Human beings evolved in complete inter-dependence with other organisms. The psychology of sustainability recognizes this vital connection, and builds upon it, for humans to have better mental, emotional, physical and spiritual lives in their relationships with the world.
Other organisms and systems allow all life and bio-diversity to flourish. A grateful and protective attitude toward them nurtures humans. This is a 21st century ecopsychological concept. It is obvious that human beings need nature, food, water, soil, and air quality to sustain population. Yet, when put in the abstract mentality, resources are not seen as abundant, but as a power source to fight over. And, psychologically, there are those who do not recognize our very deep emotional, mental, and spiritual connection to planet earth. It has been lost somewhere in the Industrial revolution which moved us indoors, except for those times beings live in their cars.
All improvements and developments were described in ways that elevated humanity over earth. It is as if when presented with a free choice in the Garden of Eden, man chose a condo with a smart phone over paradise. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Man could then define himself as the brightest one, with the most innovation, mechanical aptitude, language and sacred divinity.
The problem of course, is that man denied he needs nature., and decided he only needed to control nature, which is impossible, and refutes belonging. In denial of human, and more than human nature, much is threatened. Factually, creating systems that work better than nature’s systems do not exist. There is temporary borrowing, of sustenance of the earth, but without paying it back, a tragic price is paid. The cosmos is more intelligent than man, but man can be programmed to feel otherwise.
Our connection Psychology was further obscured by a very dualistic perspective of earth that also called for religions and the powerful, to cast human beings as masters, or conquerors of the planet, rather than kin to our world. This set up an extremely dismissive mindset that encourages the tragedy of the commons, and the loss of all systems required to protect resources. Sustainability seeks to reverse the mindset that we are here to take all we can, as quickly as we can, before the “enemy” forces take it first. It identifies our focus on conflict and differences as damaging. It allows that people see they need one another. The world of one another we need also includes supporting organisms, lakes, rivers, rocks, mountains and more, as well. Psychologically, then, we have alienated humanity from sustainable support, comfort, compassion and more. Psychologically severing our belonging to place, then, created an alienation that fuels wars, conflict, and misunderstanding, destruction of other organisms, lands and seas.
The increasing crisis that is called climate change, or global warming, has become a political issue rather than a common sense one which tells humanity the simple truth. The simple truth, (so simple, people cannot fathom it,) is that human beings need clean air, water, soil, and food. Loving “other” life does not enslave man, but liberates man. The higher quality connection that they sustain to this reality, the higher quality of life they can create. People can learn they don’t need hate, oppressive hierarchy or inhumanity. Sustainability, then, is the most important concept that the 21st century mind can grasp. It suggests that our ways of living, in order to not be destructive, wasteful, tragic and trashy, humanity can instead, be cooperative, appreciative, more fulfilled and spiritually enriched.
By embracing the sustainability lessons of nature and all nature’s abundance, people can improve all lives. This very idea is attacked as being “humanist, new age, socialism” and a host of other labels that are derogatory in the extreme. Yet, when asked, even the most greedy, or destructive of corporate executives report, “Yes, I love the woods, Or I need to be on the beach for my mental health.” They easily identify their needs for tranquility and beauty, but they honestly believe they can only have it by exploiting those who are lower on the food chain, including people, lands and all other organisms. In the previous century, this concept was known as Social Darwinism, and it fueled world wars, holocausts, plundering of resources and the extinction of a great many organisms. Psychologically, and socially however, it prompted the response of the hippie generation, as well as environmentalists, biologists, naturalists and teachers, who began to recognize that polluting development is not always great, or even necessary.
Finally, economists chimed in, and the need for clean and green energy to fuel improved lives was revealed. What then should have been obvious, that innovation combined with conservation could put humans back on track to thriving was disputed. A backlash began, based on the erroneous “If you take it, then I can’t have it,” mindset. This mentality defeats the very idea of sustainability. To some, nature is still seen as a resource for the ambitious, and not as a regenerative, restorative model of plenty for the whole world. Today sustainability has also, ironically, become a marketing tool for more consumption and development. It is little wonder, then, that people are cynical and conflicted about truly supporting sustainability.
Those who believe it means scarcity, sacrifice or penalty are not comprehending sustainability. However, much research and case studies repeatedly show, that people universally benefit from sensing a belonging to the earth. They are drawn by Biophilia to nature and outdoor settings. They can easily understand that clean food, water, air and soil benefits them. They are only confused when fear, or hype, warns them that they will have to sacrifice, or lose, in order to belong in sustainability. It means man does not have to choose his own destruction by pollution, war, garbage, carcinogens and lost species. Nature’s way does not include much loss, as loss may be define d as waste. All “waste” in nature is fuel, food, and recycled matter or energy, for more regeneration. This does not mean there are not natural cycles of creation. It does not mean ecology always creates harmonious balance. It just means that there is life. There is death. The wheel turns, and the stuff of life is recycled into more life. This system can be fought against, or accepted as miraculous. Charles Darwin saw it, as did Albert Einstein.
This miracle of sustainability is a model that many people have a very difficult time comprehending due to the way they were brought up. Life, for at least 200 years has instructed that competition is the only way for man, and cheap disposable goods (and planets) are not trashy, but a sign of high status. Non-sustainability, in other words, suggests man is rightful master over all, it defines him as the unique one who was put in the position of management. Slowly over time, however, science has come to know nature as the ultimate teacher, and that people can only live well when they accept belonging, not exclusivity.