulated while on a voyage of the ‘HMS Beagle’ during 1832-36. Darwin saw reefs evolving from fringe reefs that existed just under sea level along coast lines, which grew out to become large barrier reefs which encircled islands, turning into atolls when the island in the middle sank below sea level.14,15 Darwin disagreed with accepted theory postulated by his much senior mentor Charles Lyell that reefs formed out of the craters of extinct and sunken volcanoes.16,17
The whole process of reef formation is the product of minutely sized polyps that thrive on the clean seas and red algae of the tropical waters. Polyps would grow where waves frequently break and water levels were reasonable steady around the sides of islands as fringe reefs, and would eventually grow outwards to form barrier reefs. When any coral rises above sea level the polyps die off and the coral turns into limestone. More coral grows off the limestone until a lagoon is formed around the island.18
In essence Darwin saw coral reefs as a perfect example of evolution. Darwin wrote in his diary that the massive coral structures had been the work of millions of tiny polyps that have been able to thrive at the tops of undersea mountains and peaks in perfect conditions.19 These simple organisms operated independently without any central direction or control.20 The formation of coral reefs relied upon the clustering of polyps where life and activity, enabled more life and activity. Although there were coral eating fish and invertebrates like the Holothuroidea species (sea cucumber) controlling growth of the reefs and competition for dominance by the various coral species themselves, the reefs made up of minutely sized individual organisms were able to form massive bulwarks against the seas.21 The coral eaters were the reason that finely ground mud can be found around reefs.
Darwin described a co-dependent system of arising, where tiny organisms could without any central control build enormous structures that went for miles. Darwin’s coral reef theory along with his last piece of work on earthworms showed how evolution is a slow process. However it can also be seen that extremely small organisms could have such a dramatic effect on the eco-system, literally changing the face of the Earth. Evolution according to Darwin is not a planned process and outcomes are based on complex interactions between all the elements within an ecosystem.22 There is no predetermined phenomenon, and the elements yet appear to be integrated within some form of self organizing system. Darwin’s later work The Origin of Species showed that these processes exist throughout the whole history of life on Earth.
We have failed until very recently to recognize the great contribution Darwin had made in seeing the eco-system as a self regulatory system. It is the eco-system itself that regulates climate in the region, and to some degree across the whole Earth as well.23 The Earth is an evolving system, made up of smaller systems, which are made up of smaller systems. All elements, the oceans, atmosphere, land masses, the constituents upon land masses, and life itself are all coupled together within an emergent domain and cannot be made divisible. The Earth is a product of the reciprocal evolution of the Earth itself and organisms upon it. Climate, physical states, and chemical compositions are the result of emergence, with no foresight, planning or divine or esoteric connections.24,25 Thus sustainability cannot be seen from any single perspective, it must be seen as a whole.
5. The myth of our own wisdom
During every age humanity has lived with the belief in their wisdom and knowledge. Science has been explained through metaphor, and as metaphors have changed so has our knowledge. Knowledge makes up part of our consciousness through the archetypes humankind has used to make sense of the world. Entities in the sky and the Earth were once seen as gods, where natural disasters reflected their displeasure. Ptolemy viewed the world as the centre of the universe. Centuries later Copernicus postulated that the Earth and other planets of the solar system revolved around the Sun, a view that the Church persecuted him for because at the time it was believed to contravene the Bible. Galileo26 and Newton brought order to the universe and defined our existence as a world of clockwork precision, bringing the certainty that humanity was looking for.
Nations had been conquered for their different beliefs as humankind has progressed through various archetypes of knowledge and meaning. Through each of these ages humankind has impressed itself with its own wisdom, often blinding itself to deeper understandings.
We are now in a transition from a world of mathematics, arcs, degrees, and logic towards a new archetype of wisdom – the quantum paradigm. Scientists and thinkers like Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac, John von Neumann, Abdus Salam, Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, among many others have been the vanguard contributing towards a theory of everything (TOE) that will explain all physical phenomena from the smallest particle to the cosmos itself. This is changing our whole perception of knowledge into something almost completely paradoxical to the ‘laws of order’ that we have known as the bedrock of our truth. We do not live in the only solar system in the cosmos. Our Sun is only a tiny star, and we exist along one of the dead-end arms of the Milky Way Galaxy with no special significance at all. The Milky Way Galaxy is only one of many billions of other galaxies in existence. As a galaxy it is not significant, even in our own cluster of galaxies in the intergalactic neighborhood we reside. Our wisdom over the last century has had a wake-up call; just about everything we knew about our own existence has been challenged.
Sustainability is the heart of the ‘law of nature’. Thus to understand sustainability, one by definition must understand the ‘law of nature’. This is a problem because what constitutes the law of nature as we have seen has been in dispute by philosophers and scientists for centuries. One of the great problems is that we are part of the system (something that is just dawning upon us), which does not allow us to acquire any objective view. Our view of the world isn’t much different from a fish in a round fishbowl looking out and seeing a distorted world around the fishbowl. Of course the fish can make up descriptive theories that explain people, objects, and events outside, just as humankind has tried to do over the centuries with the world surrounding us. Our theories therefore can only be what we believe at the time on the observations and information we have. The simple fact is that any ‘law of nature’ can only be a product of what we see and our imagination.27 Consequently the concept of sustainability itself can only be a social construction. We can have no independent view of reality and any view will be value laden. Any definition of sustainability will therefore be based upon our values.
The next question is whether there is actually any independent set of rules to find that can constitute the ‘law of nature’? We can only look at the physical properties of what is around us and observe the interactions to see if any patterns exist. This has to be unbiased but we can’t be unbiased as we can only see through the vantage point of humanity. The ultimate empathy is therefore our empathy for nature, the ability to see the world from the point of view of the ‘law of nature’ itself. This is one of the greatest scientific and spiritual challenges facing humankind today.
We therefore need to seek a description of nature from within nature itself that creates a vision of reality beyond what we currently understand while anchored to the archetype of humanity. The Earth and Cosmos has seen humanity arise and will no doubt see humanity demise.
This provides a number of practical problems. First, we cannot observe everything in nature; in many cases we can only observe the effects. We cannot see gravity but we can feel the effects. We cannot see wind but we can feel the effects. We cannot see radiation but know there will be effects, which may not be uniform. We cannot see many forms of money (M12, etc) which are virtual but have effects. Many things don’t visually exist, only the effects.
Secondly, time is important in the issue of sustainability, but time is a human invention. What is the time frame that makes things sustainable is a question no one has answered. In the long run nothing is sustainable because nothing is static. The dinosaurs existed and became extinct, the Earth exists and will become extinct, and the Sun exists and will become extinct. Sustainability depends upon our view of time.
Another difficulty is measurement. Models need parameters that can be measured. However the parameters of the environment cannot all be measured. In fact we don’t really know all the parameters that need measuring and even if we could measure them, what could we do with the data? The sheer number of elements within the environment make quantitative measurement an impossible task. Any quantitative model of the environment would be horrendously complex to manage. Understanding what are the causes and what are the effects would be extremely difficult.
Any model of the ‘law of nature’ should be conceptual and as simplistic as possible to reflect that there is no mathematical precision within the environment, just motion and trajectories. The only model that humanity can cognitively cope with is a heuristic.
6. You never know what you may find under a rock at the beach – “heuristics exist in some of the most unexpected places”
Such a heuristic does exist and it has been known to humankind for more than 2,500 years. The concept of dependent origination (paticcasamuppāda)28 was developed by the spiritual teacher Siddhārtha Gautama who became known as the Buddha upon enlightenment.29 The Buddha used the concept to explain a causal relationship between worldly experiences and suffering or dukkha of people through everyday life phenomenon. The Buddha’s straight forward teaching was in stark contrast to the practices of society in India at the time where people worshipped ‘sacred’ objects, ‘supernatural’ beings, and performed rites and rituals based on superstitious beliefs. Buddha’s teachings did not contain the mystical or concern itself with metaphysical issues, although he stretched the meanings that people already knew to create new meanings.30 Others superimposed esoteric teachings after his death.31 However the presence of the esoteric is part of the poetry of teachings that assists in conveying meaning within the paradigm of human consciousness at the time.32
The Buddha’s revelations came at a time when his contemporaries were influenced by astronomy, where the universe was seen and explained as a linear and regular entity, with consciousness separated from the universe and the universe separated from consciousness.33 This mechanistic view of the world was expounded upon by Descartes, Newton, Weber and later Frederick Taylor in the management arena with influence lasting well into the 20th century. Since the end of the European renaissance the metaphor of science has been that of the machine with the universe being described as ‘grand clockwork’ where the planets spin around the sun in a predictable fashion, described by the precision of mathematics. Science reduced everything to the smallest part in the belief that if one understood the parts one would understand the whole system. Reductionism is the standard of science.34 This thinking still prevails through the means of how we live and organize ourselves, where organizational charts, job descriptions, policies, strategies, budgets, and operational plans are utilized as a means to control of the organization and environment like a machine. This has been adequate where a stable equilibrium exists, but this itself is only a myth. The predominating theories were observer based where predictable order, stability, separation from the individual, and grounded ‘fixedness’ are the major characteristics.
In contrast, dependent origination presented an alternative view to the world to what Descartes and company espoused. Dependent origination postulated a co-evolutionary interrelated world based on co-dependency, built upon dynamic cause and effect to create aggregate conditions, rather than the accepted ‘Newtonian order’ of existence.
Although the philosophy of dependent origination, which is considered ‘the heart’ of Buddhism,35 can be applied widely, the Buddha restricted his application of the principles to the development of human nature and explanation of suffering. On metaphysical and matters of the hereafter, he was silent, thus the concepts are very vague for application for other domains. Nevertheless, the concept of dependent origination can be closely aligned with many aspects of quantum mechanics,36 systems37 and chaos theory,38 Darwinian natural selection extrapolated to a cosmic scale,39 Dawkins views about evolutionary biology,40 the Gaia hypothesis,41 and cognitive science.42 The concept of dependent origination distinguishes Buddhism from religion43 as according to dependent origination a creator is not necessary in forming the cosmos which has been postulated to evolve through causal dependence in a similar view taken by Hawking and Mlodinow.44
The general principle of dependent origination concerns the fundamental structure of nature and how the elements within it interrelate. The doctrine of dependent origination looks upon the universe as a continuous succession of action, reaction, and effect within a state of dynamic flux and transformation. Max Brown postulated that the occurrence of entity “A” relies upon the occurrence of entity “B”, i.e., “B” is the cause of “A”. This implies antecedence where causes must precede or at least simultaneously exist for something else to exist. These phenomena must be spatially connected by a chain of immediate things in conduit.45 However this is abandoned by dependent origination where mutual arising with entities co-depending upon each other for existence. Dependent origination is not a sequential linear process; it is a cycle with no beginning and no end.
Charles Darwin in the last paragraph of The Origin of Species wrote;
“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”46
This gives us a perspective of his sense of wonderment about the complexity47 and interrelationships within the biological system of life and evolution that the concept of dependent origination postulates. Thus only through interrelatedness can we see meaning;
Paper without a tree
A tree without soil
Soil without water
Water without clouds
Clouds without an atmosphere
An atmosphere without oceans.
This according to Winnicott is also relevant to human relationships, the family and the outside world;48
A child and a parent
A parent and a partner
Partners and family
Family and friends
Friends and humanity
Humanity and nature.
Everything in the realms of nature and humanity are dependent upon each other for existence. Things only exist through relatedness.49 We can only exist through relatedness. Nothing can exist in isolation as it all depends upon numerous determinants which are all interrelated. If one doesn’t exist then the rest can’t exist. This continually changes, therefore entities change all the time.
