Thursday, May 3, 2012

Four Challenges for Sustainability

In Four Challenges for Sustainability, David Orr articulates with sparkling clarity the context in which “green practitioners” work and live, and the scale of the questions that now face all Earthlings. These questions, he states, were unheard of until the 1950s “when nuclear annihilation became possible… but now any high school student could make a long list of ways in which humankind could cause its own demise.”

And the question, as always, is, “How do we approach and address these problems?” Orr proposes that “a world divided by narrow, exclusive, and intense allegiances to ideology or ethnicity cannot be sustained because its people will have too little humor, compassion, forgiveness and wisdom to save themselves.” In other words, we must open our minds and our hearts to our fellow man.

Orr continues, “A spiritually impoverished world is not sustainable because meaninglessness, anomie, and despair will corrode our desire to sustain it and the belief that humanity is worth sustaining.”

This rather bleak possibility is counterweighted by Orr’s belief that we can meet the challenges that face us.   In particular, Orr proposes that we can resolve “divergent problems,” those that cannot resolved with logical, “either/or” solutions, by engaging with a higher level of spiritual awareness. “Scientists … are often uneasy about matters of spirit, but science on its own can give no reason for sustaining humankind. It can … create the knowledge that will cause our demise or that will allow us to live at peace...” The spiritual acumen needed “must be founded on a higher order awareness that honors mystery, science, life and death.”

The only solution to the problem of righting the wrongs of bitter rivalries and transcending hatred and violence is “a profound sense of forgiveness and mercy that rises above the logic of justice.” Orr urges us to consider our mortality, which would lead us, not to fear, but to a deeper spirituality and a place of gratitude and celebration. It would energize us to act.

Orr concludes thinks it advisable to leave these age-old complications behind us and get down to work.

What do you think - is this a challenge we can meet together? Let us know in the comments.

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