Thursday, April 1, 2010

Au naturel

Redemption. Salvation. Forgiveness.

This post has everything and nothing to do with these things. I've been reading - skimming, really - the National Geographic magazine's latest Water issue, which has served to put us all on notice. Like the tragedy of the commons that the oceans represent, access to clean water is an invisible tragedy for most of us... in this case, those of us who had the lucky benefit of western world parents. The message is pretty clear about the concerns of clean water and the concerns vary from continent to continent, and locally for us here in North America it's a fact we're poisoning our own waterhole... and so much more.

Which brings me to the fact that we, humankind, really have our faults, don't we? and unfortunately, if we didn't have them we wouldn't even be here, much less in this bind. Our kind craves indulgence and redemption. The people "in charge" are no different, though their indulgences might be. Ah, sweet redemption... it's the umami that makes all this head in the sand, party the night away lifestyle even more full and potent. Redemption means never having to say we're sorry - until we're ready to do so.

Jared Diamond's _Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed_ comes into play here. Jared Diamond chose to use the history of small pacific islands as a lesson tool. The pacific islands offer a unsettling yet somewhat accurate picture of the world itself; Easter Island was doomed through indulgence and mismanagement to become squalid and at points rife with cannibalism. Wow. Other more successful islands and societies used a "top down, bottom up" approach with the most success and were able to perform a balancing act due to both powerful heads of state enforcing rules and their subjects embracing the rules since they knew the knife edge they walked. A life filled with work, sacrifices for the greater good and reining in inherent human urges to take as much as possible for yourself and your progeny. Currently untenable things were done in the name of preserving the society; unspeakably non-democratic and uncapitalist as well. I'd hope they enjoyed their lives as their society endured while performing the balancing act; These societies would be small enough that each citizen would personally know and be connected to each and every one of their group, inculcating them to perform adequately (if not admirably!) for all these people who also felt the same (the "rule of 150" per Malcolm Gladwell).

If our biggest temptation and indulgence is to ignore our need to change to prepare for a better future (and who hasn't wrestled with putting money away for retirement?)... can't we effect fundamental changes in our lifestyles rather than just edge ever closer to the 'pray for salvation' point? Fundamental changes unlike money-making half hearted measures that benefit huge companies and others taking kickbacks, that is. There is a huge demographic sea change happening, as so many baby boomers are entering their retirement years. Perhaps the time is now to effect/demand as much change as is possible, battering on the barriers erected by many national and corporate interests by a rising tide of world-interest. But the first order of business is laying siege to our own personal self interest.