The question of how much do we impact upon the environment can be tricky to answer, simply because we are rarely cognisant the consequences of our actions. So much of our impact is hidden from us either through society, or by the organisations who manufacture the products that we use. For example, consider where your rubbish goes, where your sewerage goes, and how water just appears out of your tap as if by magic!
I’ve touched upon many negative aspects that have brought us to the realisation that we have to make a change. On one side of the equation are all the things that we do that have contributed to our predicament, and on the other are all those things that we should be doing in order to live a sustainable life. In an ideal world, we will have the technology and ability to live perfect lives according to the model principles of sustainability. However, right now, we do not have these technologies at our fingertips, therefore we all exist somewhere between these two polarisations.
This is the space where we find ourselves, and it is from here, that we need to focus our efforts, and make incremental gains towards the ever-changing target of sustainability.
The Ego / Eco Paradigm is a method of understanding how we interact with the world, and how to make those much needed incremental gains in our sustainability efforts. According to the Ego / Eco Paradigm, we can divide our actions into two categories depending on the impact.
These are the actions that offer short term benefits to a minority, while incurring long term negative impacts to the majority. Although we may understand the negative consequences of our decisions, we use the short term economic benefits to ourselves as a justification for our actions. Ego actions cannot continue indefinitely as they are unsustainable.
The Ego mentality:
- Is born out of the idea that mankind has been placed on Earth to dominate, abuse and utilise as we see fit.
- Considers itself as above the laws of nature.
- Considers change as a threat.
- Equates development with consumption.
- Believes that innovation should be a driver of needs and wants.
- Believes in wants before needs.
- Focuses upon limitations rather than possibilities.
- Changes the environment to suit itself.
This disconnection is responsible for the challenges that we face today.
In contrast to Ego, Eco actions offer long term economic, environmental and social benefits. These actions are characterised by a sustainable impact which can be absorbed, replenished or reversed through natural processes or human intervention. It must be understood that these actions do not conflict with economic development principles, but rather define an ethos that facilitates economic development. Eco actions are sustainable and can continue indefinitely.
The Eco mentality:
- Is born out of the idea that mankind is connected to the natural world through the universal laws of nature.
- Recognises possibilities rather than limitations.
- Understands that needs should drive innovation.
- Understands that change brings opportunities.
- Understands that we share this world with other animals and rely upon the environment for our existence.
- Changes itself to suit the environment.
Although it may appear simplistic to categorise decisions into Ego or Eco, there are in fact many degrees of Ego-ness and Eco-ness.