This can be clearly demonstrated with a plant where the plant relies upon the soil as a medium, minerals and nutrients to grow, moisture as carrier for the nutrients and a building block for cellular structures and the sun to enable photosynthesis for the building to occur. Without any of these, the plant cannot exist. The determinants that enable a plant to grow do not influence the plant in any sequential order of time. They must exist together, interdependent of each other. The plant contributes to maintaining the system through the shedding of leaves and other foliage, which decays, adding to the humus and trace minerals in the soil. In theory for anything to exist in isolation, it must be self-sustaining and stable. However within the laws of nature that is impossible, thus as a consequence everything is only transient with no intrinsic properties of its own. All entities are created and sustained through interrelationship. There is no beginning or end as the question of what came first cannot be answered: “the seed or the plant, or the chicken or the egg?”
There is no such thing as chance. Every event is a result of the consequences of previous events, cumulating as multiple influences upon what is. Therefore the notion of chance depends upon preconditions. As nothing exists in isolation, everything depends upon pre-determinants that are not sequential or required to arise in any particular order. This is in great contrast to the classical paradigm where the universe was deemed to be predictable like billiard balls rolling upon a table. Quantum behavior is also attuned to human behavior which is much less predictable and impossible to measure through mathematics; where only probability can be predicted through heuristics. This is partly why artificial intelligence and robotics failed to live up to the expectation many had in the 1960s because mathematical algorithms could not replace heuristics.
Dependent origination as a universal heuristic may look something like figure 2. The lines represent and interplay of two causal factors, one linear and the other synchronic that contribute to a non-linear pattern. Lines (2) and (4) are linear and connect past events overtime to the present and ground the future. Lines (1) and (3) are synchronic and connect objects and events to the present moment. These two basic principles intersect representing that all events are influenced by the two sets of conditions. Structurally this divides a system into parts, connecting the past, present and future together. The past and present circumstances determine the present which creates consequences for the future. However don’t confuse time itself as a determinant, as time is itself a ‘manmade’ invention.51 Time itself does not directly influence events. What happens occurs within the framework of time.
Every event takes place in a context determined by the combined influence of past events and present circumstances. Every event has repercussions in the present with reverberations extending into the future. The strength of the influence will depend upon the intensity of the event. Sometimes events reverberate and amplify an effect and sometimes events may suppress an event.52 However this is not the result of a chain of causes leading to effects strung over time. Any event may be affected by a past event and present circumstances which may lead to unexpected feedback loops during the causal process.53 Due to this possibility of any event happening at any time, the causation or arising process is extremely fluid and complex.54 The Pali explains the phenomena using the metaphor of water rather than the wheel of samsara, thus metaphors such as ebb and flow are much more suitable than“sequencity.”55
If everything existed in linear relationships, everything would be totally predictable and deterministic and the future would be unable to change from the present and past. If everything was totally in synchronic relationships there would be no relationships from on period to another and all events would be totally random and completely unpredictable. Everything would just break down and change without reason and connection. The two modes work in concurrence where past events and present circumstances create a potential, but not completely determined path.
Critical to the continuality of the processes of dependent origination is feedback. Feedback is one of the energies (along with momentum) that enable the system to operate continuously as a self organizing system. To understand how particular feedback occurs is to understand the manifestations of dependent origination. It is this feedback which defines interdependency. However this understanding may be beyond our cognitive abilities and is thus one of the challenges for mankind to overcome in the future.56
Closed feedback loops are responsible for linearity of the system and open feedback loops are responsible for non-linearity of the system. Closed feedback loops influence quantitative rates within a system, such as a thermostat regulating temperature in a room. Open feedback systems are more dynamic and allow for changes in the state of a system, like the change in direction of wind within a weather system that brings a change in the state of weather.
Simple closed loop feedback systems can be responsible for counterintuitive behavior.57 For example, we usually over correct heater thermostat systems which lead to oscillations in room temperature until we find a stable range. This is very similar in a free market pricing mechanism in economics where an increase in price leads to the entry of new producers until supply outstrips demand and the price decreases to a level where producers leave the industry, leading to supply shortages and increases in prices once again, in a continuous cycle.
Open systems tend to operate with multi-loop non-linear feedback systems where many variables provide for unpredictable results. It is the interaction of counter-reactive feedback loops that provide the unpredictability and chaos within the system. Mathematical formulas are centered on linearity and cannot predict the outcome of a system that is both emergent and a self organizing system. As the number of feedback loops increase the complexity of the system increases exponentially.58
If one traces back the stream of events, no root causes can be found for anything. Events are an emergence, a natural evolution where there is a mutually arising.59 Open systems are just too complex to determine any single cause, and selecting single causes to explain phenomena would just delude reality. Consequently there is no beginning and end, just a continuous flow of events.
The doctrine of dependent origination applies to all things and subsequently all things are influenced by cause and effect, Kammaniyama the law of karma determines future behavior. All events and phenomena produce karma. Karma is the ‘potential’ generated by ‘cause and effect’ or the interrelationships between dynamic entities.60 Karma can have a positive or negative consequence upon the future. Karma being a ‘potential’61 is what keeps the universe transient across time dimensions. To some degree karma actually provides the substance to time, as without karma there would be no change in the universe and thus no time.62 Karma is regularly mistaken for something psychic that acts upon the soul, more attuned to the romantic narrative of a humanized religious version of Buddhism,63 or the mythology of reincarnation based on past deeds done upon the Earth. Other misinterpretations describe karma as a form of fate.
7. Anybody for tennis? – it’s as simple as a game
The way we think is counter to the way the world operates. Our thinking is linear and sequential where we prefer routine and predictable approaches that differ greatly from the complex self organizing systems that operate around us. We think in terms of cause and effect where phenomena is often much more complex than that. For example our body is a self organizing system where there is no centralized control of body temperature. Instead there is some form of ‘automatic consensus’ between our major organs about what the correct body temperature should be. If our body gets too hot or cold, we begin to sweat or shiver, burn fat to maintain temperature, and either reduce or increase blood flow to the skin. Our body temperature regulatory system operates in sheer brilliance and complexity where no reductionist mathematical formula can explain.
A game of tennis exhibits the dynamics of dependent origination. As the ball is hit from one side of the court to the other, we may know the general trajectories but not the precise path or reaction by the other player. Consequently there cannot be any mathematical precision in any prediction as the where the ball may land in future. Prediction can only occur through making heuristic based guesses, as there are too many variables to consider. The tennis game also shows human involvement in the environment. Our minds drive the movements of our eyes and coordinate our limbs so we can hit the ball with a racket in an unconscious manner. Without human involvement there can be no game, no action, and no reaction. The kinesthetic movements cannot be explained by mathematics. There is precision, but there is also random action without much, if any planning at all. All action is regulated through feedback – a cybernetic system.
The reality is that systems usually exist most of the time in disequilibrium. If we look at how the human body functions, it operates as a system in disequilibrium, always requiring regulation and adjustment, i.e., human glucose and temperature regulation. The earth is continually in disequilibrium just like living organisms are.
James Lovelock developed a computer simulation model which he called Daisyworld to demonstrate the above phenomenon. The principles of lovelock’s Daisyworld model are not un-similar to how the human body regulates temperature. Benzinger et. al. found that the human body decides upon body temperature levels through the brain making decisions based on data received through the nervous system from major organs, i.e., there is no central decision making mechanism.64 When the ambient body temperate is too hot or cold, the body responds by sweating, dilating blood vessels to regulate blood flow, shivering, and/or burning fat to produce heat.
Lovelock and Andrew Watson utilized the same approach to understand the dynamics of the earth.65 The computer simulation of Daisyworld represents an earth like planet revolving around a Sun like star to our own. The surface temperature on the planet is affected by the colour due to the albedo effect.66 In the case of Daisyworld is mid-toned with a moist fertile grey soil that is fertile allowing seeds to germinate above 5̊ c. Optimal growth occurs at 22̊ c but declines as it gets hotter. When the star has grown large enough to raise the surface temperature above 5̊ c, daisy seeds begin germinating and growing. In this initial cold stage, dark daisies are encouraged as they absorb heat and warm the surface, and light daisies discouraged as they reflect heat away and cool the surface. Therefore during this early stage dark daisies vastly outnumber the light daisies.
Over time the expanse of black daisies raises the surface temperature of the planet until it rises above the optimal growing temperature of 22̊ c. This encourages light daisies to grow and compete with the dark daises for space. Eventually the cooling effect of the light daisies will adversely affect surface temperatures until a steady ratio of dark to light daisies are established. The mean albedo ratio will be close to the level needed to maintain an optimal growing surface temperature for daisies. This ratio will vary seasonally as the planet is at the perigee of its orbit around the sun where light daisies will be encouraged and when the planet is at the apogee of its orbit around the sun where dark daisy growth will be encouraged.
The complexity of the model was increased with the introduction of herbivores (rabbits) and predators (foxes).67 This only added to an improved state of homeostasis. Plagues and disasters were introduced where up to 70% of the daisy population was destroyed bringing temperature changes as a consequence. However the system showed its robustness quickly returning to previous levels of affluence. Many other layers of complexity have been added to the model showing the system to be very adaptive.
The Daisyworld model shows that biological foresight is not necessary for regulation of the Earth, which can develop “without any guiding hand of a creator”. Daisyworld also shows the cyclic nature of evolution that brings emergence and transformation. The model also demonstrates co-evolution or co-arising rather than the concept of “survival of the fittest” paradigm. Daisyworld is a holistic model operating along a heuristic that reductionism could not have determined, giving new perspectives about the evolution of systems.
The Daisyworld hypothesis offers a new way to look at the Earth as a whole without divisions into single disciplines, enabling new insights into the behavior of the biosphere, atmosphere, and physical aspects of the planet. The model may be a better way of understanding global warming rather than considering the problem through narrow sets of variables like temperature and greenhouse gas relationships. The Daisyworld perspective takes into account a much larger set of variables like the atmosphere, oceans, forests, and human settlement, etc., although it may not be as predictive as single and double variable models.
Our current understanding of the environment is still in its infancy, where we are still trying to develop better understandings of phenomena occurring across the Earth. The Pine Island glacier in Antarctic has thinned over 3 metres per year and has been retreating more than 1 km per year from 1992 to 1996 and continues at that rate.68 Initially it was believed that the decline of the glacier was caused by instability caused by melting surface ice during the Antarctic summer leading to the formation of shallow pools of water on the surface. However it has been found that the glacier thinning is due to slightly warmer sea water due to changing currents in the region, itself driven by changes in climate could be the cause.69 This melting alone could subject to a 3cm rise in sea level. However the melting will expose the stationary ice behind it to melt potentially raising sea levels by another 25 cm which would cause havoc in many Pacific and Asian locations.70 Mathematical models have not been able to pick this up. Models have been focused on predicting the macro-flow of ice sheets but ignored the micro-structure of ice crystals which have a massive influence upon the macro-dynamics of ice flows,71 i.e., Darwin’s coral polyps.
8. Sustainability ‘as if people mattered’72
If dependent origination is a heuristic basis for the ‘law of nature’ and thus defines sustainability, it is just as relevant to humanity. Although the philosophy of dependent origination, which is considered ‘the heart’ of Buddhism,73 can be applied widely, the Buddha restricted his application of the principles to the development of human nature and explanation of suffering. In Buddhism dependent origination or paticcasamuppada is applied to the arising and cessation of human suffering.74 Paticcasamuppada explains how suffering arises and how suffering ceases as a matter of natural interdependence, i.e., everything arises, exists, and passes away in a transitory manner.75 According to the principle of dependent origination all human thoughts and feelings are grounded in ignorance which deludes one to a false sense of self which we call “I’ or “me”, when in fact there is really no self in existence, just the illusion of a self based on emotions. Only a deluded self can be part of the cause and effect that occurs within dependent origination as karma, where all intentions, thoughts, feelings, and actions have consequences. The teaching of paticcasamuppada attempts to clarify the events of nature as they actually occur in order to highlight the causes and correct them. Dependent origination occurs within the context of flowing through a number of states of ignorance and types of attachment.
