One of the underlying tenets of the ecological / environmental / permaculture worldview is that we – all living creatures, and specifically people, are interconnected.
There are numerous ways of looking at this.
The Gaia Hypothesis/Theory published by James Lovelock asserts that living organisms and their inorganic surroundings have evolved together as a single living system that greatly affects the chemistry and conditions of Earth’s surface.
Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring categorically changed our perception human impact on the environment through her observations on the impact of chemicals throughout the food-web.
The carbon I exhale was the body of a plant or animal and can be sequestered again by plants on land or in the sea.
Many religions and cultures have an inherent understanding of this interconnection. The Buddhist concept of Pratityasamutpada, mutual interdependence that ultimately there is no demarcation between what appears to be an individual creature and its environment, has been applied to explain the interconnectedness of all being,
The place where all of this can be seen, touched, felt, experienced and dealt with is using economics. Every time I spend my money on a purchase of an object or service, I have made a personal choice of what industries I support, which people I impact and what natural resources are being used. I’m sure that we’d all like to know that my purchase is supporting a network of businesses care for its workers (and those in service industries that support their well being), are responsible for extracting natural resources, recycle all their waste and share their wealth for social and environmental good. We would hate that our money becomes a tool to enslave people, pollute the environment and reward the rich.
source: Change Your Shoes
How do we know what impact my actions have in a world where commerce continues between nations irregardless of their engagement in wars or their disregard of impoverishing its citizens and their ecosystems? Not everything we need can be made locally in an autonomous and highly regulated Bioregion according to our highest standards of social and environmental justice.
I’m thinking that it shouldn’t be a goal for people to be independent survivalists. Everything we buy connects us with millions of people worldwide. We need to consider what happens to others everywhere. The way to do this is to continue to demand adherence to Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how the lack of these principals and standards is directly associated with environmental degradation.
There are organizations and companies that are working in accordance with these ideals
and others that measure their social and environmental responsibility. Www.goodguide.com* is a bar-code scanning app which rates products (reviewed in the New York Times in 2009) as other rating agencies. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) brands products that meet their standard of “environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.” If you haven’t heard about organizations, recognize their logos or wonder when they are not stamped on the products you purchase, in the store’s windows or on their websites, then you may want to get curious about the subject.
A place to start is instilling a Consideration of my personal power of choice in what I Want my money to support as it leaves my wallet and changes hands.
* a serious challenge, well worth the discussion, is the conflict in “why choose a better product when it shouldn’t be purchased at all”. Rating and standards agencies deal with this when they decide if their measurements are comparative, i.e. one product performs relatively better than the others in the market OR setting a compulsory standard and checks compliance. Is an electric car better than an efficient gas powered car when the standard in the city is a bicycle? Why does Goodguide give Seventh Generation Tampons a high 8.1 rating compared to other brands while Mooncups are not listed? The German (and now European) Passivhaus energy efficiency standard for new houses stipulates “The Space Heating Energy Demand is not to exceed 15 kWh per square meter of net living space (treated floor area) per year or 10 W per square meter peak demand.” while the voluntary L.E.E.D. certification system in the USA awards points for planning with no performance accounting (yet).