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Sustainability+Revolution+Chpt+1 - The Sustainability...

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The Sustainability Revolution John C. Ayers VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY The Sustainability Revolution: A scientific analysis of beneficial changes for societies, communities, and individuals Chapter One: Principles John C. Ayers 1/20/2011 This is the first of 15 chapters of a book I am writing on Sustainability. I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions that would help me improve the manuscript.
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Chapter One: Principles 1 1/20/2011 Part I: Principles Sustainably Meeting Human Needs Consider a fanciful retelling of the story of Adam and Eve that parallels the true plight of modern humanity: When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they gained not only knowledge but also an insatiable appetite. They used their knowledge to harvest all of the resources in the Garden of Eden and built a large mansion to isolate them from nature. Eden, which had supplied all of their needs, eventually became a wasteland. Because they failed to act as good stewards of nature as God commanded, and instead consumed all of the resources, they lost their home and were forced to move to more marginal lands to survive. God did not command them to leave Eden; they left because they had destroyed Eden, making life there unsustainable. The concept of sustainability was ill-defined until 1987, when the U.N. World Commission on Environment published "Our Common Future.” The report is often referred to as the "Brundtland Report" because the Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland chaired the Commission (WCED 1987). The authors defined sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Dresner 2008)." It therefore emphasized intragenerational and intergenerational equity. To better understand sustainable development we need to examine human needs and how to meet them. For a better future, we must design a society that meets our needs. And what are those needs? The most famous elaboration is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Figure 1). Maslow believed that humans are happy when these needs are met. He listed the needs in order of priority. Humans must first fill their basic “physiological” needs shown at the bottom of the pyramid, and then provide for “safety.” Meeting these needs makes it more likely that a human will survive long enough to fill the next need of “love/belonging,” which makes it more likely that they will propagate their genes. Because natural selection does not operate at levels higher than love/belonging, many people do not progress to “esteem” and finally “self-actualization,” which is defined as a person meeting their full potential. A sustainable society would give people the opportunity to become “self-actualized”, to meet their full potential.
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