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NTM: The Ethics of Sustainability
by Nicodemus b
NTM I-NetNews Team at the National Town Meeting
source: SolarQuest®

Detroit, Michigan •• May 3, 1999 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• Ethics are principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. Many operate under the frontier ethic, which is, based on three tenets:

1. The world has an unlimited supply of resources for exclusive human use.
2. Humans are apart from nature, immune to its laws.
3. Success stems from the control and domination of nature.

The frontier mentality has been a part of human thinking for many thousands of years. It may be have begun to emerge in the hunting and gatehering societies and was clearly present in agriculture societies. it lives on today in the industrial world. The damage created by this outmoded way of thinking has reached the enormous proportions in large part because human numbers have increased dramatically and many technologies now produce enormous, life threatening changes in the environment.

The frontier ethic is not unique to the western world. Similar views are evident in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Panama, for example, past military leaders in promoting economic development have called for the conquest of the forest. In Asia, Japan has become a world leader in exploiting the global environment. Thailand and Indonesia have suffered greatly under resource development in the 12th century the king of Sri Lanka wrote, "Let not a drop of rain water that falls on the land go into the sea without serving the people." Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the frontier ethic--the notion of unlimited resources, feelings of separation from nature, and an insistence on conquering nature--is the disregard for the Earth it fosters.

As entrenched as our belief system may seem, it can be changed. Colonialism, slavery and the beliefs that support them have fallen by the wayside. New paradigms replaced these outmoded systems when it became clear that they did not serve humanity well. Thus the possibility of an environmental ethic becoming a reality is not only probable but possible.

The main tenet of the sustainable ethic is that there is not always more. The earth has limited supply of non-renewable resources, such as metals and oil. The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to Earth. All things are connected. What befalls the earth befalls the sons of the Earth.

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