The Challenge of Post-Materialism

I have been wondering if the prudent pessimist view of the world reflected in GSN480 and Hawken et al are a true reflection of our human nature and human development over the last 200 years and their effect on sustainability.

While at the beach over Easter I was lucky to read an article by Richard Eckersley in the Weekend Financial Review dated March 24-28th 2005. The philosopher, Dennis Kenny, argues that humanity has gone through four phases – the enchanted universe, the universe of Christianity, the universe of Newtonian physics and the organic universe of Einstein where the distinction between the material and spiritual no longer makes much sense. He argues that we are on the threshold of a new ‘creative’ universe where the human species takes full control of the future. Eckersley argues in this universe that human beings take control for their future away from authorities who believe they have a blind mandate from God, nature, history or the market.

This is a shift away from material progress based on self-interest, competitive individualism and shallow democracy (of tax cuts) to a new world view framed by sustainable development and based on altruistic, co-operate individualism, greater social cohesion, strong communities and a heightened quality of life and well being. This world where quality of life and moral autonomy are priorities has been evidenced by the recent strong growth in the % of population which are ‘culturally creative’.
This greater consciousness of the costs to society and environment will ultimately translate from our homes to business in terms of corporate responsibility and how companies compete with each other. In the creative world we will find win-wins between business and the environment and successful companies will compete based on sustainability because this is what the consumers and population at large will want.

In my quiet moments I reflect on the damage that the human species has done to itself and the world around it. However, when I look at my children and how they perceive the world and their responsibilities in it, I take some comfort and hope for the future.

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Posted in sustainable living
One comment on “The Challenge of Post-Materialism
  1. jeremy says:

    I missed this article Jaydeep (I don’t suppose you could post an electronic copy could you?), but I’m pretty familiar with Richard Eckersley’s work (through the Australia Institute, of which I am a member). Anyone interested might like to read some of his work on the quality of life in Australia here.

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