Circular park. Photo by Josh Power on Unsplash.
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Thoughts on Sustainability and Necessary Changes to Human Economics

Joseph J. Bish, MS Feb 16, 2022

Today, global sustainability remains a destination. A hoped for, imagined future that is fundamentally desirable and practically possible — given steadfast commitment, impassioned hard work, and enough serious long-term investments are made. Global sustainability promises a renewed, truly respectful and healthy relationship between humans and the living Earth. It will arrive when the guiding paradigms of human civilization have evolved to become compatible with flourishing biodiversity. It will arrive when the economic and social relationships of humanity uphold equality, fairness, and compassion among ourselves and other species as well. It will arrive when the size of human civilization has become more ecologically right-sized.

When global sustainability is achieved, the annual material consumption of humanity will be aligned with the sustainable yield of the planet’s renewable bio-capacity. To do this, total resource extraction, production, and consumption need profound overall reductions — along with fundamental restructuring, within the scaled down totals, to contribute to social and economic justice imperatives. The international community will embrace a new definition of wealth: the collective health of our living world, including all of humanity, other species, and global ecosystems.

Today, at least 2.5 billion of the 8 billion people currently living on the planet desperately need more material-resources if they are to escape poverty and achieve minimally acceptable standards of nutrition, housing and sanitation. A minority of our human population is consuming egregiously beyond their minimum needs, while billions struggle to survive on a bare minimum – and thousands die on a daily basis because they cannot satisfy their minimum requirements.

Population Media Center recognizes the complexity of human economies, and the many opportunities for reform. We choose to focus our efforts largely on women’s economic empowerment. Women’s and couple’s financial literacy, planning, and entrepreneurship can help households climb out of poverty, earn a living, and contribute to their community.

For global sustainability to be achieved, humanity must abandon predatory capitalism and its unbridled confidence in markets as the wellspring and arbiter of all social value. When humanity achieves global sustainability, it will no longer be necessary to bulldoze more forests, erode soils, drain aquifers, dam more rivers, deplete non-renewable resources, and fill the atmosphere, land, rivers, and oceans with our wastes. The dominant economic paradigms of humanity will have shifted from competitive individualism, greed, and narrow self-interest — all sanctioned and perpetuated by currently prevailing laws and norms — toward community, cooperation, and our common interest in dignified, prosperous lives.