Some thoughts after reading "Locating the energy for change: An introduction to appreciative inquiry":
There appear to be two basic questions, (1) is change needed? and (2) what change is needed? A discussion of these two questions leads to the rather unusual approach that change should not be envisioned but rather the reinforcement of innate human qualities. The most basic innate quality is the one that we share with all other creatures, that is the desire to survive as a species. It is this innate drive that leads us to protect our young and thus care for both their and our own future. This includes the protection of our environment.
Is change needed?
Energy-efficiency is an almost universal principle of life. People and other life forms prefer simple solutions that require little effort. Why climb a tree to pluck an apple if a ripe one is waiting in the grass to be picked up in the grass? The same least effort applies to mental work. A change of habits requires a mental effort, mental energy. So why should one want to change thoughts or habits if one feels at ease the way things are?
So this tendency to satisfy one's needs (and wants) with the least effort leads to a kind of "natural" resistance to change.
There is also a "societal" resistance to change, one that is cultivated by authority. Every creature strives for a reasonable place to live, with as safe as possible. This requirement of survival and safety is originally met by the the parents. Since the parents know the rules and dangers of life, the best strategy for the young is to obey and to copy behaviour. This "natural tendency normally prevails until the young is big enough to live on its own.
In nature, animals exert authority only in as far as it is required to protect the offspring against dangers.
In human civilisation, authority and power wielding - often called "education" or "upbringung" - has become a function of societal goals that exceed the original requirements. The upbringing of the human young is almost always a continuous - and mostly successful - effort to break the natural "own willpower" of the young being. The young more or less adapts to authority. But the innate desire for indepence is not eliminated, it has just been subdued. Therefore, as soon as the young human feels strong and big enough it will start disobeying, at first its parents and then the authorities and society in general. It will break the rules whenever it sees fit without to much risk for negative consequences.
The "civilised" human has learned to hand over autonomy to authority. Along goes the handing over of responsibility for one's own actions.
Therefore, if an authority is pointing out that a certain change is needed, the first reaction is resistance. The second reaction is that it is not one own responsibility.
People recognise, of course, that quite a number of societal situations clearly require change, for a variety of reasons and depending on the standpoint of the observer. But this does not mean that one has to change oneself. The most energy-efficient option is if someone else changes. "They", the others, are the problem. I'm fine. I am doing what I can. If "they" would change things would become better.
What change is needed?
Along with upbringing and education goes an insidious indoctrination by the thoughts of the elders: people behave like their parents, think like their clan. The higher up the social career ladder, the more people become adapted to prodominant thought patterns. This has a major influence on their opinions regarding the kind of change that may be required.
But our upbringing has also significantly reduced our capacity to be open to non-conformist or unusal perspectives. We tend to think like observing the world through coloured glasses. Together with the almost innate resistance to change this means that our perception fo different change options is also quite restricted.
The determination of the kind of change that is needed for sustainability, however, requires a maximum openess to the scope of our civilisatory problems and to possible remedies. One has to discuss which "problems" are basic, influencing our survival, and which are a civilisatory layer of pseudo problems only.
The distribution of wealth is such a pseudo problem. Ultimately our planet does not at allcare whether it succumbs to environmental depletion in a just or in an unjust society. Whether all humans have the same income and expenditures, or whether one fifth of humanity consumes four fifths of all resources, it does not make the slightest difference to the planet. Our total pressure on the environment equals the number of humans multiplied by their individual consumption.
This is not to say that a more democratic and just distribution of resources would not contribute to aleviate the environmental problems. There is a synergy between social equity and environmentally sounder behaviour.
An aspect that seems to be a mixture of our tendency to be energy-efficent and our adaptation to authortity is the belief that solutions will be found when real need is there. Many people believe, for instance, that the energy problem will be solved by new (or even already existing but kept hidden) technologies, when fossil energy really runs out. They think technology will equally solve a host of other problems, such as deforestation, climate change and other forms of depletion and pollution.
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