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Getting started with sustainable development

By: Nehemie

The most interesting thing I have seen in the world is how humans enjoy being limitless. The freedom of doing whatever we want is what we usually crave for, although none of us gets that to the fullest.

“Save energy”. “Use water judiciously”. “Don’t drink and drive”. “Cut one, plant two.” Those are the rules we don’t want to hear on the radio or read on the roadside. From a young age, a human being shows signs of resistance by developing independence traits and behaviors.

“Being able to feed yourself, going out without parental permission and not knocking when you come back late in the night. Taking yourself to school and back, as well as choosing your favorite dressing style and music band. Creating your own marriage, career paths, and legacy.” That’s what we want.

In doing that, none of us, by nature, loves rules. We enjoy using our abilities driven by our own instincts and, if necessary, being in control of other people. It is an issue when we think somebody wants to threaten us by imposing their decisions on us. In other words, you can’t mess with us.

It’s logical though. The power we were created with gives us the ability to do anything, even the seemingly impossible.  That is why we are able to cure diseases, to go to the moon, and to create many forms of high technology. We have the magic in our DNA that constantly supplies us with thoughts and energy of limitlessness.

However, we forget that other people possess the same DNA as well. We start journeys together but stop each other in the middle because some of us want to trespass planetary boundaries while others believe that balance is crucial in society. Those balance creators and keepers (I call them world leaders) exist to remind us that unleashing our potential does not imply overtaking the whole world.

The lack of absolute power is what keeps us all alive. The presence of boundaries is what makes us responsible, respectful and kind to other beings. Otherwise, we could burn or sink this planet. Like it or not but where there are people, there should be leadership and sustainability.

History and science prove that many of the modern diseases and disasters are consequences of the unsustainable lifestyle that we, human beings, have lived so many centuries ago. By doing “business as usual”, we deteriorated the earth patterns resulting in climate change effects that we see now. There is no doubt that weird deaths, wars, species extinction, and conflicts we are facing today derive from some of the websites, shops, buildings, tunnels, ports, towers, cars, farms, and speeches we have created in the name of freedom, fun, and power.

Consequently, we have double work whenever we want to ensure safety and prosperity in our daily life. We are encouraged, or forced if I may say, to clean the mess we have created and build a new world that is clean, inclusive and eco-friendly at the same time. And it turns out the only way to get there is by embracing a sustainability lifestyle which is, technically, “the hard way”.

 So, how to become sustainable?

Maintaining peace, helping the poor, and being kind to all creatures is a wish for many but a reality for a handful. It is difficult to create an economically growing, inclusive, environmentally friendly and well-governed society on top of our egos.  As I struggle to understand and live that kind of lifestyle, I am exercising the following techniques. I have not achieved the best lever but I have found these 2 exercises quite helpful:

The conviction that you are both worthy and worthless is what makes you sustainable. If you have something in your heart that refrains you from doing whatever you want, then you have a sustainability mindset and you are a sustainable human being. You will not cut trees irresponsibly and leave the forest without a replacement because you know how many tons of carbon dioxide you will be transferring into other people’s lungs. You will not drive fast in a dusty or muddy road that pedestrians are also using because you know you will destroy their clothes and health. You will move your family away from high-risk zones.

Simply put, relinquishing power means using our natural power effectively in the right time and minding the rest of the people (living or yet to be born) by giving them a chance to enjoy the goods of the planet as well. It is about stepping down as the treasurer of a big bank and give the chair to your successor peacefully. It is about being able to work in teams, suggest ideas that bring positive energy; to give and receive feedback with good intention.

Even people who do the most positive things in the world find it hard to give away their power, even when it’s necessary. Like a mother who left a child alone at home, they think others cannot make it and that it would be best if they always did it themselves. Like this, we deny other people a chance to learn and hence hinder their overall development.  Sustainability is the opposite of this. Believing in others, being concerned about them and helping them to achieve the best is what we should put forward if we want to create sustainable development on earth.

Most of us do harm not because we are bad people but because we think the world has become messy and so did everyone. We think there is nothing positive to fight for, that things will always be bad or become worse.

“Africa will never develop”. “Black/white people are bad people”. “If I had power, I could jail all bad guys”. “That kid is not my baby; her safety is not my concern”. All of these are evil thoughts that affect our daily actions when we don’t think of the world as a good place for humanity. They trick us and feed us with the poisoning wrath that translates into our mind as power and freedom. Then we think we got it all, yet we have lost ourselves instead.

If you teach yourself to view the world from a positive perspective, you will find it better than you think and actually find yourself worse than you think. You will then understand why you should not burn coal because you will realize how much trouble you cause to yourself and to others whenever you do that. You will not harvest more water, fish, or minerals than the natural means of production can replenish. You will not leave your water tap on or your iron plugged into the socket for hours because you know millions of people in desertified regions die of thirst while others die in maternity rooms due to the lack of electricity. You will listen to the rangers and stop poaching animals.

The whole purpose of sustainability is saving our planet, not underestimating somebody’s abilities. The more you think positively about the world, the more positive it will reveal to you, and the happier you will become. Those who are sustainable understand that the world was created for us to enjoy, not to destroy, and that prevention is much better than treatment.

I know developing those two habits is not easy and can’t be achieved in one week or one month. But they are very useful to us as we strive for sustainable development for ourselves and for the world. That is why I’m learning how to look for advice before I take serious action, how to give constructive feedback, and how to respect the rights of other beings for sustainability. I hope you will join me and support me on this journey today or sometime in future.