Thought I'd pursue your comment about "Sustainability is not
about getting more stuff or "getting" anything, it is about
"living"...in harmony with ourselves and with others...".
I am re-reading Daniel Quinn's deliciously insidious and
breathtakingly original novel *Ishmael*, and recently came across the
part where he describes the role of civilizations/cultures as
accumulating and transferring knowledge down through each subsequent
generation. The cogent part here is that the difference between
"leaver" and "taker" societies (this may not mean much if you haven't
read the book) is that leaver cultures transmit knowledge of "how to
live", while taker cultures transmit to their progeny knowledge of
"how to make things". Even without having read the book, you can
doubtless guess which one we are.
This seems a particularly profound, if simply worded, insight into
the fundamental problem we (takers) face - we don't teach our
children how to do what you (and Ishamel) said we need to do - how
to live harmoniously with others or with the environment (or if the
truth be known, with ourselves). We don't teach it, because we don't
know it. We don't know it because our parents didn't teach it to us,
because they didn't know it... and so on. It is not part of our
As Ishmael says, because it is not part of our culture, each
generation has to try to re-invent it, whether as flower children
(are you youngsters out there old enough to know what that means?) or
Gen-X'ers or whatever is next to come down the pipe.
Perhaps this palpable, if unacknowledged void in our own lives is
part of the reason why at least some takers are attracted to leaver
cultures, e.g. some of the indigenous people cultures of North
It seems equally plausible to me that a culture that doesn't teach
its children how to live among themselves, would be a particularly
unlikely candidate for learning how to live sustainably
(harmoniously) with the environment around them.
Perhaps the difficulty facing proponents of sustainable agriculture
is not surficial/trendy/PR at all, but rather, something much more
"core" and integral to our very culture. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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