The principle of dependent origination applies to all things: Dhammaniyama the natural law of cause and effect; Utuniyama the natural law pertaining to physical objects (physical laws); Bijaniyama the natural law pertaining to living things and heredity (biological laws); Cittaniyama the natural law governing the workings of the mind; and Kammaniyama the law of karma which is of particular importance in determining human wellbeing and is directly related to behavior from an ethical perspective. Metaphorically we all have the same mother and father, namely the interconnection of the aggregate which are made up of soil, water, energy, and wind. In this universe everything is a blood relative and we are all born from the same womb of mother Earth. If we look at the Gaia hypothesis and dependent origination,76 we see that ethics from the environmental point of view is about nothing more than survival. Ethics are about how to survive as a human species. The implied ethical argument from dependent origination: Dependent origination is NOT about causality, it is about interdependent relationships. Therefore our sense of ethics comes out of interdependent relationships – i.e., the need to co-exist.
Our ethics is thus conditional to our awareness. Without other entities and this ‘knowing’ we cannot exist as an identity. The need to co-exist and the need to survive are at the root of all choices. This is coupled with awareness where there are higher order ethics of compassion and humility, which are greater than the self. The meaning of life exists through our inter-connectiveness with those around us, our community and the world. All entities exist because of mutual independent relationships.
Dependent origination highlights the paradox between our free will and our social/cognitive conditioning. There is action, there is consequence. Ethics through a dependent origination framework can be seen more as a process rather than a code or set of rules to follow.
Due to our interconnection with everything and powerlessness to control (not destroy however) requires solutions that work in harmony with the environment. This applies to everything. Our appreciation of scientific knowledge to date has only been to serve our own interests – i.e., our relationship with the environment has been concerned with trying to derive as many resources as possible with little regard for the consequences. From the dependent origination viewpoint, worldly goodness is embedded in the ego and the teaching of morality requires the existence of a person. The existence of a person will have some motivations (ego) and cannot be purely altruistic, i.e., even religion treats blessing afterlife as a motivation. Therefore most people adhere to morality because of habit and lack of intention. Morality is situational upon ego and the assumption of continuing existence. A person can be ethical but at the same time not be free of suffering and delusion.77 Morality doesn’t necessarily eliminate greed, hatred and delusion.78
Morality is an outward expression and doesn’t necessary reflect inward on the true person, thus we have morality without spirituality, thus not developing the person. One must have a mind above good and bad, pleasure and pain, merit and demerit; in this way it is possible to eliminate dissatisfaction or suffering. Consequently dependent origination is in no way associated with morality which infers eternalism, which depends upon a theory of existence of the self.79
Humans cling to humanity itself and society’s beliefs as protection from fear and anxiety. This is where unethical practices develop from, i.e., desire and greed etc. Usually people cling to morality in order to have minds that are peaceful because of the goodness they do. This can last as long as causes and conditions of their goodness do not change – but where change underlying selflessness causes suffering because one clings to the action of goodness. Therefore knowledge of morality is not enough to serve as a refuge. Sensual attachment is a powerful force in the world and bonds families and even nations together.80 Views form through society and religion where we are become attached to rituals, rites and beliefs, etc.
Furthermore we are attached to the idea of self where we believe in a separate self. Attachment to opinions requires introspection to detect. For this reason necessary to continually amend our views making them more correct – changing false views into closer views to the truth. This differs from religion which teaches the dominance of man.81 From the perspective of dependent origination, doing good is not enough. We must be free of desire,82 free of our urge to dominate.
One of the greater causes of karma is the human race’s belief in itself which leads to various forms of action and consequences, environmentally, socially, politically, entrepreneurially. Ignorance is connected to so many actions. Many of the models we act upon are deluded in the assumptions they employ leading to consequences like the 2008 economic crisis, the Iraq and Vietnam wars, the First and Second World Wars, and degradation of the environment, etc. From the dependent origination perspective this is at the centre of the world’s problems. In fact looking from this perspective we see that little human behavior is based upon rational foundations. The power of primal instinctive belief in self is with us from birth and the basis of all our politics.83
Descartes and later Locke moved away from the centrality of God in making moral decisions to emphasize the freedom of the individual for managing their own decisions rather than looking for outside guidance. This reflected a person’s freedom from bonding to traditional beliefs and superstition.84 Most great thinkers have relied upon thinking and reasoning to conceive various principles for wellbeing and humanity. All these principles based on speculations which don’t help anybody gain insights. Morality became acceptable behavior according to generally accepted social standards during each time and place. As this is a cultural phenomenon acceptable behavior would cause no stress to others and self. People who seek pleasures and power are generally those that have no higher sense of values and can easily disregard community accepted standards.
Our religions may have let humanity down badly. There appears to be such a large gap between what various religious doctrines espouse and what is practiced upon the Earth. Religion has been ritualistic, dogmatic, righteous, and even militant but failed to inspire society to behave according to what is espoused. There is little evidence that society has heeded the message in the various forms and metaphors religion has delivered. As we are witnessing in places like Egypt, leaders and potential leaders seem to have little sense of purpose to inspire the people potentially leaving a vacuum for militant viewed leaders to take advantage of.85 Arising crises throughout the world are being approached with little sense of ethics and philosophy. Any sense of direction has gone, unlike past periods in history. Religion has a major role to play in upholding the ‘law of nature’ and humankind’s role within it.86
9. Pac Man may have eaten the Cosmic Unconsciousness87
If we accept the concepts of interconnections, interrelationships, and interdependencies, at the psychic level we have a collective unconscious. Jung went further and posed that there is a collective unconscious as a prehistoric collection of information, instincts, myths, stories, images, universal symbols that are universally understood across all cultures. The ‘collective unconscious’ embeds all our ancestral experience and concepts of religion and morality. This inherited content is passed from generation to generation and is part of a transcendental reality, linking mind to mind and mind to nature. All people are born with this reservoir of our experience as a species. Although we are not conscious of it, this collective past influences our present behavior. Some experiences that may come from the ‘collective unconscious’ include, love at first sight, déjà vu experiences, immediate recognition of some symbols, reactions to music (like the drum beat), and near death experiences.
To Jung this proved some connection with all nature through the ‘collective unconscious’. Jung likens the external world to one of illusion, something similar to the world of Maya in Hindu theology.88 Our egos (jivatman) are individual souls which are actually extensions of the one and only Atman, universal energy or God who allows an independent identity to manifest itself in part of himself. Through this we are all connected, independent, but interdependent. When we die we realize the illusion that we actually existed as we are part of God. These ideas were considered esoteric at the time but are becoming integrated into the concepts of quantum mechanics today,89 or are they?
Our connection to the collective unconscious, which Jung posed as a collection of information, including myths, stories, images, universal symbols that are understood across all cultures, And within this collective unconscious many philosophers postulate are universal principles that are common across cultures and consistent through time. Anthropologist Donald Brown postulates that all cultures and societies have common universals which include the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.90 Kinnier et. al. analyzed the tenants of moral codes across religions and came up with a common list,91 and Peterson et. al. identified six universal values common across all cultures, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.92 This could be more a metaphoric collective unconscious which is the sum of all our social learning and genetic inheritance within our prior knowledge.
If we are connected through the fairytales, folklore, stories about heroism and virtue within our culture,93 then this is not a static occurrence. The traditional fairy tales and stories that the baby-boomers and generation X were brought up upon have been interchanged with new narratives from the cloud based on the Pac Man culture. Although there are some early signs of ego-centric tendencies in the emerging culture, it’s still too early to tell how culture will evolve in the near future.
Ethics are bounded by society’s values, culture, history, at the society level, and personal values, experience and upbringing at the personal level. As we have seen with the banking crisis, externally imposed ethics through laws and regulations cannot foresee the ambiguity of interpretation. There are always ways and means to get around law and regulation and many industries are good at this. Ethics must be internalized within us like the Freudian metaphor of the superego, keeping the id and ego in check. This is why we pay our taxes, don’t speed and stop at red lights when there are no other cars or pedestrians around, and return lost property to owners without the need of a reward.
10. Knowing the consequences – “I think I better think it out again”94
Traditional societies have endured in all sorts of conditions and those that have followed ecological ethics have survived,95 while those that chose to ignore and flaunt these ethics disappeared, becoming extinct civilizations.96 Failed civilizations throughout human history have shown the consequences of what we collectively do eventually will come back and overwhelm society.97 Everything interrelates, where changes influence other parts of the eco-system in ways that are difficult to determine in advance. Deforestation in Africa has enabled malaria carrying mosquitoes to breed in open sun-drenched land, where some people survive because of the make-up of their blood.98 It’s human behavior which tips the eco-system into directions that carry grave consequences for society.
Everything that occurs has consequences. Most are unintended which may lead to unexpected benefits, drawbacks, or perverse consequences. Any action within a complex system is likely to create unintended consequences that bring undesirable outcomes. According to Robert K. Merton this occurs because of ignorance, error in analysis, considering short term over long term interests, possible actions are contrary to held values and believes, or there is a self defeating prophecy where pre-emptive action is taken to solve a problem before it occurs.99
Jared Diamond in his book Collapse looked at the consequences of conservation and the influx of retirees to Montana.100 Diamond described how the beautiful scenery of the Montana plains attracted retiree settlers who wanted to maintain the pristine scenery through conservation. This lead to less land being available for farming and drove up land prices and taxation, which made it very difficult for locals to make a living through farming. The demographic changes occurring through new retirees settling in Montana led to community conflicts. Overall increased conservation led to lower economic activity where locals struggled to survive, and eventually many locals had to emigrate from Montana to find new livelihoods elsewhere.
Much of what occurs in the world is the result of unintended consequences. For example, the no-man’s land along the border between East and West Germany during the cold war and the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas has produced a large natural habitat.101 Aspirin was found to have therapeutic benefits as an anticoagulant that can help prevent heart attacks and severity of strokes. The outlawing of narcotics has produced a massive multi-billion dollar industry outside of the economy which is difficult to control. The CIA assisted Mujahideen in Afghanistan contributed to the formation and rise of Al-Qaeda. The introduction of new species in eco-systems on many occasions has led to disastrous results, as discussed with the introduction of rabbits in Australia previously discussed, the banning of books, media and other articles usually promotes that article’s popularity.
Our whole economy is based on desire and greed. It is a means of satisfying our desires which are in many cases contrary to the spirit of sustainability. This translates into selfishness and greed where natural resources are harvested and used wastefully, often in the most uncreative ways. Likewise technology increases productivity and enables the production of surpluses which can benefit many. If this waste did not exist and our resources were distributed fairly, poverty would no longer exist today. The problems of the world can be fixed by a matter of redistribution. In addition, through proper practices more than double the population of today can be fed through agriculture. By definition there can be no sustainability without equity. Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction has provided much meaningless innovation solving problems consumers didn’t know they had.
The ego-centric focus on “I” and “me” prevents humanity even understanding what the true problems really are. Current liberal ethics that most societies are based upon have little room for personal enlightenment. Institutionalized religion sees personal enlightenment as an affront to traditional theology and is therefore not condoned. Our personal sense of sustainability is confused with the myths that religion has given us, deeming ourselves as the master of all species, where in fact we are just one of the species and caretaker of the earth for the next generation. Through our technical progress we feel that we can control nature, which we can’t, so when we realize that we are not immortal and don’t control nature, we either become spiritual beings, work hard to build a legacy to surpass our own death, or become psychotic trying to deny the truth.
