I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Makes a Good Life

If my vision in the post below is correct; and we, the people, have a collective death wish; what should environmental activists do about this? 

How do we enhance a 'life wish' in the collective unconsciousness? 

If we each embrace life, will a complex system change?  Maybe......

Most of us don't perceive that we have a good life right now.  In fact, the Happy Planet Index, as calculated by the new economics foundation, reveals that most countries in the world are moving in the wrong direction: we are no happier in the developed world than in poorer nations, and yet we consume more and more of the world’s resources. http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/happy-planet-index

We seem to be  suffering from affluenza.

Proponents of the term consider that the prizing of endless increases in material wealth may lead to feelings of worthlessness and dissatisfaction rather than experiences of a 'better life', and that these symptoms may be usefully captured with the metaphor of a disease. They claim some or even many of those who become wealthy will find the economic success leaving them unfulfilled and hungry only for more wealth, finding that they are unable to get pleasure from the things they buy and that increasingly material things may come to dominate their time and thoughts to the detriment of personal relationships and to feelings of happiness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affluenza

Clearly, something is very wrong with our lives as measured by the Happy Planet Index.  This isn't just an individual matter:  the cultures and societies we have made seem sick and dysfunctional. 
How do we embrace life? What makes a good life? How do we model that?

It seems to me that, on an individual basis, self - awareness  coupled with compassion; lots of social connections/  bonds; and lots of physical movement make up a good life for those of us with a place to live, enough to eat, and a job.   It also helps to have something to do/ work on that gives one's life meaning and purpose.   And that old fashioned value, self-restraint, seems to me a good one - particularly when thinking  about buying stuff!

On a national basis, a nation composed of individuals living a good life will have a collective  awareness of natural limits; a social safety net; status assigned by how compassionate we are (instead of by how much we consume) ; a physical structure that encourages us to walk, talk to our neighbours, catch transit, eat local,  a progressive income tax structure that narrows income inequality, and an estate tax to prevent the accumulation of wealth; free education; laws about truth in advertising to prevent tobacco companies from lying about their products; and beauty.

Will this work?  Maybe - maybe not.  Global catastrophe may be upon us: see http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full.pdf  

 Modelling appropriate behaviour; revelling in life; and lobbying government and working for change are the best ideas I've got.

What are yours?

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