Ideologies Of The West Meet Ideologies Of The East – Where Sustainability Suffers

Sustainability is the ideology of achieving harmony between social, environmental and economic pillars. It is the idea of making positive change without damaging the potential of the resources we have available for future generations. But how can this really be achieved when consumer capitalism is the method of choice in today’s global society?

The western world, perceived to be made up of the globes most developed nations has a free ranging movement of knowledge and moral understanding. As a cognitive plus we deem ourselves aware of global plights and attempt to work towards solving these. We may understand the fundamentals but too often forget that materialism and consumerism are both factors ingrained heavily in our daily lives allowing us to expect access to decent services such as running water and electricity but seem ignorant of the intricate processes involved in getting these to us.

Nature is by and large treated as a separate entity, we war against, take her over and use her for the ‘resources’ we need. We change habitats to fit our resource and social demands and when that doesn’t meet our needs we move to new places and take their ‘resources’. “Wilderness thus becomes the antithesis of modern capitalist civilization.”

How do we achieve an idea of harmony when we are already so corrupted by consumerism? Change is hard, many people are willing to agree things need to be altered, but are opposed to making change that results in self-sacrifice. The ‘not in our backyard’ is favored by most and highlights the nature of the hurdles we face. We are a stuck in a cycle where unless we are legislated to do something i.e forced to change or change is made elsewhere that doesn’t affect us, we struggle to move forward.

Learning from the way of the tribe – The Dani

Vast swaths of jungle and mountain have made it hard for people to identify and interact with local tribal groups. Areas in West Papua and the Amazon rainforest are prime examples of untouched tribal communities living by the way of their ancestors. The Dani tribe of the Baliem Valley, West Papua was discovered in the 1920’s. This isolated community had developed its own rural lifestyle structure that mirrors numerous larger nations of today.

The Dani have spread throughout the mountainous regions of Papua New Guinea. Before first contact, this group of individuals lived off the land. Yam, cassava, banana and pig form a primary part of their diet and they managed farmland for their own food provision. Based on a culture of polygamy, after the birth of a child the women abstain from sex for 2-5 years meaning the populace of these tribes was well managed. They are very unmaterialistic, like many tribal counterparts, and create what they need to live and may barter for the rest. They have a common ideology that wealth may be measured in pigs and women but do not attempt to exceed further creating basic machinery, mining or moving away from their known environment.

This culmination creates a low impact community group. By way of their traditions their population control measures create capacity for one individual to survive and do not place pressure on their resources. They appear to live in harmony with the land, taking what they need and do not place excessive value in material goods like clothes or possessions. They understand the harmony between nature and their own tribal groups.

These communities, among many, seem to work with and not against nature. A definitive hurdle to sustainable development is the treatment of nature as a resource bank and its non-inclusive nature. Surely, to make sustainability fully work we need to incorporate her for her ecosystem services and learn to work with and not against her.

About the Author Kelly Millward

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