Towards a Philosophy of Sustainability

Everyone has heard about the straw that broke the camel's back  - and perhaps wondered, whose straw was to blame?

Paradoxically the answer is no one's and everyone's.


But that is assuming, of course, that each person placed just a single, or the same number of straws on the camel's back. The answer is rather different if some people place more straws on its back than others.


Let the camel represent Earth's finite carrying capacity, on which each of us has to place a certain number of straws in order to live. Although we do not know exactly how many it can carry, we can be sure that there is a limit - which will be exceeded if increasing numbers of people continue to pile on more and more straws.


Insanely, this is exactly what we are doing. Everyone can pile as many straws onto the camel's back as they have - or can borrow - the money to pay for, and are encouraged to do so, not just by their natural inclinations, but also by a growth-dependent economy and multibillion dollar credit and advertising industries.


That may take a while to sink in, because it is difficult recognising such Insanities of Normality, which we have all grown up with, are so familiar with and dependent upon.


We urgently need a rough, working definition of what constitutes a "straw" and an estimate of how many the camel's back (our planet) can support, because we don't want to go anywhere near that limit. Not unless we are completely mad.


Also, we need to think about how and with what degree of fairness this limited number of straws is to be allocated amongst Earth's 6 (soon 7-9) billion human inhabitants, because allowing the amoral, market-based free-for-all we have at the moment to continue is not an option - not unless we want to join the dinosaurs.