Since the dawn of civilization, the planet replenished its resources faster than humans consumed them. Starting around 1970 that changed, we began to take more from the planet each year than it could restore. Since then, the gap between our rate of consumption and the planet's rate of regeneration has widened.
Its only mid-August but we have already used an entire year’s worth of the Earth’s natural resources according to the Global Footprint Network. For the rest of the year we will consume more than the Earth can replenish. This natural resource debt is not sustainable, how can we change?
Individual versus collective action
There is a continuing debate within the environmental movement about the relative merits of individual versus collective action. We are autonomous individuals as well as members of a local and global collective. I thought I would compare various possibilities of collective and individual action.
To act we need an “idea” of what to do and a “desire” to do it.
1. Collective idea and collective desire
Example: A democratic collective (State) agrees on an idea (environmental law) and the collective (citizens) desire to obey to avoid penalties (fines, jail).
Result: The planet is saved but individual freedom is lost due to threat of force.
2. Collective idea and individual desire
Example: A collective (NGO) agrees on an idea (recycling) and individuals who desire to act do so on a voluntary basis.
Result: Individual freedom is saved but the planet is lost due to lack of participation.
3. Individual idea and collective desire
Example: Individual eco-friendly inventions and marketing (solar powered toothbrush) and the collective desires it because of mass marketing.
Result: The planet is saved but individual freedom is lost due to mind control.
4. Individual idea and individual desire
Example: Individual accepts eco-friendly ideas that she desires to act upon. Taking the global and her individual situation into consideration the necessary changes are made.
Result: Individual freedom empowers diverse individual action and the planet is saved.
Mature free individuals
To meet the challenges of our time will take fully functioning mature individuals we are capable of unbiased scientific understanding of life situations (free thinking) and have a desire to live a life that expresses their highest ideals (free action). Nothing can stop you if you think universally and act individually.
Is their really any other solution than the need for human development? Is this an impossible dream? Not if we start with ourselves. The global footprint is the total of individual footprints.
Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy Of Freedom presents a way of life called Ethical Individualism. It is about being inspired by your ideals, setting real goals, and realizing them without doing harm.