Environmental destruction simply continues because it creates profits for those in control of the resources and the global markets that demand them. Powerful organizations both control and depend upon this. As we saw with the 2008 bail outs of US corporations, they are a protected species, not just embedded within the fabric of capitalism, but they are capitalism itself. We have also seen that central planning does no better of a job than the capitalist model,102 and the capitalist model itself is under threat.103
The capitalist system, although providing growth, has failed in providing wellbeing and equity in most national scenarios and on a global basis. Economies are facing grave macroeconomic imbalances that are reflected in high rates of unemployment, massive budgeting deficits, highly unstable currencies, balance of payments imbalances, and highly volatile resource, commodity, and equity markets. In addition most country’s resources have been exploited at rates that will see their depletion within a relatively short time span. A by-product of the current capitalist system is the increase of carbon and other ‘greenhouse’ gases released into the atmosphere and waterways to the extent never seen before in the history of world evolution. This has been accompanied by high rates of urbanization, the loss of traditional ways of life, the declining rate of biodiversity on the planet, stress, frustration, crime, mental illness and suicide. Absolute poverty in the underdeveloped world is still in mammoth numbers and relative poverty is on the rise in the developed world.
The prevailing nature of ego-centric organizations and the geo-political divide and their conquering mentality is driving this destruction even further. Our unsustainable practices are linked to the myths that humankind has created to cope with our mortality and powerlessness. We live with a “scorched Earth mentality”, with little concern for the coming generations after us. Current solutions on the table for solving climate, food, population, resource, and sustainability issues are like what Ulrich Beck called “a bicycle brake on an international jet.”104
The restriction of plastic shopping bags, reduction of air conditioning temperatures, and the use of biodiesel are measures that won’t make a significant difference. These measures look and sound good on the surface, and are measures governments and corporations are employing as a fallacy to save the world. For every plastic shopping bag saved, a tree is being illegally chopped down in a tropical rainforest somewhere without any hesitation at all. More ecological problems are caused by the primitive rather than industrialized practices.105
The current ecological crisis is primarily a crisis of our own ideas and approaches to the human-nature nexus. We have measured success and wealth by what we have, therefore a new definition of wealth and success is required. Our development must take account of both the present and the future to meet our entire needs and keep the environment in equilibrium. This means redefining the goals of humanity which would result in new cultural and social traditions that can form the foundations of a new society. This will involve replacing technological dominating, reductionist, mechanistic orientation with an anti-mechanistic orientation that promotes a new social order.106 Anything else would be superficial, appeasing, and stopgap.
Ethics and sustainability cannot be treated as being independent of everything else within our lives. These concerns must be integrated into the person before they can be integrated into the organization. To think otherwise would be a big mistake.
The world is always changing according to the doctrine of natural selection. Natural selection is the basis of competition through the Schumpeterian concept of creative destruction that has driven our evolution and development.107 According to the doctrine of natural selection the species struggle for survival culminates with only the fittest surviving. However we are finding out plants, animals, and even the biosphere works in cooperation rather than competition with other entities to survive. We still live in a state of blissful ignorance; the metaphor of “Adam and Eve taking the forbidden fruit of sustainability.”108 Our current practices as a species have evolved out of our lack of awareness and cultural ignorance of the consequences for survival. We still have not developed the correct practices required for survival in our global situation today. The shifting balance of power between humankind and the Earth is a question of great importance. Natural selection is about trial and error until a species determines the current practices that are necessary for survival.109 Our constructed human paradigms need to change.
11. Finding a useful paradigm is part of the meaning
The universe of our existence can be seen in layers from the cosmos to the self. Each domain has implications about sustainability, where sustainability should be simply seen as the perpetuation of the self organizing system involved. Such a simple definition implies that sustainability has little to do with a static environment. Sustainability is about emergence and evolution on a continual basis. Thus sustainability is more a process than a state, so sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean ‘in equilibrium’. The reality is that we are not sure what elements of any system are sustainable in isolation. There is great chance that individual actions may not necessarily be sustainable but the system as a whole is. For example commercial jet liners make a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and in isolation can be considered an activity that is not sustainable when using the atmosphere as a paradigm. However when aggregate emission is considered, humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions can be made sustainable. Other considerations can come from different paradigm considerations. Commercial airline traffic plays a role in the social eco-system and maybe desirable being worth the greenhouse emission factor it contributes. These types of value judgments bring great complexity in dividing up the responsibilities of different groups in society. The various systems that need to be considered in issues of sustainability are described below. Each system has completely different time frames, i.e., from billions of years in the cosmos and years and ‘here and now’ for the self. As such, looking at sustainability as a process, the element of time is not important.
12. The Cosmos
The universe can be defined as everything that exists and this is the ultimate environment that we and the Earth exist within. The universe consists of space-time, energy, and physical matter. Due to the vast expanse of the universe many parts of it will never interact with the Earth. To comprehend this expanse, the Earth exists along one arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, orbiting our Sun which is one of 100-200 billion stars in the galaxy. The Milky Way may be 100,000-120,000 light years across and 2.5 million light years away from our nearest neighboring galaxy Andromeda. The Milky Way and Andromeda are a binary system of spiral galaxies with a number of smaller galaxies in orbit. The Milky Way is one of about 50 galaxies in our local group which is part of the Virgo Supercluster. There are probably about 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, i.e., a sphere of about 46 billion light years around the Earth.110
Matter is clustered throughout the universe where atoms form stars, stars form galaxies, galaxies form clusters, and then clusters form super clusters. The universe appears to be a smooth space-time continuum. It behaves according to a set of physical laws where all matter is comprised of leptons and quarks. These interact through electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces, and gravity, according to the laws of general relativity, whereas the universe acts according to the laws of special relativity.111
What is important in our discussion about sustainability is where the universe interacts with the Earth. In the distant future the ultimate limit on life is what some scientists have called the ‘big crunch’. The ‘big crunch’ is when the universe is hypothesized to collapse back on its origin from the ‘big bang’ generating great heat that will eliminate conditions of life. In 5 billion years the Sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel and become a red giant many hundreds of times more luminous than the present, which would cause life on Earth to cease to exist. The orbit of the Earth is slowly being dragged towards the Sun where in a couple of billion years time, the intensity of the Sun will burn away the Earth’s atmosphere.
Many rouge asteroids exist in the universe. One asteroid known as 1950DA is given a very high probability of colliding with the Earth in the year 2880. Any impact could kill 100s of millions of people or even trigger a catastrophic chain of events that eliminate life on the planet. There are still a great number of unknown asteroids that could be heading straight for Earth. Probably more immediate is the potential for gamma ray bursts from space to bombard the Earth. This could occur from the explosion of a hypernova sending radiation across light-years of space which would be catastrophic for Earth.
13. The Solar System
Over the last 30 years our views have drastically changed from seeing the solar system as an empty and orderly system of planets orbiting the sun, to seeing the solar system as a dynamic environment.112 The solar system behaves very differently to the Newtonian order113 we once thought and is a much more chaotic, but at the same time is an interrelated and integrated environment. The actual physical properties and behavior of objects within the solar system are not so much determined by the intrinsic nature of the objects themselves, but more by their interrelationships and interconnections with other objects and dynamics within the solar system.
There are a number of hypotheses about the formation of the solar system. However observation of a number of young stars that had debris discs of dust surrounding them114 has led to the wide acceptance of the nebular theory, originally espoused by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1734 in explaining the formation of the solar system.115 This has since widened to apply to how the universe formed.116
According to estimates the solar system began forming approximately 4.6 billion years ago as a giant molecular cloud which spanned light-years across.117 The Sun formed as a result of gravity forcing gases and debris to clump together at the centre. Based on observation of protostellar nebula in other parts of the universe, the Sun formed inside a giant molecular cloud which collapsed. This formed a small dense core gradually growing from accumulating hydrogen which eventually turns into the sun.118 The high inner temperatures drive out all volatile materials like water and some rocks, leaving behind only the elements like iron. This was surrounded by a hot gaseous nebula that undergoes a compression due to gravity into an equatorial disk full of debris which slowly rotates around the Sun.119 At this stage the force of gravitational collapse creates energy. Once the Sun becomes sufficiently large enough, hydrogen fusion begins. Through further collapses the clouds form rings and combine into small planetesimals of dust and ice that eventually to form the surrounding planetary system.120 Some of the mergers of these planetesimals are extremely violent forming terrestrial planets close to the sun while in the other part of the solar system gases and ices combine to form the large gas planets.121
Rocky planets tend to be formed in the inner part of the gaseous disk due to gravity pulling the denser materials inwards at a faster rate than the gases. Small planetesimals quickly gather mass by collecting other rocky material on their orbit around the Sun.122 These growing bodies tend to dominate the inner planetary system, absorbing smaller planetesimals. Once the mass of these inner plantetesimals grows large enough to disturb the orbits of other plantetesimals, orbital eccentricities occur where conditions may become chaotic.123 At this stage collisions may occur where only a few planets may survive. Tens of planetesimals may form a single planet with an equal number being thrown out into the far parts of the planetary system.124 Many of the planetesimals from the asteroid belt may have brought water to the earth.125 Richard Hoover of NASA postulates that life also came to earth with a meteorite.126
Our observation of other solar system formations indicates that these gas planets are caused by viscous dissipation of turbulence127 and the collection and subsequent inflow of gas into the forming planet.128 Because these planetesimals are outside the planetary snow line and consist of ice, these bodies are able to trap gases and particles quicker and thus grow much larger than the inner planets.129 The outer planets like Neptune and Uranus may have been in the vicinity of Jupiter and Saturn during formation, and started forming too late to collect large quantities of gas. These planets somehow drifted outwards to their present orbits over time.130
The ultimate transformation of nebulae into planetary disks and later planets depends upon many different factors and mechanisms. If the gas giants form too early, they may prevent the inner planets forming by negating inner planet accretion.131 If they form late the inner planet dynamic will be more violent maybe resulting in fewer but larger inner planets, leaving a larger asteroid belt.132 If the large gas planets are close to the inner solar system, their force of gravity may eject planetesimals from the system completely.133 In the case of our solar system Jupiter had minimal influence upon the inner planets because of the distance from the inner solar system.134 In addition, if the star ejects materials through bipolar jets and powerful UV radiation ejects gas from the surrounding disks, and powerful radiation ejects dust from the disks, a planetary system may fail to form leaving just a remnant disk of dust and debris without any planets.135 After the formation of the planets many planetesimals remain in the form of asteroids spread throughout the planetary system. Comets are usually remnants of planetesimals from the far reaches of the solar system that track close to the Sun on their orbit through the planetary system.
The Earth’s distance from the Sun provides ideal conditions for life as we know it. A number of situations and forces assist in preventing dangerous threats to life on life. The size of the Earth is not too small as to have inadequate gravity to prevent the atmosphere escaping and not too large where the gravity would trap a large atmosphere composed of poisonous gases to life.136 The atmosphere itself acts as protection against most meteorites that burn up due to friction when entering the atmosphere. The Earth’s magnetic field generated by the movement of molten iron inside the Earth’s core protects the Earth from solar flare and cosmic radiation.137 The ozone layer at the edge of the atmosphere protects us from UV radiation. The outer planets, particularly Jupiter acts as a trap to capture comets traveling from the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system inwards towards the Sun, just as Jupiter did in 1994 when it captured Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet.138 The heliosheath is a bubble of charged particles where the Sun’s solar wind that meets the solar wind from interstellar space that forms a bubble of charged particles at the edge of our solar system. This forms a shield which prevents cosmic rays from outer space entering our solar system.
The formation of the solar system is similar to the process of cosmic natural selection like Darwin’s reefs.139 The solar system developed through arising and cause and effect, resulting in an ‘existence’ built upon karma (action and reaction). As such the solar system is a self organizing system in continual non-equilibrium. This maintains a state of change and transformation within the guidance of a heuristic rather than any predictable mathematical formula.
14. The Earth
The Earth is the system that relates the cosmos and solar system to the other systems. What happens in the cosmos and solar system affects the Earth which in turn affects other systems. How the Earth operates as a self organizing system was described through analogy with James Lovelock’s Daisyworld example earlier in this paper. Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis is probably the most integrated way to describe the interdependencies of the Earth’s systems.
