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Mike Nickerson returns as a Blogger in BoomerWarrior. Mike is an accomplished author and creator of SustainWellbeing. (Editor of BoomerWarrior)

Mike Nickerson on Shifting Society's Goals toward Sustainability
Mike Nickerson – Sustain Well-being

Mike rightfully points out that “there are no longer vast new frontiers to move to when resources are scarce or we need more room for our waste”. The future of civilization hangs upon the new story of humanity’s maturation.

The change we are experiencing today is the biggest change ever to affect the human family. It is of consequence to every person and to most of the living world. The human species has come of age!

Maturity has two qualities

The first is that of reaching full physical size. This physical maturity is evident as we press against the limits of this wonderful, but finite planet. The other definition of maturity is that one accepts responsibility for one’s impacts on others. On the scale of our species, this means impacts between human communities, as well as our collective effects on other species and the planet as a whole.

Humanity’s maturation has filled the Earth and continued growth is causing big problems. There are two possible outcomes to the story. We can either grow until we drop, or we can accept the responsibilities that come with maturity.

Almost every adult alive today has experienced the passage to maturity. As children, we are totally dependent on our care-givers. In adolescence, we have the physical and mental capability to provide for ourselves, but not necessarily the experience to do so. It can be intimidating looking forward, knowing that one is expected to take care of one’s self. It doesn’t always come easily, but in almost every case, we reach a point where we do take care of ourselves effectively. Indeed, rather than being onerous, adult life offers many new and exciting opportunities.

As a mature civilization, we can expect endless opportunities to arise from our knowledge, talents, inter-connectivity and ability to appreciate the wonders all around, even while respecting and accommodating our planet’s limits.

Growth Limitations

Humanity has always been growing. Our long childhood was spent as small communities living close to nature. With the advent of civilization, we passed into adolescence. Similar to how some young adults get into trouble with their new found strength, some civilizations have gone astray, with comparably unfortunate outcomes. Today’s civilization covers the globe.

Throughout time, our mother Earth has provided us with all the resources we wanted and has cleaned up after our many messes. Today, resource limitations are being experienced around fossil fuels, fresh water, soil fertility, forests, and fish. In this new circumstance, if we try to double our activity in the next generation, as has been normal every generation for centuries, we will seriously damage the Earth. Accumulating CO2, radioactive and other toxic waste and our mega-tons of regular garbage, threaten to overwhelm Mother Nature.

No species can require more resources than are available and no species can produce so much waste that it poisons itself or the things it depends on. Upon these points, all living things are judged in the court of natural selection.

As a species we are now grown up. It is time to accept responsibility and act our age. We are over two billion years old. Every one of us has a line of ancestors that dates back to the first life. Every one of those ancestors has been a survivor. As the latest in the long line of successful, innovative life forms, we humans have extraordinary capabilities. There is no reason, besides the failure to accept our maturity as a species, that we shouldn’t continue successfully on this planet for another two billion years.

The New Era

Circles have no corners; ends and beginnings flow smoothly from one to the other. Yet, I can’t help but think that the end of the Mayan Calendar can mark the beginning of a new purpose for humanity.

A new era is due. Serious problems are growing around natural resource depletion and waste, revealing that the goal of perpetual economic expansion is past its “best before” date. As a species, humanity is now grown up. Not that we act it, with our Peter Pan attitude that we can grow forever and that Mother (Nature) will somehow provide everything we want and clean up all of our mess. Even the present economic stagnation suggests that the human project is full grown. The Earth does not have enough to offer for us to double our activity in the next twenty years, let alone double again over the generation following that.

How about we regard the end of the Mayan Calendar, on December 21st, as the beginning of humankind’s adult phase? A phase where we acknowledge that our planet, though wonderfully abundant, is nevertheless finite, and where we take responsibility for living safely within its physical bounds.

We hope you will join us in the effort to re-frame what it means to be a good human-being – from earning and spending, living lightly, enjoying life and managing the material world in a way that respects the needs of the children and grandchildren.

“The goals we pursue are the seeds from which our future grows.”

More on this approach is available in the free Mini-Course on Shifting Society’s Goals and The Challenge and the Goal 

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