...Now I know that cultural assumptions, even well-established ones, can be overturned, which is why I am excited about State of the World 2010. It calls for one of the greatest cultural shifts imaginable: from cultures of consumerism to cultures of sustainability. The book goes well beyond standard prescriptions for clean technologies and enlightened policies. It advocates rethinking the foundations of modern consumerism—the practices and values regarded as “natural,” which paradoxically undermine nature and jeopardize human prosperity.
Worldwatch has taken on an ambitious agenda in this volume. No generation in history has achieved a cultural transformation as sweeping as the one called ...view middle of the document...
Amid this flurry of activity, one dimension of our environmental dilemma remains largely neglected: its cultural roots. As consumerism has taken root in culture upon culture over the past half-century, it has become a powerful driver of the inexorable increase in demand for resources and production of waste that marks our age. Of course, environmental impacts on this scale would not be possible without an unprecedented population explosion, rising affluence, and breakthroughs in science and technology. But consumer cultures support—and exaggerate—the other forces that have allowed human societies to outgrow their environmental support systems.
Human cultures are numerous and diverse—and in many cases have deep and ancient roots. They allow people to make sense of their lives and to manage their relationships with other people and the natural world.
Strikingly, anthropologists report that many traditional cultures have at their core respect for and protection of the natural systems that support human societies. Unfortunately, many of these cultures have already been lost, along with the languages and skills they nurtured, pushed aside by a global consumer culture that first took hold in Europe and North America and is now pressing to the far corners of the world. This new cultural orientation is not only seductive but powerful. Economists believe that it has played a big role in spurring economic growth and reducing poverty in recent decades.
...While the destructive power of modern cultures is a reality that many government and business decisionmakers continue to willfully ignore, it is keenly felt by a new generation of environmentalists who are growing up in an era of global limits. Young people are always a potent cultural force—and often a leading indicator of where the culture is headed. From modern Chinese who draw on the ancient philosophy of Taoism to Indians who cite the work of Mahatma Gandhi, from Americans who follow the teachings of the new Green Bible to Europeans who draw on the scientific principles of ecology, State of the World 2010 documents that the renaissance of cultures of sustainability is already well under way.
To ensure that this renaissance succeeds, we will need to make living sustainably as natural tomorrow as consumerism is today. This volume shows that this is beginning to happen. In Italy, school menus are being reformulated, using healthy, local, and environmentally sound foods, transforming children’s dietary norms in the process. In suburbs like Vauban, Germany, bike paths, wind turbines, and farmers’ markets are not only making it easy to live sustainably, they are making it hard not to. At the Interface Corporation in the United States, CEO Ray Anderson radicalized a business culture by setting the goal of taking nothing from Earth that cannot be replaced by Earth. And in Ecuador, rights for the planet have even entered into the Constitution—providing a strong impetus to safeguard the country’s...