James Lovelock was a British inventor and scientist became interested in the atmospheric parameters on Mars when he worked with NASA on the Viking project in the 1960s. In finding that the Martian atmosphere was stable in chemical equilibrium with an abundance in carbon dioxide, where little oxygen, methane, or hydrogen existed, Lovelock hypothesized that any life would have to make use of, and thus alter the atmosphere to exist. This was in great contrast to the Earth’s atmosphere which had abundant oxygen that could sustain life.140 This contrast led Lovelock to hypothesize the Gaia hypothesis that the Earth behaves as a single self regulating system made up of physical, chemical, biological, and human components.141
According to the Gaia hypothesis all physical surroundings, features of the Earth, pedosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere are totally interdependent and act as a single physiological system. Everything within the earth’s ecosystem is of equal value and is necessary for other features to operate as systems. Every phenomenon and process is reliant and in-turn relies upon other systems and phenomenon to react upon to exist. Conditions on Earth thus rely upon a physical and chemical homeostasis which is the result of interacting systems and the systems within the systems, within the systems. Consequently Gaia is an arising system that operates according to heuristics rather than linearity. Thus total predictability does not exist where phenomenon cannot be necessarily explained through mathematics.142 The Earth ‘acts’ without any purposeful design, but is at the same time an emergent entity. One of the most important aspects of the Gaia hypothesis is the cybernetic feedback loops that regulate the Earth.
The Gaia hypothesis offers a new way to look at the Earth as a whole without divisions into single disciplines, enabling new insights into the behavior of the biosphere, atmosphere, and physical aspects of the planet. The Gaia model may be a better way of understanding global warming rather than considering the problem through narrow sets of variables like temperature and greenhouse gas relationships. The Gaia perspective takes into account a much larger set of variables like the atmosphere, oceans, forests, and human settlement, etc., although it may not be as predictive as single and double variable models. Thus the heuristic of dependent origination seems to superficially fit the concept of Gaia.
15. The Social Systems
The economy, countries, national identities, legal systems and other man-made eco-systems provide the social environment that humankind exists within. All these social systems, some with physical elements, others virtual and abstract, are almost totally interrelated. The social systems are also totally integrated with the Earth on one side and define our culture, community and self on the other side. The social systems although humanly constructed are extremely complex and not well understood. It’s the aggregate products of our economic systems which extend from our desires that have so much influence upon the earth today which we are seeing through climate change and global warming, water management, topography change through deforestation and urbanization, etc. It is through our political systems that humankind both organizes and destroys itself through wars. A very simplified view of these integrated social systems is portrayed in figure 5.
Any in-depth discussion of each of the social environments is far beyond this paper other than listing them down and making a few comments about their potential influence.
The economic environment: is concerned with the basic ways countries organize themselves and interact commercially and financially with each other. Thus this environment includes the organization of production, trade, finance, and development. This environment varies from traditional economies, through to underdeveloped, developing, developed, and post industrial economies. The characteristics of each stage of development in regards to resource utilization are very different. By the rough rule of thumb traditional, underdeveloped, and developing economies exploit resources very heavily in the quest to develop internal infrastructure, industry and supply the heavy consuming economies with product, and the developed and post industrial economies are heavy consumers of resources through the medium of products.143
Important questions regarding the economic environment and sustainability until today remain unanswered by the world community. These issues primarily relate to the equity of resource exploitation. Many of the developed and post industrial economies have long cleared their hinterlands of forest and mined their primary resources. Yet there is a condemnation and stigma put on traditional and developing countries which are doing the same today. There is great concern in the world about individual acts in regards to sustainability at the expense of looking at sustainability from the aggregate point of view.
Traditional and developing countries see the need to exploit their resources to develop with little other alternatives from their respective points of view. In addition many resources are being unsustainably utilized in the third world within poor administration and enforcement regimes, where the methods on how to manage these resources correctly are still yet to be resolved.144
The economic environment is very closely connected with the market, political, legal, and cultural environments.
The market environment: The market environment is very closely connected with the economic environment and could be considered a sub-system. The market environment is heavily influenced by the economic environment and also influences the economic environment. The structure and behavioral patterns of the market environment are influenced by the stage of economic development of the country in question, arising consumer tastes and preferences, aspirations, global exposure and influence of international trends, trade barriers, incomes and income distribution, available choice, future expectations, savings, availability of credit, level of education, degree of urbanization, available technology, intellectual property sophistication, and government regulation.
The political environment: The political environment is a product of a nation’s history and culture. What has happened in the past has great influence over the present and future policy directions. The political environment therefore is reflective upon other man-made environments, but also shapes these respective environments. Government philosophy and policy shapes the way economies, markets, and physical environments are developed, managed, and planned for. Government policy is reflected in the laws of the land and eventually permeates into a nation’s culture.
Consequently the political environment is one of the most influential upon the sustainability debate. The political environment defines what sustainability means, the timeframe, and provides a framework in society upon which practices are based. The political environment gives meaning to any research results, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions made by the academic community. The political environment is the forum where national agenda is formed, developed, implemented, and measured.
No where can the effect of the political environment is more evident than on the island of Hispaniola which Haiti and the Dominican Republic share. If one flew across the common border a sharp contrast is very evident. On the East side, the Dominican Republic is a rich dark green forested landscape, while on the Western side Haiti appears as a brown landscape devoid of forests. This largely occurred due to the socio-political differences within the two countries.145 Haiti was vigorously farmed by the French with slaves who cut down forests for timber on their return trips to France. The country was largely stripped of timber by the mid 19th century. During the second half of the 20th century the Dominican Republic relied upon imported oil as a source of energy while Haiti’s population too poor to afford oil utilized charcoal produced from what was left of the forests. Over the last 50 years the leaders of the Dominican Republic have tended to make an effort to conserve the nation’s forests, while Haitian leaders have sought industrial development.
Other environments could include the logistical environment, the military environment, legal environment, and infrastructure, health, and education environments, etc. Also social aspects such as the poverty environment, happiness environment, and equity make up a richer picture of social sustainability. What constitutes sustainability from the social point of view will be made up of value judgments and artificial time measures. However the important aspect of sustainability is the ability of any self organizing system to maintain momentum and evolve, thus change is very much in the equation.
To understand the social environment, one can view the dynamics of the elements that constitute the structure and processes within it. Any environment has the following factors: A field; Objects within the field; Relationships between objects; Actors; Relationships between actors; Events; Relationships between events; Relationships between actors and events; Relationships between actors and objects; Relationships between actors, objects and the field; Relationships (or no relationships) between everything; The situation; Movements and stillness; Motives; Relationship between self and the actors, objects and the field; and Interpretations of the above.146
Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory is one way of making interpretations of the social environments. Pierre Bourdieu was an eminent French sociologist who was interested in the concepts of power relations within social life. Bourdieu borrowed concepts from philosophy, sociology and anthropology to develop a structured framework to understand the dynamics and interrelationships of power relations through a theory of habitus, agents, capital and fields. The theory created mechanisms which defined and enabled the potential scope of perception, thought and action in the field for an individual agent. Through Bourdieu’s theory we can understand that we are ourselves a conditioned product of the social environment as well as the social environment is a product of our collective actions.
The influence of the social environment imposes its presence upon us through the habitus. The habitus houses the conditioning of embodied dispositions associated with a particular class involving principals that generate and organize practices associated with their field.147 This means a person is a free agent but is also predisposed to function according to embodied conditionings within the habitus.
To understand clearly the role of the habitus we must understand the field that it operates within. The field is a sphere or plain of social life where each person or agent is operating within it according to a practical logic with the objective of achieving some end. The field can be a society, a village, a market, an industry, an organization or any other social structure. A person’s power to influence or dominate the field depends upon the amount and type of capital they possess in relation to other agents.
To Bourdieu the concept of capital was much wider than financial resources. Four types of capital exist;
- Economic capital – access to money, buildings, plant and equipment, etc,
- Cultural capital – knowledge which equips the social agent with empathy toward for, or appreciation for, or competence working within the cultural rules and norms within the field,
- Social capital – consisting of resources obtainable through connections and group networks, and
- Symbolic capital – which include socially derived symbols like university degrees, or acceptance by social institutions within the field.148
Capital is a major determinant of the capacity to exercise influence over the field and thus control our own future.149 Capital is the essence of exploiting any fields.
The field is the place where social life is played out. Bordieu used the game metaphor in agent-field interactions. The field as a social sphere has its own set of practical logic, producing a habitus embodied with the logic making it uniquely suited to operate within it. Due to social background and social grounding through families and education, a habitus will be more predisposed to operate in certain fields rather than others or the field will draw the person with the appropriate habitus to play the game in that field. This is an explanation of why it is difficult for people to move into businesses outside fields their habitus is not conditioned to. The modus operandi of the field is foreign and the agent does not have the necessary practical logic within their habitus, or the necessary capital to gain any influence within the field. There are embedded social barriers unseen to potential agents. This exists in the great divide of society within the countries of South-East Asia, Latin America, Africa, and to even some degree in the US. People lacking education, social disposition, social and symbolic capital are unable to play on the same fields as those who have the necessary capital to do so. This is the major barrier between the uneducated rural peasant class and the educated urban middle classes around the world today. Thus the habitus and field are closely related and encompass a structure where agents can play out their long historical struggles within social space consistent with their position.150
Given the relationship between the habitus and the field, it can be seen that the social structure (field) produces the mental structure (habitus), that produce social structure (field), that produce mental structure (habitus), that produce social structure (field). Everybody is unaware of this process as they are within it. Therefore the individual’s rationality is a social bounded phenomenon where our practical logic, disposition towards to perceptions, appreciation, view of the world, and action content is created through experience within a social structure.
The person is always trapped within the limits of the brain, which is limited by the system it owes its upbringing and training.151 The habitus both shapes our identity and provides schemas of perception, thought and action. These schemas operate below the level of consciousness and language beyond our introspective scrutiny or control of our will.152 The habitus interprets and categorizes information from experience in ways that protect itself153 by systematically selecting information that reinforces it, rejecting and discarding anything that may threaten its position. Thus the habitus acts as a filter which can lead to bias.
The habitus can generate new principals of strategy and practice that flow from experiences that produce it, taking into account of specific social content within the field the individual is playing in.154 When the habitus is in line with the field and vice versa, a coherent logic of practice develops. This logic is called doxa. Doxa is the basic belief and value system of the habitus where it accepts its social position and place in the world. Doxa operates at the pre-conscious level.
The habitus is not a individual but is a group mechanism, i.e., people don’t have a habitus they share one. Thus the habitus contains the practical knowledge and regulatory mechanism of interaction between themselves and the world. A person is part of a larger group where the single person represents diversity within the group homogeneity. Identity is thus socially authored. Society shapes the meaning for us, so a social agent not only understands him or herself but others in terms of their social roles and how to act within their social structures.155 Society also makes fields emerge which are governed by their own laws which agents understand.156 The habitus reflects social position with a certain social trajectory.157 Through Bordieu’s field theory, the social environment is linked to the next environment culture.
The social environments can be seen in terms of the above elements to better understand their dynamics and inertia. There is the potential to discover connections between the various field elements. Where one can see interrelationships and trends, where movements and potential consequences can be discovered and constructed. However when we are immersed within the system itself, it is hard to see the dynamism of the elements of the field and we act in a similar manner to others as we cannot see any change.158
16. A static culture is a sign of a disappearing society
Cultural is a key aspect of sustainability and without a nurturing culture, the pursuit of sustainability is impossible. Culture is too often assumed to be a static part of the equation but it evolves.
One of the best times to see changing cultural values is when an economy is developing. At this stage urban society begins to grow rapidly. This is triggered by the much higher wages offered for factory employment than can be obtained in agricultural activities. Initially this migration is selective with the younger educated seeking urban employment but as demand for workers grows and stories about higher wages filter back to the rural areas, larger numbers of people migrate to the cities. Urban populations become consumers and increase demand for all types of food, accommodation, consumer and durable goods. They also partake in savings either voluntary or through nationally induced savings schemes developed by government through an emerging banking system. The education system is enhanced from basic systems distilling discipline to those that place more emphasis on critical and creative thinking. Growing urban development attracts new entrepreneurs who values are shifting from traditional attitudes to those more in line with an urban environment of a newly developing country (see figure 6.). Those with natural abilities are quick to emerge and the socio-economic structure of society begins changing away from its feudal base. They pick up new skills and competencies from education and employment and learn as they go along in their new businesses.
