Our society is environmentally, economically and psychologically unsustainable. We are already living beyond the means of our planet, we have high levels of inequality, and we are increasingly suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. As our society is created by the collective decisions of leaders this means our current leadership must also be unsustainable. The leaders who have the most influence on our society are those in politics, corporations and civil service. Yet our society is made up of each of us. Our actions, ideas, and words can all provide leadership. We all have the opportunity to develop ourselves, and hence our society, in a way that sustains us and our planet.
Environmentally, socially and psychologically our society is unsustainable. If consumption continues to increase at current rates, by 2050 we will need 3 Earths to sustain us (United Nations, 2015). Socially, income inequality is at the highest level in 50 years in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. Psychologically, according to the latest (2015) figures from the World Health Organisation, 615 million people were suffering from depression or anxiety across the world. We are destroying our planet, allowing the rich to get richer and the poor poorer, and in doing so we are suffering more and more depression. Our society is created by the collective decisions of leaders. If society is unsustainable our current leadership is unsustainable. We need leaders who can stop the downward spiral, reverse the damage done to society and build a sustainable future.
Soul is often defined as the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal. This definition is not without its critics, as it arbitrarily stops at animals. What about plants and trees? Do they have souls? Indeed, it could be argued that plants and trees have some form of consciousness. It has recently been found that plants and trees send nutrients and signal to each other through underground fungal networks. If they are able to communicate and live co-operatively together, then why are we excluding them from having a soul? Why stop there? What about the whole of nature having a soul?
The foundation of our society is competition. We compete in school to get the best grades, in business to win customers, in politics to win power, in sport to win trophies and in our social lives to win admiration. Yet around 70% of us are not competitive by nature. During economic games research, the high regarded Swiss economist, Ernst Fehr, found that around 70% of the population are naturally more cooperative than competitive. When these cooperators work together in the economic games they seek win-win solutions. Then when a competitive person joins the game and adopts a win-lose approach, gradually everyone in the game becomes competitive. Our society has developed in response to the 30% of the population who are competitive by nature not the 70% who are cooperative. So where is all this competition getting us?
The statistics on the prevalence of mental health problems in the UK make for some pretty unpleasant reading. Scary numbers reported on the MIND website and sourced from NHS research reports, tell us that of the people we see everyday at work, school and in our community, 1 in 5 will have had suicidal thoughts. That’s 20 percent. A stark illustration of just what a sad and unwell nation we have become. I am sure on World Mental Health Day on 10th October, we will become even more aware of the current challenges and the significance of good mental health for us all.