In my previous blog, “Why a Book,” I introduced my recently published book, In the Light of Humane Nature: Human Values, Nature, the Green Economy, and Environmental Salvation. Focusing on the origins and purpose of the book, I gave just a brief capsule of its main theme. I described its message as getting in touch with the human values that we most cherish, those that make the human species truly sapiens and humane, so that we will treat others and the rest of the world with the care they require.
Pretty far away from Green Seal, you think? Well, try these excerpts:
Our attitude toward nature is lacking in a vital way; in our destruction of nature, something is lost in our souls. We must develop sound moral and aesthetic attitudes toward nature based not on ecological knowledge so much as on human values themselves.
The world still burns, regardless of how much we know, because we have dissociated ourselves from nature and from our humanistic values for nature.
The world still burns, regardless of how much we know, because we lack something vital in our attitude toward nature.
The world still burns, regardless of how much we know, because we have lost sight of our kinship with nature.
And the world still burns, regardless of how much we know, because our denial of nature has led to a denial of part of ourselves—perhaps the part that loves.
Actually, these concepts are in many ways the underlying basis for the work Green Seal and others do to make our world more sustainable. We certainly want to maintain and protect human life on earth, but also all other forms of life, and as importantly, our spiritual nature.
The book also talks about the growth of the green economy, in fact, the evolution of the environmental movement, in order to give perspective on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. A chapter describes the change in the movement’s focus from limiting and controlling pollution to preventing it in the first place to upstream, supply-chain evaluations and life-cycle considerations, culminating in standards and ecolabeling programs (such as Green Seal) for greener products and services.
Another chapter delineates the responsibility of each party in the economic chain for the environmental, health, and social aspects of products and services on the market. I argue that everyone bears some responsibility for the impacts of products and services, but producers have a special burden as originators, followed by retailers as gatekeepers for consumers.
Before the really philosophical discussion commences, as foreshadowed in the introductory chapter’s excerpts above, I take a careful look at what motivates consumers in their purchasing decisions, both generally and specifically, and how these relate to broader and deeper concerns about society and the world at large.
In this there is both hope and concern. Issues of status, style, welfare, affordability, and cost often work against concerns about impacts on others (people, ecosystems, or resources), as consumers strive to acquire material possessions for reasons other than need. But the analysis demonstrates that many of these motivations can be turned toward more sustainable ones with a shift in values.
For example, cost and affordability can be related to life-cycle cost and earth’s carrying capacity, provided consumers broaden their circle of concern.
And that, in essence, is what the book comes down to. If we show concern for everything around us that is comparable to what we feel for our loved ones, we would treat the rest of the world – other humans, countries, animals, and even plants, landscapes, and resources – more sustainably than we do now. These moral values of care and concern for others may be uniquely human in their breadth and depth, but they also enable us to achieve our most profound humanity, which we term humane.
While our love for others, even those closest to us, may not be model or ideal, it can be the basis for our relationship to all of humanity and to all of nature. Only thus will we achieve a more sustainable world and a kind of environmental salvation.