A developing economy experiences rapidly changing demographics leaving a deeply divided agrarian society and newly educated urban society. This can still be seen today in most South-East Asian countries which have become part of the source of political problems in countries like Thailand.159 Developing society has some influence on agrarian society through urban residents remitting funds back to parents and families in their villages and returning to build new houses and buy consumer goods. This starts to break down traditional values and bring envy into village societies.
Although economic growth is destroying traditional culture and values, a whole range of new values begin to emerge with rural based urban centres developing. These new towns commercially serve their respective hinterlands with goods, basic education and health services provided by government. Newly developed infrastructure, roads, railways, communications, schools, and health centres help provide the ability of rural society to transform itself. This brings a whole new range of opportunities to those that can see the opportunity, have the resources, networks and skills to develop them. The economy is now developed into partitioned agricultural, manufacturing and service industries.
Understanding the meaning of cultural identity is very important. Cultural identity can provide the means by which a society pursues sustainability, or hinder this pursuit. Heritage needs respect but this must be balanced with the need to evolve. Societies like Zimbabwe, Chad, and Haiti have culturally changed very little, while American, Singaporean, and British cultures rapidly changed during the times of rapid economic growth. According to the doctrine of dependent origination nothing remains the same, thus culture must develop rather than remain static. An evolving culture is part of a society’s maturity and wisdom when it has a positive disposition towards sustainability, and a destructive disposition which will threaten survival when its static nature is clung to. History is full of societies that have failed to adapt to the new realities of the environment and ceased to exist. Environmental evolution requires cultural evolution.
Positive culture evolution requires an enrichment of the positive attributes of a culture that enable a society to adapt to changing needs, and a reduction of any negative attributes that harbor fears and uncertainties.160 This should change underlying assumptions and beliefs of a society where new stories, symbols and narratives emerge, encapsulating new values that serve in achieving the new needs within society. These new stories and narrative should replace general feelings of fear and anxiety with more positive emotions like confidence, courage, determination, energy, passion, and a sense of challenge.161 A different weight and balance of emotions will produce different behavior and performance. This process can be seen through the analogy of a person about to give a public speech. Generally speaking a person will give a much more convincing speech if he/she is confident, excited, and passionate, over someone feeling ‘awkward’, confused, scared, tense, and overwhelmed. In the transition from a traditional to a developing economy, assumptions and beliefs about fate and chance, the future, one’s locust of control, one’s creativity, orientation to action, and general skills should evolve. Table 1 shows some of the general attitudes that will change in the transition from a traditional to a developing economy.162
Table 1, Some of the changing attitudes emerging during the transition from a traditional to a developing economy.
Risk is to be avoided in undertaking any business activities. Only undertake what is proven to make a return. Follow ideas an ways that have been successful in the past.
Risk is something that must be encountered if one is to benefit from the new opportunities that are emerging. This means that one must adopt new ideas and passionately pursue them.
Need to Achieve
Any enterprising activity must be solely orientated towards earning an immediate financial return.
One must look over immediate returns and see the medium and long term.
Any activity must be within a proven model so not much creativity is needed. Creativity is associated with risk.
One must rely upon many ideas to survive in a developing economy which requires creativity. However this new sense of creativity has its bounds.
Any enterprising activity is operated through a disciplined routine in most cases.
New occupations and enterprises require flexibility and their life must adjust to the new realities, abandoning old cultural practices in some cases if it interferes with the pursuit of survival.
Enterprises don’t need to undergo much change, so stability is preferred.
Individuals must become suited and prepared for change.
Financial independence at a subsistence level is the objective.
We are already independent in the new economy and look for new opportunities to advance financially.
One seeks a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, or annual routine that is predictable.
One may have to regularly change routines to advance.
Resources are very tight to allow much initiative.
One must rely on initiative to keep going, and all potential initiatives are to be considered.
Control of Destiny
The future is controlled by events external to ourselves.
We can have a hand in determining our own future.
Committed to the existing means of livelihood.
I will be committed to things I see benefit from.
This process actually occurs without any intended social intervention and can be observed during the economic development of nations as economies progress to the next level.163 Many nations have run media contrived campaigns to change culture. Some of the more successful are the anti-smoking campaigns that many governments promote.164 Some countries like Singapore have successfully embarked upon “social engineering” to rapidly develop their societies in order to engage immediate challenges.165
17. Community Sustainability
A community is a complex ecological and social eco-system that reflects the physical features, topography, resources of the adjacent hinterland, history, culture, and domicile outlook166 of the region. The community exists and exhibits behavior based upon the interrelationships between the physical attributes of the physical environment, climate, weather, and man-made environments like government, market, politics, technology, legal and business environments.
A community is a dynamic system changing from various influences as we saw in Diamond’s Montana example. Of late, changes in climate and weather behavior are making drastic changes to activities that can be undertaken in specific regions. For example, there are many stories in the media about farming regions struggling with their traditional industries like the vineyards in Australia, South Africa and California, while at the same time, new regions are quickly developing new agricultural industries, like the wine industry in Nova Scotia, due to the decline in frosts.167 Wide evidence exists of loss of soil moisture due to dehydration, rising land salinity levels in many dry land regions, increasing carbolic acid in the rain changing pH levels in the soil, increased growth of algae, and the increasing incidence and threat of bush or wildfires around the world.
The community level is where both philosophy and practice are integrated in regards to what happens in processes and behavior. This can be illustrated with a farming enterprise example, where a farm is part of the community eco-system. Farming paradigms must attempt to shift from just treating the symptoms through alleviation and suppression to treating and curing the actual sources of problems in agriculture. Thus under a systems context168 the major tools of management may become;
1. Enhancing the re-cycle potential of biomasses to optimise nutrient availability and balance,
2. Securing favourable soil conditions for crop growth through managing organic materials and biotic activity,
3. Minimising losses due to solar radiation, air and water through microclimate management, water harvesting and soil management,
4. Developing genetic and species diversification, and
5. Enhancing beneficial biological interactions through maximising agro-biodiversity to promote beneficial ecological processes.169
These principles and strategies have to be tactically applied in different ways to various farming models, differentiated due to climate, geographic, social and organisational diversity. The basic farming eco-system is shown in figure 7.170
Finally, we are not sure what farming practices are actually sustainable. According to a number of studies, it is questionable whether biodiversity on an organic farm is necessarily richer than a conventional farm.171 If so, it would be difficult to argue that organic farms enhance biodiversity any more than well managed conventional farms.172 Other studies have shown that energy use on organic farms is similar to conventional farms173 and organic farms also release as much greenhouse gasses as conventional farms.174 According to other studies, organic farm costs above conventional costs because of non-chemical weeding costs.175 Certified organic farm chemicals are not necessarily any more natural than conventional farm chemicals, as soaps are neutralized with alkaline salts which are not natural. They are not safer as rotenone has been recently associated with Parkinson’s disease and Bt pesticides with respiratory effects.176 Finally, current certification procedures do not take into account outside energy usage. Thus is a paradox at the community level, what practices are actually really sustainable?
18. The Self
Without personal sustainability, there can be no other sustainability. It can be argued that personal sustainability is many things and depending upon what paradigm one is coming from, any concept of personal sustainability is as valid as any other. However to support the author’s argument, personal sustainability is about developing personal awareness, wisdom and personal mastery so that sustainability can be seen in new frames. After the sweeping wideness of this paper this may appear a narrow perspective, but this can be built upon by others.
Self identity hinges on awareness. Our level of awareness is related to various groups of emotions that may influence our perception and thought processes, and thus organization of information.177 Emotions play a major part in developing our self concept “I” and “me” with different sets of emotions are related to different levels of awareness.
At our primal level we are concerned about our basic physiological needs. Our awareness is physical and immediate, concerned about now. Associated with our primal self are the basic emotions concerned about survival, physical fulfillment and enjoyment. The material level is concerned with pleasure, comfort, and the avoidance of pain. The boundaries of a person are metaphorically extended by the things we own. The social self is very much based in feelings of one’s position in relation to others. Empathy exists at this level and our emotions are concerned with belongingness. The ego self is the most common domain where we are concerned about ‘how we see ourselves’ and ‘how others see us’. The ego self is about glorifying ourselves. This level of awareness leads to very sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with realities that don’t fit in with our world view. The spiritual self enables us to attach different sets of values to “I’ and “me”, where people begin to feel integrated with the world around them. At this level self esteem comes from doing what a person feels is right, and where a person may be willing to sacrifice their interests for the interests of something greater than themselves. At this higher level people can transcend their basic emotions of excitement, fear, anger, and anxiety, and will be aware of their defense mechanisms that operate at the ego level.
One is immersed within their own sea of emotional orientation with each level of awareness differently influencing perception and thought. Within the lower continuums people’s streams of thought tend to be negatively based where fear manifests itself in worry, anger, judgment, and general anxiety, leading to generally pessimistic narrative. At the spiritual level there is little negative narrative on the part of the person.178
Geshe Tashi Tsering postulated that every feeling whether good or bad, powerful or light should be paid attention to through mindfulness179 that can be used as a force to protect the psych.180 This has two important implications. The first is to be aware of our own biases and distortive tendencies in our perception of objects. The second implication is that we protect ourselves from harmful influences and ‘emotionally’ learn.
Emotions dominate our deep intrinsic abilities like attention, alertness, interpersonal abilities, creativity, propensity for action, and strategic outlook, etc., shape our view of the world, and influences our intentions, and actions. This approach in explaining behavior is probably better than previous schools of entrepreneurial thought.181,182 For example, people through history like Gandhi, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler were dominated by their emotions of concern, compassion, destiny, legacy, ruthlessness, revenge, Machiavellianism, hate, fear, and insecurity respectively. Emotions greatly influence peoples’ sense of self efficacy which infers that thinking is heavily influenced by life experience, time and place, and the levels of awareness they are attuned to.
Awareness can be selective and may give a person some heightened sensitivity to some aspect of their life. There may be more awareness in some areas than others, such as increased sensitivity to color, pictures, sounds, music, values and ethics, human behavior, empathy, spiritual and spatial dimensions, etc.183 People’s sensitivity also ebbs and wanes during the day, month and different times in a person’s life.184 At mean levels of awareness, a person will tend to perceive more in their area of sensitivity endowment and experience subtle satisfactions or disappointments concerning certain pieces of art, music, performance, etc. Pleasant appreciations can lead to increased vigor and energy in a person’s area of sensitivity. This leads a person to better intuition in their particular areas of sensitivity. However, too much sensitivity on the other hand can lead a person to suffer pain, as nothing will satisfy their expectations. This can lead to deep emotions, i.e., feeling sorry for employees, pain for the poor, and in the extreme, feelings of depression and lethargic states, mooting them as ineffective people.
Awareness assists a person develop a deeper understanding within their domain of sensitivity than what the average individual would. Sensitivity primarily consists of empathy. Empathy is a capacity we have to connect to others and feel what they are feeling. Empathy helps a person know emotionally what others are experiencing from their frame and reference.185 Empathy allows our mind ‘to detach itself from one’s self’ and see the world from someone else’s feelings, emotions, pain, and reasoning.186 Empathy can assist us in seeing other realities, alternative meanings of situations, which may consist of many layers. Empathy shows us that there are no absolutes, just alternative meanings to situations.187 Empathy links us to the larger community and thus important to human survival in enabling us to understand what is required to socially coexist with others. Empathy shows that realities sometimes conflict. Seeing conflicting realities is a sign that we are starting to know.
Howard Gardner postulates that the concept of empathy should also include our empathy with nature and our place within it.188 High ego-centricity leads to reduced empathy and the inability to see other viewpoints.
