Our human population is ever increasing. We are exponential in our growth and impact on our planet. David Attenborough has had something to say about this as a growing threat to our own survival on this planet.

We often blame our ‘human nature’ for our railroad track to destruction. We perceive ourselves to be members of a race that is fundamentally flawed and inherently doomed to suffering and consumption. We perceive wisdom is rare, crime is normal and our unsustainable lives unavoidable based on our ‘human nature’. This would indicate a rail road track to extinction – an inevitability – but should we aim to extend our existence longer, we might consider modifying our self destructive behaviours.

So what is the solution?

Utopian Design or Evolution?

Do we try to imagine a sustainable future then design a utopian society that will save the day?

Historically plans designed based on utopian ideals of an imagined future have failed to be successfully sustained, simply because they don’t work. Perhaps utopian systems don’t work because they are based on everyone having godly qualities of perfection

Evolution, on the other hand, works with what we are – accepts us for being selfish, mean, cruel, greedy, violent, kind, loving, thoughtful, generous etc – evolution doesn’t require some sort of utopian perfect god like human beings for it to be successful - evolution works.

If we look at other species of life – we can see that they don’t seem to plan their evolution based on utopian ideals – they evolve based on a feed back loop between their environment – circumstances and their biological survival needs as a species. The ones that keep up and adapt survive – the ones that don’t die out – become extinct. The ones that survive have evolved a strategy that works.

When we think about living a sustainable life we might think this means we have to give up something that we need. But in fact many species of animals are perfectly happy and have all their needs met – and yet don’t cause as much damage to the world as we humans do. So I would suggest that it’s not about giving up what we need, but in fact it is about being innovative about meeting our needs in sustainable ways.

Our latest and most successful change or evolution is a system that hasn’t been designed, planned or based on utopian ideals – it hasn’t been orchestrated by governments, political movements, or social idealisms – it has evolved over time – about 300 years.

It has been achieved incrementally, by people working off each other’s ideas. It has been lead by no one. It wasn’t the initiative of any political, government or religious body. It has no targeted end point. It proceeded according to no plan. It rewarded those who further the evolution in kind.

The industrial revolution is something that wasn’t organised, it wasn’t designed or a utopian ideal – it was something that evolved over time in all areas based on needs that people had and skills and ideas that people tried. A feedback loop was created where our needs encouraged innovation that was shared, tested and embraced in a process of evolution.

What innovative practices can you share that will contribute to the sustainable survival of life on earth into the next century?

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Replies to This Discussion


Good fun sounds good!



I like your self awareness and sense of humour!



I suppose that’s what this discussion comes down too.  Changing things in our culture so that we can be more sustainable.  What if we made it popular or advantageous so sustainability to turn up at work with holey t-shirts on?  Made it fashionable in fact.


I don’t work in a job for money, I look after my kids at home, and before that I was doing a degree at university, and before that I was doing lowly paid care work and factory work and before that I was travelling – so I’ve never really had the need to wear fancy clothes or own fancy things.  I’ve had quite a low impact on that level.  My greatest expense at the moment is books – and I’m naughty because I could really get most of them from the library but I like to own books that I love… my kids all look poverty stricken, they wear each others clothes and I get more from charity shops every now and again – LOL – I don’t value fashion at the moment – perhaps my kids will as they get older…


So because Yellowstone is about to pop we might as well just indulge our senses and live a ‘good’ life… no point in coming up with any more sustainable living ideas… it’s all going to be over for life on earth any how…

Ideas are not the same as living sustainable life.  Many of the ideas are idealistic and will never be implemented, while others are just wacky.  While we plan and wish and hope, the world changes day by day.  And although we know what needs to be done about global warming, very little is being done to reverse the process.  So, we get hotter, and climate patterns change, and drought  will become more severe, and crops will be lost.  And despite all your ideas, time will grind on and things will happen and we will be powerless to stop them.


