Is anything sustainable? Newton’s laws of physics tell us that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Where in a tangible world is there ever not an interaction between two forces? Perpetual motion, much like happiness or the concept of sustainability, is not possible without constant interaction of outside forces in the real world. Once we see what is needed of the individual, if there really is such a thing, we can then step in and continue the motion. It just might have to take place without a combustion engine, but more with the sweat of our brow.
I live in a free society where I am an individual, making individual choices. My opinion is formulated on my own and chosen by me. I am free to do as I will, with the worst pressures on me being economic ones, having my actions limited only by my financial lacking. The depiction of Western society seems strikingly close to reality. Although the West is often thought of as a frontier for freedom and enlightenment, the very thinking that has brought us as a society closer to a technological and economic utopia has damned us to a life of solidarity and paranoia.
I was reading Bill McKibben’s book and it made me think —the vast fruits of wealth that we have accrued have not made us any happier. In fact, he states that anything above $10,000 annually does nothing to improve one’s satisfaction in life. He goes on to say that happiness/satisfaction with life ranges across the world in all socioeconomic ranges and that the only statistical trend that holds true when it comes to happiness is that there is no trend.
Happiness is relative, and the act itself can only be defined as already being happy. Just as something is only carried while in the process of being carried. When you think of emotion in such an objective way, it stands that happiness is not to be the same for everyone and that being happy is the only thing that truly causes happiness. After you accept these “truths,” and I use quotes because truth is a loaded word, the path to happiness or satisfaction with life will never seem to be obtainable by monetary measures or maybe anything.
McKibben talks a lot about the concept of more and better, mostly that they need never to be paired together, which raises the best point so far: efficient production does not mean quality, nor does it even really mean efficiency. I think a better term to serve the discussion is “convenient production.” The refusal to price our natural resources as they should be, including human capital is a matter of convenience rather than efficiency. It is a refusal of reality and an impending rut that industry is about to find itself in. Where McKibben and I differ in opinion is that I believe progress does promote happiness. Not progress in the way of monetary gains, but in achieving a sense of purpose. The feeling of success in life is undoubtedly connected with a feeling of satisfaction for one’s own life. Progress as it stands now leads to overwhelming excess in exploitation and production. But it should be separable from waste. The concept of sustainability is progress for humanity in an opposite way, one without waste.
So where do we stand now? The fact that anti-depressants are more prescribed than any other medication in the United States is saying something. What we are doing isn’t working.