Consequently a sensitive person becomes aware and concerned about what is wrong within their area of sensitivity. To develop our personal wisdom, one must develop what Peter Senge calls ‘personal mastery’. Personal mastery is concerned with personal growth and development so that real learning can take place. Personal mastery involves using our skills and competencies at the highest possible level where we achieve creative fulfillment and spiritual growth.189 Personal mastery enables a person to see things more objectively without biases and other cognitive blocks. An individual with personal mastery has vision and the desire to be creative. He or she remains curious and inquisitive about why things occur the way they occur.
People with personal mastery are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and their ability to achieve. They are on a continual quest to learn and improve. Personal mastery also brings true courage and commitment to pursue the personal objectives a person may have.
To develop personal mastery, one must work on a series of ‘principles and practices’ According to Senge, these principles and practices include:
- One must develop a sense of vision, ‘a big picture’ of what they want out of life. This goes much further than goals and objectives that don’t carry the same deep meanings about life that a vision contains. Visions are intrinsic that gives one a sense of purpose, motivating action and persistence.
- One must create tension inside to generate energy to pursue the vision from where they are today.
- We must overcome our own deep feelings of powerlessness and recognize our own coping and defense mechanisms.
- We must see our true selves and our respective dysfunctional behaviors, and
- To master a large repertoire of skills so that they can be carried out almost sub-consciously, i.e., the task is integrated with the self.190
People with personal mastery are able to integrate intuition and reason which is where personal competencies can be utilized very effectively. Competencies are thus multidimensional constructs.191 They are deeply rooted in a person’s background, being acquired through education, training, and experience.192
To truly achieve this requires awareness. Seeing through our dysfunctional behaviors needs awareness. Vision needs awareness, living in the now and a balanced locus of control. This is vital in tapping our psychic and physical energies.
We must also forget about our past stories of successes and failure so we can look at any opportunities in unique ways, rather than the ways of the past that emotionalize what we see. We must also eliminate the hopes and excitement we might have for the future so that we can evaluate the issues without allowing expectation to influence us. Through mastery we don’t mean perfection, as perfection itself is just another form of emotional defense. Perfection may stop learning, which is vital to any opportunity, strategy, and organization. The goal should be balance between all the competencies we have, rather than perfection in any one area. It’s the journey we must value, not the end. Reaching the end is just another delusion which puts finality to something, where it may just be the beginning. Systems never have beginnings and ends. Believing one has reached the end will stifle initiative, creativity, and ingenuity in favor of complacency. Intellect triggers rational consideration and adversarial debate about issues which brings up our defenses preventing feeling and intuition. Mastery is not based on intelligence and knowledge. It’s about experience and the feelings one derives. It’s possible to read everything and gain instruction about how to drive a car. But until one has actually sat in the car and tried to drive it, one will never experience the feeling of what it is like to drive a car. Without experience intelligence and knowledge has little use. Awareness is the key to feeling. If we are not aware, we can never experience. Intelligence and knowledge without awareness is just like a book on a shelf. Without the knowledge from the book being used and felt, it is primarily useless. Mastery is not about success, it is also about failure and learning. True mastery is about persistence and perseverance.
Once our awareness develops, we will start to see the multiple perspectives the environment offers. Everything has multiple perspectives. However these multiple perspectives can bring contradictions and confusion. Our intelligence and knowledge cannot easily make sense or meaning out of it. Only our feelings from experience and intuitive skills develop a perspective from which we can make meaning. We have to learn that life is not based on fact, but perspective. The major decisions made in business and war, have been made from perspective, rather than the facts. Perspective defines our reality and how we respond accordingly, which is counterintuitive to how we have been made to believe we should think. We need awareness to have true wisdom.
The simple act of listening shows how we sometimes wander through life with a low level of awareness. How many times when someone is speaking to you, are you preoccupied with other things? How often do we daydream when others are speaking? How often do you believe that what you think is right and what the other has to say is not worth listening to? How often are you just waiting for an opportunity to espouse what you think? How often are you just thinking of rebuttals, arguments against what a person is saying rather than actually listening to the content of what they are actually saying? How often are you making judgments about the person speaking or what they are saying? How often are you looking for an opportunity to disagree, agree, or run away? How often are you evaluating and comparing what a person is saying against what you believe? How often do you fail to seek clarification about something you don’t understand? Do you try and control the interaction by trying to dominate the conversation? Our listening habits usually show that our level of personal awareness is low and we are influenced by so much of our own emotion just in the act of listening to someone. This is at the cost of seeing new perspectives and exercising our ability to empathize with others.
The ability to listen effectively is a powerful tool in developing awareness, empathy, humility, and consequently understand new perspectives. Listening is much more than hearing, it involves being attentive to what others say, observing emotion, behavior and body language, facial expressions, and fighting off our own internal distractions that lessen of ability to listen.
Listening requires much more discipline, attention, and concentration than we expect. Think about it, how much self discipline do we need to really effectively listen to someone? Once we have achieved the discipline, attention, and concentration really needed to listen, we realize how powerful a tool listening is in understanding what a person has to say, and from where emotionally a person is saying it. Listening skills can be developed and refined through active and reflective listening techniques, where the listener repeats, paraphrases and reflects upon what the speaker is saying as a means of clarifying the message that the speaker is intending to convey to us.193
Mastery is a personal struggle. When we are aware that our thinking is slipping into the negative, focus on thinking uplifting thoughts, as the brain can only process one thought at a time. In this way, through disciplined practice, one can reduce the negativity within the mind, by changing the thinking flow, in a similar way one changes slides on a projector. Our identity begins to evolve, becoming sustainable and able to flow with the forces of change around us. We are aware of our own emotions and what delusions they try to develop in us. Once we can see through these delusions, our ego-centric tendencies begin giving way to a real sense of humility. Our innate sense of morality emerges. We see the crisis of meaning around us, the lack of morality, greed and selfishness, capitalism for what it really is, and the unsustainable ways of our society. We begin to question society’s dreams and replace them with our own, gaining our personal freedom from the repression of our society, our freedom to have and follow our own aspirations. This is where our personal transformation takes place and we reincarnate or regenerate into a new sense of self and orientation towards life.
It is only when we have this personal ability to change that we can work towards developing sustainability.
19. Conclusion – “the paradigm is in the paradox”
The environments that we exist within are dynamic and paradoxical. There is destruction and creation at the same time. These paradoxes must be generative rather than destructive for sustainability to exist. Systems evolve and emerge and that is the essence of sustainability. There is both destruction and creation with a self organizing system. As we can also see through figure 8, sustainability is timeframe based. As time itself is artificial, then the concept of sustainability as we have understood it to date is also artificial. However this does not in any way absolve humanity from the responsibility of understanding and finding solutions to the issues that both the Earth and humanity within it face. Sustainability is more a ‘spirit’ than any concept in absolute terms.
The ‘spirit’ of sustainability requires a new set of values that transgress existing cultures and religious boundaries. This is not about being naively idealistic, it’s about the survival of humanity. Although there are still disagreements, some scientists argue that we are approaching a period of unknown and unpredictable state in the evolution of the Earth.194 Is it naïve to want humanity to survive? It took the Second World War to create the United Nations. What will it take to create any unified approach to sustainability?
Dualism within society is going to destroy society when the ‘have nots’ rise to claim what they need from the ‘haves’. Poverty has created a divided world which cannot approach the problems facing humanity in this divided state. Many solutions to the world’s problems only require redistributive solutions, which may be cheaper than invading other countries. This requires a completely new way of thinking, but the results from ‘Rio” are pessimistic, to say the least.195
This leads onto the question about how we should organize ourselves. If we believe David Harvey that capitalism has failed us,196 and writers like Richard Heinberg that we have reached the end of the ability to grow the same way as we have been growing,197 then a new frame of growth needs to be developed. This means changing the whole basis of our economic system which is based upon the traditional concept of growth. Current EU bail out plans, US fiscal measures, the NATO adventure in Afghanistan, are band-aids applied to symptoms, and not the solutions required.
As Stephen Hawking postulates, the universe exists with multiple realities. The point of this is that the reality we exist within can be one of our own choosing. Our reality is hinged upon our own learning. Crucial to sustainability is the destiny we create for ourselves under the stewardship of humanity, based upon wisdom rather than ignorance. There may have been no ‘big bang’ just quantum events that changed the course of history. Humankind is capable of creating a quantum event.
Creating the process of sustainability required wisdom based upon our own environmental empathy that Howard Gardner talked about. This requires recognition of our true self, so that we can develop the awareness needed to transcend the emotions that tie us to our ‘tribal outlooks’. We also need to recognize that sustainability is a process, and about understanding the consequences to our actions. This is what is required to develop the true spirit of sustainability.
Notes and References
1. Title of a science fiction thriller directed by Chris Carter released in 2008 and adapted from the television series The X-Files. The term ‘I want to believe’ was a slogan on a poster Fox Mulder’s in office in the FBI basement during the TV series. Carter claims that ‘I want to believe’ was used in the title of the film because it symbolizes the difficulties of mediating faith and science. Germain, D. (2009), X-Files movie title is out there: ‘I want to believe’, FoxNews.com, http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Apr16/0,4670,FilmXFilesTitle,00.html
2. The ‘Doomsday Clock’ is a continual watch of world security undertaken by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. They use a symbolic clock face to indicate the present danger of human annihilation due to nuclear war. In 2007 the criteria was widened to add in the issue of climate change.
3. The Club of Rome was a group of eminent people who got together in 1968 to show concern about the future of humanity. The group published a manifesto called The Limits to Growth in 1972 which postulated that current levels of economic growth at the time could not continue unabated due to the limited natural resources available.
4. The Friends of the Earth over time has become more professional through the use of rational forms of argument based upon scientific research as a means of gaining credibility and respectability. See: Sutton, P., (1999), Genetics and the future of nature politics, Sociological Research Online, Vol. 4, No. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/3/sutton.html>
5. This is probably due to the baby-boomer demographic. The Friends of the Earth over time has become more professional through the use of rational forms of argument based upon scientific research as a means of gaining credibility and respectability.
6. See: McKibben, B., (2012), The Planet Wreckers, The Times of Earth (International Edition), 11th June, http://www.timesofearth.com/Fva/?NT=11&nid=53015, (accessed on 14th June 2012).
7. The word sustainability has many paradigm based definitions, i.e., human sustainability, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem sustainability, urban sustainability, strategy sustainability, economic sustainability, population sustainability, resource sustainability, energy sustainability, sustainable practices, etc. While each definition may be unique to a discipline there are some common elements like manageability, stewardship, security, resource and input re-generation, etc.
8. Morton, A. (2012), Carbon countdown: the big questions answered, The Age, June 24, http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/carbon-countdown-the-big-questions-answered-20120623-20vet.html
9. See: Esty, D.C., & Winston, A. S., (2006), Green to Gold, Hoboken, NJ., Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Senge, P., Smith, B. Kruschwitz, N., Laur, J., & Schley, S., (2008), The Necessary Revolution: How individuals and Organizations are working together to create a sustainable world, New York, Doubleday.
10. For example climate change when understood through the variables of temperature and levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, will provide a completely different conclusion when temperature is considered to be the result of the interaction of many variables within a complex system (the Earth).
11. McGilchrist, I., (2009), The Master and His Emissary: The divided brain and the making of the modern world, New Haven & London, Yale University Press.
12. The yellow brick road exists in L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but only got its name in the 1939 movie of the novel. In the story Dorothy travels along the yellow brick road to the Emerald city and meets spurious characters like the shaggy man and his man eating plants. To see the illusion Emerald City one must wear green colored glasses. The yellow brick road is symbolic of illusion and fallacy.
13. Diamond, J., (2005), Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive, London, Penguin, pp. 391-392.
14. Darwin, C.R., (1842), The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836, London, Smith Elder & Co., P. 147.
