I agree with Anita - even it that only makes two of us. I don't think you
can have a meaningful discussing of sustainability that excludes
spirituality. Spirituality and religion are not the same things - although
we are not likely to have a discussion of one without the other. To me,
spirituality simply means a felt need to be in harmony with some higher
order of things. With regard to spirituality, I don't think it really
matters whether one refers to this higher order as God, nature, or something
else. Spirituality is simply a belief that we can't just do whatever we
please here on earth, that we can't necessarily fix anything that we might
mess up, that we won't necessarily find a substitute for every resource that
we use up, that human technology is not the answer to every human ill, and
that the market is not God. We have to conform to some higher order of
things rather than bend and twist nature to things to fit every whim.
Sustainability ultimately is about intergenerational equity - to meet the
needs of the present while leaving equal or better opportunities for the
future. Most seem to agree that sustainable systems must be economically
viable, ecologically sound, and socially responsible. Economic viability is
about self interest - meeting our own needs today and tomorrow. Social
responsibility is mostly about shared interest - meeting needs which we
share with others within families, communities, nations, society, today and
tomorrow. Ecological sustainability in mostly about altruistic interests -
meeting the needs of others, needs which go beyond our own selfish interests
or interests that we share with others. Certainly, we may gain personally
from a healthy environment today, as does the rest of society. But we have
no narrow self interest, nor do we have a shared societal interest, in
protecting and conserving resources for all future generations. We won't be
here, no one we know will be here, we may not even have any descendents here
on earth when those resources are used. Spirituality is interconnected with
self interests and with shared interests, but it is the central issue in
altruistic interests, which in turn is central to ecological sustainability.
We are concerned about ecological "sustainability" only if we have some felt
need to live in harmony with some higher order of things - if we are
spiritual. If we do not believe in a higher order, or do not feel a need to
find harmony with it, there is no logical reason to be concerned about
whether or not people thousands of years from now will have opportunities
equal to or better than we have today. They can take care of themselves.
We have to clean up messes left by people in the past, so they can clean up
ours. They can find a replacement for anything we use up. Future
technology will take care of any problem that arises. And, the market is
perfectly capable of allocating scarce resources over time. If we exclude
spirituality from our discussion of sustainability, we exclude ecological
"sustainability" from our discussion as well. We could still talk about
individual and societal environmental risks of the present, but conserving
and protecting resources for the indefinite future would make no sense.
Any discussion of spirituality should be thoughtful and considerate -
respectful of the opinions and beliefs of all. After all we are not
talking about anything we can prove. A higher order, by definition, is
something above and beyond us. We can't contain and subject it to us,
because we are contained within it are subject to it. Spirituality will
always be about belief, -- not fact.
Hopefully, the inevitable discussions of religion that will accompany
discussions of spirituality can be thoughtful and considerate as well -
respectful not only of all opinions and beliefs but also of the "feelings"
of others. But, I sincerely hope that we will not prohibit the discussion
of spirituality, and therefore the discussion of sustainability, on the
sustainable agriculture network, simply because discussions of religion
oftentimes become uncomfortable.
From: Anita Graf (Staff) [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, August 30, 1999 10:46 AM
Subject: "unrelated" discussions
> Man, I can't believe the arrogance of some people.
> Really guys, this isn't a religious forum, its about
> Wouldn't it be more polite if you were to exchange
personal email to
> talk about religion, or go to a group dedicated to that
> clutter up this forum with unrelated discussion?
> Son of Richard
Man, I can't believe how narrow minded some people can be,
"agriculture" forum is about a lot more than giving
about proper cover crops or where to buy a grain thresher.
about agriculture in the context of the whole human being
and in the
context of nature. It requires a lot of "outside the box"
It also requires decision-making that might not always make
given current market signals.
Clearly, there are a lot of
people who can see how a discussion of ethics and
with sustainable ag. We're not discussing how many angels
fit on the
top of a pin, we're looking at the very motivation and moral
that leads people to support and carry out sustainable
in times of adversity and social disdain. Anita
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