Yours truly, The Devil's Advocate =:-)

Hi Tom,


Thanks for the considered reply.


I would rather see cooperation than competition also.  I’ve had interesting experiences when dealing with people I don’t know.  I’m quite co-operative – I don’t support punishment, judgements of people as such – I’m more interested in working together towards a goal, that punishing them for getting it wrong.  But I find so many people live in a world of avoiding punishment; and aren’t expecting my response.  They don’t even seem to appreciate my approach, they more just think I’m weird and become suspicious – especially if they are young and in a call centre – being paid per call or something.


Yes, consumerism is quite ridiculous these days – all this crap for what – that initial high of getting the thing – that we don’t need or use.


I don’t see us all moving to kibutz.  I’m not talking about moving anywhere – I’m talking about changing our perception and attitudes.  We can stay just were we are and live the way that I’m talking about.  A needs based life.  In the Compassionate Connection group I’ve got going in here, I’ve put up a discussion post with a needs sheet – listing our basic needs.  If we all just kept an eye on this list for our basic needs to be happy, we would all be much better off, as would the worlds resources.  It keeps us focused on our basic needs for affection, food and protection – these are the things that keep us happy and contented, not material purchases or bigger houses or fancy objects or clothes.  Even using CC with friends and family will give them more satisfaction that spending time with their competing fancy friends who value ‘goods and services’ such as the latest fashion clothes and expensive hair cuts.


You’ve got some good ideas about economy – money.  I like the idea that money isn’t a commodity, it’s a public service.


Our economy is set up for middle men to make money on the way through – share holders getting money for nothing…  it’s based on slavery really – some do all the work, whilst others simply sit on their bums.


I wouldn’t mind if it was set up that older people or infirm or disabled or single mothers got given shares as a sort of community support – but often it’s rich people who don’t need the help – they are quite capable of working, they just don’t want to work.  They have successful supportive families and their shares pay for their golfing yachting lifestyle.  Stereotyping I know…


It does seem that urbanisation does lower the birth rate.  Whilst rural living it goes higher. 

Only one quibble: I MUST have my haircut. It doesn't have to be expensive -- but not too cut-rate either, because the people who do the work should get a decent wage. But my hair is just too wild to let it go long, and nobody can stand the sight of me!


What I may be getting at (if I slow down long enough to think) is that services are cooperative, too. You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. A friend of mine cleans my house, and I give her money. I get what I need, and she gets what she needs. That allows us to be specialists, and contributes to the general welfare. And money is the medium that we use to give back when our special skills are not what the person needs OR wants.



I agree about credit.  I think people are given credit way too easily.  I was on a very low income for a long time, and I was given repeated rises on my credit card, without interview.  I think this is morally wrong.  I think we should have interviews about circumstances – or at least have some sort of system that includes a payment plan and calculates the interest.



We do all have greed.  It makes sense to eat as much as you can when finding food – if you don’t know how long you’re going to be before more comes along.  But it’s wise also making sure that you re plant the food and don’t hinder the plants chances of reproduction.  I think that wisdom allows us to overcome greed.


Consumerism isn’t useful at all.  With my kids I let them look in the shops, but tell them that is the enjoyment – looking.  Not buying.  They have to want something for a sustained amount of time, and then they can have it when they can afford it, based on a regular amount of money, that doesn’t go up because they want something expensive.


Other than that, I focus of giving them regular nutrient dense foods, that satisfy their body in a real way.  I think this is the reason that they are good kids who are generally happy and don’t whin and whinge none stop, as I see some kids doing – which drives me insane – I think they are on a constant sugar roller coaster – with refined foods, sugar and carbs.  My kids get eggs, meat and fish for breakfast lunch and dinner. 


I’ve been eating 6 eggs and 50g of butter a day and meat with all the fat for a few years now – I went for a heart test the other day (ECG) and it was great, really low blood pressure – all good.  I’ve read a few books – on the myths about heart disease linked with fats – I prefer a more palaeo diet – which is based on 90% of my energy coming from fats – butter, meat fat, olive oil and coconut – and my heart is just fine.


