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Sustainability Imperatives

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The conditions for the sustainability of a civilization are complex. Integrity of the individual, the community, the ecosystem, and of the cosmic environment are all seen as necessary conditions for sustainability.

Sustaining human life is the overarching issue for all; it is at the heart of work and play of individuals and at the core of social action, politics, and ethics. Could humans go the way of dinosaurs and the many other species that have disappeared? The human struggle for survival is assisted by greater intelligence, use of tools, and of technology. However, these survival instruments can backfire, and become the cause of the extinction of our own species, and many others. We cannot take the long term survival of Homo sapiens for granted.

Indeed, our technology-based civilization is presently facing existential threats at several levels. A growing number of individuals suffer from shortages of food and water, and ill health. There is a wide spread fear of epidemics. – Human society is plagued by self-imposed dangers such as weapons of mass destruction and climate change. – The ecosystem is on the verge of collapse as the climate conditions are close to tipping point. Individual integrity, societal integrity, ecological integrity, and the integrity of the cosmic environment are the conditions sine qua non for sustainability; the imperatives.

Health and satisfying Maslow's basic needs are required for the integrity for an individual. Health in this context means a state capable of sustaining life. The basic needs, as established by Maslow, are physical needs such as food, water, and shelter; mental needs of sensory inputs and communication; and spiritual needs which include self-esteem, ethical conduct, and community recognition (Maslow).

The primary values (priorities) of individuals are to sustain their own life, and to propagate their own genes. The primitive egocentrism based on the law of force can be observed widely in nature and is commonly interpreted as Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. However, the best chance for survival and achieving personal integrity lies in an enlightened egocentrism were the individual grants rights to others and submits to the rules of life in a community. Kroopotkin wrote about mutual aid in 1902 (Alexeivich 1998). New studies show that Charles Darwin's notion of fitness to survive included love, compassion, and cooperation, not just brute strength (Alexeivich 1998; Axelrod 2006).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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