They are waking up to the idea that they are going to be denied their supposed birthright: progress. Growth. The idea that they will have lives better than their parents, and their children will have lives better than they did. Instead, human consumption and economic growth seems to have finally peaked in the time of the Baby Boomers. THAT, apparently, was as good as it gets. And frankly, it wasn't all that good.
So we've woken from our self-induced stupor, but not to reality. We understand now that we're in trouble. We understand now that there's a problem. But we still have not yet grasped the very basics of our situation. Sure, the environmentalists have been saying our lifestyle and economy is unsustainable for years. But what does that mean to me?
The illusion we have been living is that our lifestyle can continue. A lifestyle based on consuming everything on the planet, while flushing our waste "away" to the oceans and the people in the Third Wold. An economy and financial system that is based on never- ending growth, which is inherently impossible. A population that expands and expands and expands, while some people insist that all we need is more people to innovate us out of the mess we so carelessly created. We lived with our expectations and hopes for so long we began to think they were normal, when truly they were just temporary freaks of history.
There are plenty of definitions of sustainable. "Meeting our own needs without comprimising the needs of future generations to meet their own." "A system that does not exceed it's carrying capacity." "A society that does not take more than can be renewed and does not pollute more than can be absorbed." But what is unsustainable? Do we even need a definition, when it's all around us, exemplified by everything we see and do? Do we need a definition when unsustainable is the foundation of our lives?
"Unsustainable" does not just mean that our system MUST be stopped, for the sake of the plants and animals, for the water and air, for the planet and our own health. It means that it WILL stop. It WILL stop, because a system that relies on consuming finite resources for fuel cannot be sustained. A system that fouls and erodes the very productive capacities of the planet - the water, the soil, the air - cannot be sustained. It will collapse under the burden of it's own bloated requirements, it's pollution, it's untenable assumptions.
So, can we please get on with it? Can we stop hanging on to the deadweight of ideas that are dragging us down, stop clutching the noose that threatens to hang us all? Can we move past the idea of keeping the auto industry alive - when autos can never be a long term solution? Can we move past the idea of economic growth - when we know that infinite growth is just impossible? Can we stop hallucinating a future of moonbases and flux capacitors and Starship Enterprises, the last resort imaginings of an imploding society? Can we start towards a future that doesn't depend on things that CANNOT continue?
I know it's extremely unreasonable of me, but I'd like to live in a system where we all get our basic needs met. Basic needs are not just water and bread. We can have clean water, immunizations, antibiotics, healthy and tasty food. We can have celebrations and feasts and parties. We can have intellectual development, love, community, pleasure, leisure and entertainment.
We can have these things even as the infrastructure of our old economy rusts and crumbles to the ground - if we make them a priority. We, who understand the old way is lost, have to start now. We have to create a shadow system ready to meet our needs when the old way finally stumbles and falls. If we try to keep the old system running, all is lost. If we create a new system ready to take over from the wheezing, dying one, we win.
We don't have to be the generation that finished off humanity's chance for a sustainable future on this planet. We can be the generation that turned away from the trajectory of nuclear warheads and polllution and greed and ambition and simple blind ignorance. Are you looking for a destiny? Do you search for greatness? How about the greatest destiny ever: the creation of a society that can be sustained. A destiny where our children and grandchildren will say of us, "They stopped at the brink of the abyss. They pulled back from destruction. They walked away, and gave us a future. They gave all the future generations a chance."