15. During Darwin’s trip on the HMS Beagle he witnessed a volcano erupting off the cost of South America and also experienced an earthquake leading him to speculate that land could uplift and subside through plate movement. This led him to explain the formation of atolls. Herbert, S., (1991), Charles Darwin as a prospective geological author, British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 24, pp. 159-192.
16. Herbert, S., (1991), “Charles Darwin as a prospective geological author”.
17. However it was reported that when Charles Darwin approached Lyell with his new theory, Lyell actually jumped up and down with joy. See: Chancellor, G. (2008), The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online: Introduction to Coral Reefs, accessed at http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Chancellor_CoralReefs.html
18. Darwin as a student at the University of Edinburgh had studied both marine invertebrates and geology.
19. Keynes, R.D., (2001), Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, P. 419.
20. Darwin, C.R., (1842), “The structure and distribution of coral reefs”, P. 94.
21. Darwin, C.R., (1842), “The structure and distribution of coral reefs”, pp. 14-15.
22. Darwin, C.R., (1842), “The structure and distribution of coral reefs”, P. 76.
23. Lovelock, J., (2005), Gaia: Medicine for an ailing planet, London, Gaia Books, P. 17.
24. Lovelock, J., (2005), ‘Gaia: Medicine for an ailing planet’, P. 12.
25. This may also be the case in human endeavors. Evidence shows that planning does little to bring success or extend the life of an organization. See: Hardford, T. (2011), Adapt: Why success always starts with failure, London, Little Brown, pp. 18-19.
26. Galileo was tried for heresy by the Church in 1633 and put under house arrest for the rest of his life.
27. Einstein theories were actually a product of his imagination and thinking.
28. Also termed as dependent arising, conditioned genesis, dependent co-arising, or interdependent arising.
29. The Buddha is a title for the first awakened.
30. Blomfield, V., (2011), Gautama Buddha: The life and teachings of the awakened one, London, Quercus, P. 4,
31. Batchelor, S., (1997), Buddhism without Beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening, New York, Riverhead Books, P. 5.
32. Sangharakshita, (2004), Living with awareness: A guide to the Satipatthana Suttra, Birmingham, Windhorse, P. 61.
33. DeGraff, G., Thanissaro Bhikkhu, (1996), The Wings of Awakening, Barre, MA, The Dhamma Dana Publication Fund, P. 21.
34. Wienburg, S., (1992), Dreams of a Final Theory, New York, Random House, P. 51.
35. Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, (1992), Paticcasamuppada: Practical Dependent Origination, Bangkok, Vuddhidhamma Fund, P. 4.
36. Capra, F., Steindt-Rast, D., & Makus, F., (1991), Belonging to the Universe: Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality, San Francisco, Harpers.
37. Chao, Y., S., & Midgley, G., (2007), Toward a Buddhist Systems methodology 1: Comparisons between Buddhism and systems theory, Systematic Practice and Action Research, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 167-194.
38. DeGraff, G., Thanissaro Bhikkhu, (1996), ‘The Wings of Awakening’, Preface viii.
39. Smolin, L., (2006), The Trouble with Physics: The rise of string theory, the fall of a science and what comes next, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company.
40. Dawkins, R., (1989), The Selfish Gene, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
41. Lovelock, J., (1979), GAIA: A new look at life on Earth, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
42. Hunter, M., (2012), Opportunity, Strategy, & Entrepreneurship: A Meta-Theory, Volume 1, New York, Nova, P. 255.
43. Buddhism is concerned more about the conduct of life. The Pali talks about vedic deity which implies the highest and noblest form of life. i.e., “Bramhmacariya” – the conduct of vedic behavior (This also shows the influence of Vedic Hinduism upon Buddhist philosophy).
44. Hawking, S., & Mlodinow, L., (2010), The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life, London, Bantam Press.
45. Brown, M., (1949), Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance, New York, Dover Publishers.
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47. Even the concept of complexity is relative to the number and nature of actions we are comparing our perceptions with.
48. Winnicott, D., W., (1967), The Child, the family and the Outside World, Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley.
49. Even the conditions around our body are experienced through relatedness. For example, if you have been working outside on a hot day and go inside to an air conditioned room, upon returning outside the heat will feel unbearable. Initially the feeling was neutral, but only when one experiences comfortable conditions will the hot conditions outside become a conscious burden. In Buddhism this is important to the concept of suffering or dukkha. Relatedness and comparison as the basis of emotions like greed and envy.
50. Taken from Hunter, M. (2009), Essential Oils: Art, Science, Agriculture, Industry & Entrepreneurship: A focus on the Asia-pacific region, New York, Nova Scientific Publishers, P. 355.
51. Feynman, R., (1995), Six Easy Pieces, London, Penguin Books, P. 110.
52. A good example of amplification and suppression might be a company’s sales. For example certain factors like population growth, rising per capita incomes, advertising, word of mouth, and more accessible channels to reach the public may amplify a firm’s sales growth. However, a situation of decreasing population, loss of spending power though unemployment, increasing competition, and/or the arrival of new technologies may suppress the growth of sales.
53. DeGraff, G., Thanissaro Bhikkhu, (1996), ‘The Wings of Awakening’, P.300.
54. DeGraff, G., Thanissaro Bhikkhu, (1996), ‘The Wings of Awakening’, P.301.
55. The Pali Tipitaka are the Buddhist scriptures, also known as the Pali Canon.
56. Gharajedaghi, J., (2006), Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A platform for designing business architecture, Amsterdam, Elservier, P. 119.
57. Forrester, J., W., (1971), Counter intuitive behavior of social systems, Technology Review, Vol. 73, No. 3, pp. 52-68.
58. Wolfram, S., (2002), New Kind of Science, Wolfram Media, Inc., online at: http://www.wolframscience.com/
59. The belief that in the beginning there was nothing, does not have any foundation in dependent origination. This thinking can be seen as an attachment to concepts as the truth is unknown, and implies the existence of a creator. This view of the world means that humankind cannot seek solutions by wishing or praying to ‘the gods’. There is no such thing as luck, there are no aimless accidents as there is a seemingly endless process of evolution going on.
60. The Buddha taught the concept of karma in the pretext of human suffering, where emotions like greed, envy, anger, and other psychotic emotions perpetuate one within one of the realms of samsara. See Hunter, M. (2012), Opportunity, Strategy & Entrepreneurship: A meta-Theory, Volume 1, New York, Nova Scientific Publishers, pp. 255-266.
61. Something like the current potential between the positive and negative nodes of direct current electricity. It takes a wire of something that can conduct electricity to realize the potential connecting the two terminals.
62. Time is a relative measure of one point against another.
63. Payne, R., (2006), Individual and Awakening: Romantic narrative and the Psychological Interpretation of Buddhism and Psychotherapy, In: Unno, M. (Ed.), Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Theories and Practices, Boston, Wisdom Books, P. 36.
64. Benzinger, T., H., Pratt, A., W., & Kitzinger, C., (1961), The Thermostatic Control of Human metabolic Heat Production, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, Vol. 47, No. 5, pp. 730-739.
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66. The albedo effect refers to the reflective ability of a planet due to its colour. The lighter the planet’s colour, the more reflective it will be and the darker the colour the more absorptive it will be. Therefore a black planet reflecting no light will have an albedo ratio of 0.0, and a white planet reflecting all light will have an albedo ratio of 1.0. This directly affects the surface temperature of a planet, i.e., the balance between the heat it receives from the sun and the heat it disperses back into space. On the earth this is much more complex with the presence of an atmosphere and the resulting greenhouse effects. However at polar caps the majority of heat is reflected back and in oceans and forests heat is absorbed and slowly radiated out into the atmosphere.
67. Lovelock, J., E., (2000), The ages of Gaia: A biography of living Earth, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
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72. This is ‘a take’ on the title of E.F. Schumacher’s seminal work “Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered”.
73. Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, (1992), Paticcasamuppada: Practical Dependent Origination, Bangkok, Vuddhidhamma Fund, P. 4.
74. Suffering can be seen as clinging to delusions that distort reality, and the craving and desire, i.e., unsatisfied desire for objects in humans that also delude people. Suffering also includes aspirations for wealth, a better life, fame, reputation, and the defense mechanisms or “psychotic thoughts and behavior” used to maintain one’s self identity. Aspirations for wealth, fame and a better life may lead to hard work, generosity, where discipline and concentration may be present. There may also be motivating factors like an afterlife in religion, where all these factors lead to unknown and complex outcomes. However according to the teaching of paticcasamuppada these motivating factors are all based on ignorance which cause suffering. See Buddhasa Bhikkhu, (2007), Handbook for mankind: Realizing your full potential as a human being, Bangkok, Amarin Publishing (Translated from the Thai edition by Aniyanada Bhikkhu Roderick S. Bucknell), P. 65.
75. The doctrine of paticcasamuppada has been the subject of much debate and interpretation. This explanation of dependent origination is based on Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu’s interpretation. See Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu (1992), “Paticcasamuppada”
76. Lovelock, J., E., (2005), “Gaia: medicine for an ailing planet”, P. 18.
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87. Pac Man is an arcade game released in 1980 that is immensely popular around the world. As a social phenomenon Pac Man is concerned about eating pac-dots and evade an enemy lurking throughout the game. The cosmic consciousness is a concept that the universe is connected through a network of consciousness, sometimes called the collective consciousness. Richard Bucke postulated that there are three stages of consciousness; animal consciousness, human consciousness, and cosmic consciousness. See: Bucke, R. M., (2011), Cosmic Consciousness: A study in the evolution is the human mind, Guildford, UK, White Crow Books (a reprint of the 1901 version).
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144. The case of clearing natural forest land in Thailand is representative of similar problems in many traditional and developing countries around the world. The story shows that this is an extremely complex problem where issues of traditional verses state rights, a person’s right to existence, and education are all major issues. While there is so much focus on recycling and other programs in developed countries, these issues of sustainability rarely reach the news. Instead of having solutions, we are only just starting to identify these problems. See: Walker, F., Keegan, C., Friedman, A., Washburn, M., & Graves, E., (2012), Blaming villagers for global warming, New Mandala, 21st June, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2012/06/21/blaming-villagers-for-global-warming/, (accessed 22nd June 2012)
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166. Domicile outlook can be defined as the beliefs, attitudes and views one develops from the position they live and social status. The concept brings together factors like social status, income, location, state of employment and immigrant status. Together these factors contribute to a person’s basic beliefs, attitudes and outlook towards opportunity and their potential to exploit it.
167. Fraser, S., (2007), Hot properties in vineland: Rising temperatures, cheaper land are starting to lure Ontario grape-growers to the Maritimes, TheStar.com, 4th October, http://www.thestar.com/travel/article/262748, (accessed 6th October 2007)
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179. Mindfulness is a state of open acceptance of one’s own perceptions and sensibilities that helps our experience of being calm, relaxed and alert state of mind and be aware of our thoughts without identifying with them Ladner, L. (2005). Bringing Mindfulness to Your Practice, Psychology Networker, July/August, P 19.
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181. Different schools of thought have tried to answer questions like “why do some people see opportunities and other people don’t?’ These have included personality traits, propensity to take risk, entrepreneurial intentions, behavioral and cognitive approaches.
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183. Creative sensitivity is the empathetic relationship between ourselves and the environment and our ability to perceive and understand complex situations we observe and are involved in. High creative sensitivity implies that we are observant and aware of the things around us and feel comfortable with the complexity within the environment. To find out what aspect your sensitivity exists, think about what issues your find repulsive, irritating and distressful.
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194. We are approaching a period where temperatures are the highest they have ever been on Earth, and the population will grow from 7 to 9 billion by 2050 with strains on food and water. Twenty-two scientists warned that we could be reaching a ‘global tipping point’ where unpredictable consequences may occur. See: Vince, G. (2012), Earth: have we reached an environmental tipping point?, BBC Future, 15th June, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120615-global-tipping-point/1
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About the author: Murray Hunter
Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia.
Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region.
Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.