Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sustainable You

Disclaimer: What you're about to read will confirm your previous judgment of me as an idealist and a dreamer. I can deal with that. Can you?

I've had a lot of dealings with government agencies of late. I recently sat through a presentation on a government-sponsored program in my province which provides laid-off workers with funding for training in a new career. From the outset, the agenda of said program was clear, as the facilitator opened with:

"If you're here thinking that the government will fund your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, think again. This program is to provide funding and training for an immediately employable, high-demand occupation."

Translation: There are boxes for you to fit into, hoops you must jump through to qualify to be put into those boxes and our main priority is boosting our failing economy by crushing your dreams and making you conform. Okay, I exaggerate. Or do I?

I could see The Matrix code streaming down either sides of Agent Smith, pardon me, Mr. Gov't Facilitator, as he spoke. And the room filled with an odd green hue that wasn't coming from the air conditioner. But, I digress.

Needless to say, I was bored by the rest of the presentation. Scratch that. I wasn't bored. I had my notebook to doodle in. I was actually mildly amused and somewhat outraged. A nice Friday afternoon combination. The questions and ponderings were swirling through my brain:

Why isn't there a government program to help someone live out their childhood dream to become an astronaut? Why aren't our basic political and educational systems set up to inspire the individual's pursuit of their dreams, of their deepest potential? Why are we so bent on corralling each other into boxes?

What if a government facilitator stood at the front of a room full of unemployed workers and said, "So, you've been laid off? Great! Now you can finally pursue your dream of becoming an astronaut or artist or watchmaker or whatever you desire. And we're going to connect you with every resource you need in order to get there." How cool would that be?

Humans have vast potential. Yet, we've created a world that limits that potential. Why? Control, fear, greed and outdated beliefs and systems that are not sustainable, the foremost of which is our monetary-based economy.

I have been keenly interested lately in the work of Jacque Fresco, who, through The Venus Project, promotes the idea of a Resource-Based Economy, which he describes as "a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is abundant with plentiful resource; our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival."

Utopian? Yes. Is it a perfect system? No. I'm not sure about all of the technology stuff he has in mind which you can explore further through The Venus Project website. But as Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." So, if Fresco's ideas get us to shift our awareness into another way of thinking it is a good thing. The more people on this planet with big dreams of sustainability, the better.

I like this idea of a resource-based economy, that of ensuring all humanity has access to the basics of life: clean air and water, food, healthcare, housing and education.

I watched a series of lectures given by Fresco at Penn State University this past April. This is the first of 13 YouTube clips that cover the lecture in full. Just click along after each one to the next.

While I found the whole lecture interesting, I found one of the audience questions at the end particularly telling. The gist of the question was: If our basic needs are taken care of, what will we do with our time? It's sad that we've reached a stage in our evolution where we don't know what to do with ourselves when we're not struggling to survive. What would you do if you weren't focused on making money to sustain your existence? What would you do if you were no longer at the mercy of a monetary-based economy?

Or, let's put this another way, if there was no external force telling you what you had to do, who you had to be...what would you do and who would you be? Without money being a factor, who are you? Actually, it comes down to this: WHO ARE YOU REALLY?

Fresco replies to the audience member's question by saying that under this resource-based economy, you will be freed up to travel, invent, create, learn, problem-solve. He speaks of arts centers, music centers, open education. Idealistic? Yes. Doable? Why not?

We've done the greed, fear, money, destruction thing on this planet. It's become boring. Not to mention unsustainable. Why not open to the idea of a more sustainable paradigm? Whatever that looks like for you, why not open to the idea of the global village, that there is only this one planet that we must all share and that to make it into the next stage of our human evolution we're going to have to find new and revolutionary ways to work with nature and each other to sustain life? What have you got to lose?

tall penguin


Sparky Thought said...

I loved this blog. Your thoughts flowed so freely that I read it quicker than I've ever read any blog posting before. I like what you had to say and your ideas of a non-monetary life system.

When I was laid off from my job, I thought to myself I could do anything now. I could start my own business. I could go back to school. I could take this opportunity given to me and start fresh.

However, soon after, the pull of the "system" began nipping at my heels and I was forced to pocket some of my dreams to begin again the "struggle" to survive.

I still have those dreams, but I am currently still in search of said survival for the next chapter in my life.

Thank you for posting this. It's nice to know that I am not alone and not the only one out here who feels lost in the chaos of government crap.

PaulJ said...

I like the Venus project, it's not perfect but theres a lot of good things there... and the train. I want to go on the super fast train.

v said...

This is how I felt in chiro school! Thank you.

Ganga Fondan said...

Great blogging once again, Penguin. There is a great movie released in the 1930's called "Lost Horizons" that also asked the question of what we would do if all of our basic provisions were available...I love this film for that. (Capra film). I've been studying the educational ideas of thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore and Maria Montessori who worked so hard to reform our learning. why don't things change over the years? Maybe will will create some waves eh???

matt said...

Great post,

I think that's exactly our problem. Generations before us put limits on themselves so that they would have a reason to survive.
But it was never a reason to survive. The American dream was dead hardly 10 years after it began.

Or something like that. :)

The toughest questions are always the ones I don't have answers for. Such as when that man brought up population control, and who/what ensures that we do not exceed the limitations of resources and space.

It dawns on me to question it in a different way -- why look at us as merely an Earth-bound species? :)

The universe is rather big, and given the willpower and cooperative motivation, we could live in space with the abundant resources within our solar system, let alone external to it.

But eh, that's just me dreaming. :D