Just a side note – I get the impression that more Americans die in war than others.  When talking to a Vietnam vet from Australia he told us that the Americans would walk through the jungle with music systems blasting, then they would be ambushed and all killed.  The Australian said that they would come across groups of slaughtered Americans drawn to the place by the loud music.  He said that they wouldn’t be noisy at all – they be quite and walking quietly and watch for movement, wary of ambush.


This was his impression – I don’t know what the figures are.  But I wonder if it’s not a different sort of person attracted into the army from America.  Or perhaps a different attitude.



I know what you mean about critical thinking – we really aren’t taught it in schools – in fact for just getting through the day, teachers need to do the opposite and get the children to be obedient in order to get through the material they need in order to keep their jobs.


I’ll have a look at the book – if it’s not too expensive I’ll get it.  OK $42 is a bit too much for me right now. 


I think I get the idea about critical thinking.  I wasn’t very good at it before I met my husband – I’d just had all that schooling, and hadn’t been taught to think for myself – it was very discouraged.  I was taught to be obedient and listen to the teacher, don’t question and believe what I’m told.


But on meeting my husband, he questions everything.  If something doesn’t work for him, he turns it all around so that he can make it work for him.  He is in constant arguments with authorities about what’s right and should happen…  I’ve learnt a lot of communication skills from him.  He is very tenacious and confident and just keeps going until he finds a solution that suits him.


The basic idea is to match what you’ve heard with what you already know and then ask questions to cover the gaps or contradictions.


Thanks for the tip Tom, I totally agree with critical thinking, and also see the value it it’s secular standing.  Being able to see B/S a mile off is def an advantage in society.

take a look around for a cheaper book, maybe take a look in your local discount book shop. no matter how much you think you know about critical thinking in general already, formal training in the subject is very beneficial, especially when debating with people who have also studied it. Good luck!



It wasn’t New Guinea – there are lots of little islands around there – with different groups.  I suppose each group had their own environment and circumstances that they evolved to live with.  As we all do now.  We do have a lot in common as humans’ but humans around the earth are all different also – in any age of time.


So what I’m getting here, is the it’s not viable to look at hunter gatherer groups, just because we can’t really know what they did – we don’t have any record, we can only estimate.


It’s better perhaps to look at neuroscience for answers about how brains work now, so that we might use that information to design a better life and a more sustainable life now, that we can evolved based on what works for us.


At the moment we are trying out a few schemes around the world.  Bolivia has just made a law to protect ‘mother nature’, so that she can now go to court and prosecute others for destroying her.  Interesting development – and interesting to see how it works out.  Here in Australia we are just about to launch a carbon tax, and in Europe they have the carbon trading scheme.  I think the tax is better, personally.  But we’ll see which ones work and which don’t and keep an eye on climate change to see if we get any further in our bid to maintain life on earth.


I’m not suggesting that we rip our houses down or don’t maintain them so that they keep waterproof and safe to live in.  I’m suggesting that we change the way we look at what we do.  it would be a waste of resources to tear down houses in favour of drop toilets and what?  Tents?


It will happen slowly.  But it takes government regulation I think and policies.  At the moment, here in Melbourne we have massive population growth due to immigration.  But we are building massive estates of massive houses for small amounts of people on farming land!  What the!


Shouldn’t we be looking at high density urban living with massive parks and social spaces to compensate for lack of indoor space or gardens?  Anyhow, I’m not a town planner or a government policy maker – not that they take much attention to science or logic – they pay attention to voters.  And voters want large new houses built on farming land.


That’s why we need to change attitudes, about needs.


By the way, I have no problem with drop toilets – squatting is a much better position to go anyhow.  And if western people eat more nutrient dense food rather than mountains of sugar, refined food, they would be able to squat too – and do more exercise than just walk to find the tv remote controller.




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