Our Unsustainable Society
As we disconnect from nature we suffer from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. As we disconnect from each other we suffer from loneliness. As we disconnect from ourselves we suffer disengagement, disenchantment and emptiness. These are combining to create an epidemic of psychological illness. In 1990, 416 million people suffered from depression or anxiety worldwide. These numbers rose to 615 million in 2013 (World Health Organisation, 2016). As we treat the individual we miss the pathology in our society.
It is believed that economies need to grow in order to be stable and as a result businesses are encouraged by governments to increase productivity. As more and more products are produced they need to be consumed. Knowing of our increasing psychological vulnerability, advertisers encourage us to buy things with the promise they will enhance our wellbeing and social standing. We have become addicted to consuming to fill our emptiness inside. Whilst a growing economy promises a better quality of life for developing countries, in the developed parts of the world it no longer leads to increases in overall wellbeing. The problem lies in the growing economies of developed nations not serving us all. As we disconnect from each other we become increasingly individualistic and competitive, leading to high levels of inequality. In 2015, income inequality in OECD countries was at its highest level for the past half-century. Countries with the highest levels of inequality suffer with the highest levels of health and social problems. Whereas, in more equal societies, people are more likely to trust each other, engage in greater community involvement and form higher levels of social cohesion. We are all interconnected and live in a global society. Health and social problems in our society affects us all.
It is our acceptance of inequality that leads us to tolerate people consuming the planet’s resources to reinforce their social standing. As we disconnect from nature we allow it to be exploited for economic growth. Our economy cannot be sustainable in an environment that is unsustainable. The belief that we can have infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources does not make sense. To be sustainable at the current level of consumption we need 1.7 Earths (Global Footprint Network, 2017). By 2050 it is forecast that we will need 3 Earths for us to live sustainably (United Nations, 2015). We are consuming our own future and that of future generations.
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do once you knew?