Approaching the Age of Maturity and Spiritual Civilization, Part 4

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model

 

Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development  (www.cbdus.org)

 

In the last three articles we talked about human relations and the education system as well as the concept of work and human health in a balanced development model. Here, we are going to examine the environment as one of the major features of the age of maturity and the approaching spiritual civilization.

 

 

Environment

 

Much has been said and done about the environment in the recent years. All over the world people are becoming conscious of the damage of our extreme development trends on the environment and natural resources. There is a growing green industry where anything from food to furniture is made with organic and environmentally friendly materials. We are trying to develop alternative sources of energy, including solar, wind and bio-fuels. We have also come up with new ways of cleaning up pollution and recycling material. However, when we look at the overall global picture of the environment and the increasing population, consumption is on the rise. We are making more cars, pumping out more oil, cutting more trees, processing more food, using more water, manufacturing more gadgets and creating more products faster than we can replenish our natural resources.

 

As much as we like to take pride in our achievements in dealing with the environmental issues, we have essentially created another industry called the environmental industry that is mostly focused on alternatives to meet the demand as opposed to addressing our consumption behavior. Whenever we talk about economic development, we are, in fact, talking about more consumption. It basically boils down to individual’s freedom of choice and the notion of supply and demand. We rarely talk about how educated is the demand and what drives us to consume. We seldom talk about social responsibility and the balance between material comfort and social well-being. As individuals, our standard of “success” is our buying power. With this popular mindset which, by the way, has global appeal, we are digging a hole that gets deeper everyday and its side-effects are the deteriorating condition of the environment and the fragmentation of the social structure.

 

 

Saving the Environment and the Natural Resources

 

Generally speaking, the environment is about our relationship with Mother Earth. We are the only creatures that have control over the elements and can throw off the ecological balance. The world of nature is at our mercy. However, we must realize that life is more than just satisfying our personal wishes. It’s important to understand that we are the trustees of this planet and we are responsible to preserve its limited resources for future generations. Clearly, civilization must advance and we need to improve our living standards. But this advancement also calls for individual maturity and social harmony. We need to find the balance between improving our living conditions and building harmonious communities while nurturing human potential and preserving our natural resources.

 

In achieving the balance, the individual as the agent of change and the one that plays a central role in the development process, must be aware that a great civilization cannot be achieved unless each member is willing to think of the well-being of all and making sacrifices for the greater good. We have seen the powerful dynamics of this mode of thinking in history. Living in this kind of highly mature civilization is a wonderful experience and each individual member enjoys the benefits. Here, the individual acts as a contributing member of society. In this model, we understand that global warming, pollution, waste and numerous other environmental issues can be controlled if we can control our desire to consume. In essence we educate ourselves in the fundamentals of civilization and our role as participants. Ultimately, it’s about collective endeavor and achieving a healthy social body.

 

As a practical measure, we can start educating our children about the importance of society and human relations. We can help them learn that the cause of many of our dilemmas in the past has been our focus on self and the fragmented world community. We explain to our children that we have not been able to initiate a cohesive global effort for the proper utilization and preservation of our natural resources and that we hope that they can do better by focusing more on the collective nature of human civilization and balancing their lives. Our children must realize that their optimum physical, mental and spiritual growth is dependent on support of the society and that in turn each one of them must contribute to society in their own unique capacities.

 

 

Micro Solutions

 

Albert Einstein once said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The balanced development model calls for a reversal of the current macro development trends. It envisions the concept of “micro solutions” and local initiatives. In other words, by downsizing our industries to serve the local needs, we can save a great deal of  resources including energy, infrastructure, communication, transportation and personnel that the traditional macro solutions would have entailed. Here, industries are focused to serve a small region by utilizing local human and material resources while working in harmony with the various other industries to keep the balance regionally and globally. This approach can easily minimize the environmental impact of the production cycle and related services while bringing people closer together. In this model, environmental design and urban planning play a major role in terms of efficiency in social interaction, transportation, green space, air quality, housing, shopping, activities and industrial production. A good example of such design is the carfree concept (www.carfree.com) which proposes a highly efficient model and is ideal for community life and the nurturing of human potential.

 

The micro solution would eliminate the need for huge cities where we are concentrating our resources and building massive infrastructures with its inherent machine-like lifestyle. Instead, we can strive for balance between our living environment and nature. We can develop a network of smaller regions each with its own set of unique human and material resources. In this way, small local farms that produce organic and fresh produce would replace the genetically modified and chemically treated products of the corporate farms. Transportation issues would be greatly solved by designing high-speed mass transit systems. Here, to meet the energy needs, small units of solar and fuel cell can provide the needed energy for each household eliminating the need for atomic power plants. In terms of manufacturing, smaller plants designed to meet the needs of the immediate area would eliminate the high health hazards of the mega plants. This micro approach through careful planning and spreading of the development initiatives across large geographic areas, would eliminate the need for migration of the workforce to large cities in search of jobs and a meaningful life.

 

In the next article we will examine the rise and fall of ancient civilizations and try to develop a sense of how we have evolved, where we are and where we are heading.

 

Ramses Rashidi  (ramses@cbdus.org) is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.