Why I Believe in the Sustainability Movement

Why I Believe in the Sustainability Movement
[This essay was submitted, and accepted, to NPR’s “This I Believe” radio project on January 20, 2009. I wanted to summarize my personal vision of how the sustainability movement is transforming society, based on my experiences in the economics field and growing up in America in the Sixties. I started this essay in November 2005 but it took the Obama campaign and election to inspire me to finish it. I believe we are observing a global paradigm shift that will force out the long-broken economic model of neoclassical economic development which could, potentially, result in new methods of sustainable development that unites the world in a culture that is more at harmony with nature and fosters true community and human development. I want to help make that shift happen.]

I grew up in the turbulent Sixties. When I started college in 1972, the world was a chaotic mix of the civil rights movement, political assassinations, Vietnam, the nuclear weapons race, hippies, Watergate and Woodstock. In college, I dedicated my university education to understanding social and environmental problems at a deeper level, searching for something to believe in; but it wasn’t until graduate school that I discovered my intellectual calling: economics. It showed how the “real world” really worked, and held the promise of not only explaining the world, but, I believed, how to improve it.
After graduation, I tried teaching economics at a community college. I enjoyed connecting with my students, helping them to better understand this complex world. But after a few years, as I read and thought more deeply on my own, it became increasingly difficult to believe conventional economic theory fully explained how the “real world” works. Gradually, I became convinced that my textbooks were missing a rather important fact: that the global economy was more accurately described as a global corporate state, where governments the world over were mostly acting in the interests of corporations at the expense of the people they were elected to serve. The proposition that the well being of people and corporations were identical, with the benefits trickling down to all, became increasingly difficult to support in the face of evidence to the contrary. Actually, the economy was being managed for the profits of corporations at increasingly greater expense to the environment and society’s collective well being, though my textbooks put little emphasis on this. Discouraged, I turned to computer programming to earn a living, resigned to a world ruled by unstoppable global capitalism.
Since then, global warming has become a scientific fact. Far from fearing global climate change, I welcome it, because I believe this dark cloud has a silver lining: it will drive us towards the green economy which conventional “market forces” could never have achieved. The dramatic and frightening economic events of 2008 have only further convinced me that the conventional economic belief that the market forces of global capitalism work themselves out to our benefit is dangerously naive.

In the last few years I’ve learned much about the sustainability movement, and it gives me new hope. I believe it can fundamentally change how we think about the economy, though there is still much work to be done to accomplish that. The sustainability movement is actually the convergence of many movements with deep historical roots — it’s about human rights, world peace, injecting a higher awareness into economic activity, and rooting out corruption in business and politics by making them transparent to the public they serve. It’s about having a real and personal connection to Nature. It’s about waking up in the morning and feeling good about yourself because you work at a job that has a purpose for you and your community. I believe this is what all people truly want, all over the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *