Why sustainability fails?

Deep sustainability focuses on a basic need centred approach; that is for example to consume what we need and in doing so living within the means of our environment; so that ideally humans can interact with and within the natural system without harm. That is an ideal, almost as ideal as Garden Eden. Garden Eden represents the perfect state of being; everything is there that is desired, at a continuous quantity and the interaction be that between Adam and Eve or Adam and Eve and various other species is harmonic; a symbol of ultimate perfection and homeostasis.

In sustainability these idealized views and to some extend fantasies represented in Garden Even are increasingly reflected. The ideal is that carbon and other natural cycles circle perfectly. Meanwhile human and other species live at a constant state of harmony together. If a fish was eaten, the natural balance would as easily be restored, because there is always a surplus of it. Furthermore, there is no conflict, because conflict would impede such harmony. This concept does not only apply to our local communities, but it also applies to our global society, where we all live in peace together, cooperate and everyone is keen on protecting social and environmental well-being. We thrive as global society within our means. Like Garden Eden, this ideal appeals.

This ideal appeals so much, that through the support of regulations and business models for sustainability it must be achieved. It little does so though, because it would require that the very human nature of ego and thereby notions of greed and desire for more would have to be diminished. Greed would have to be diminished because it is through greed that inequalities such as more and less access to resources or their exploitation, likely continue and it is desire for more, that basic needs; producing and consuming what one possibly needs, little exist. Yet, the latter is almost the premise for such idealized homeostatic state of a sustainable society.

Homeostasis does not exist as a constant state of being, because there are constant factors that influence such state. Often times, we think it does, and that is how we live and possibly create for it. Thinking “it” can be maintained and aimed for like love in relationships for example. It cannot. It cannot because loss, including destruction is part of life and the natural world as part of it.

Of course, there is not all bad, and there are for example business models that aim at creating a more sustainable future. But so often, they idealize too. For example the premise is that products will be produced better and although their price will increase the assumption is that people voluntarily pay for it. This assumption has a classist notion to sustainabiliy, because many people still live below the financial poverty line and even if they did not such as many people on a “normal” or “high” income , they might have many different financial priorities so that most sustainable products are not financially feasible or interesting for them, even if they wanted to.

Sometimes people may not simply care either. That is not because they don’t want to, but because they struggle with their own means of survival or look at maintaining an individual livelihood. For example, using public transportation or the e-bike sounds fantastic, but in many cities, peri urban up to urban regions, the infrastructure does not exist, or lacks so that owning a car does not only appeal, but simply makes life easier. Think about a parent who saves 1.5h by using a car packed with groceries going from work to kindergarden or any other person who could spend that time differently. The same principle can apply for circular systems too, with the expectations that people care for their products always and are geniously interested to return build up furniture for a small discount to a store. Often a certain lifestyle or the effort put into it, might outweight financial benefits, so the ideal set is too high. So, how to design for covenience?

Of course one can go further, more systemic with the younger generation demanding idealisitc system change too, but then possibly finding it a bit odds when it comes to real action and behavior change, whilst more pleasure can be found in TikToks and other urban funs’. Meanwhile, the news and even policies for a “sustainable future” preach for such sustainable ideals, but looking outside of these ideals, one can find needs for continous self-actualization; i.e. building or having a paying career as a means of survival; often that comes through jobs and even if the job is not liked or pretended to be liked, it yet pursued because there are little means to pay for life otherwise. For example, if we were to honestly consult businesses on sustainability, we would in many cases have to say; Its best not to have the business or in the case of the individual “not to pursue this career.” It gives little room to be, so that sustainability, or the idealist homeostatic lifestyle that can be found in the Myth of “Garden Eden” instead sounds too ideal to be real.

A sustainable society, would require more interaction in real life, but the interest shifts towards digital interaction. At the same time we see levels of loneliness increasing; digital disconnect.

As a consequene of such “societal lock-in”, one can likely feel the opposite of sustainability too; increases in consumption or various forms of addictions or other forms of mental ill, to cope with such “lock-in”. And at the same time possible growing disparities between personal demands on sustainable behavior and the inability or disinterest to live up to it, because of socio-economic conditions; or because the ideals are simply set too high. This can be found on a personal and even company, supply-chains and any other industry level.

The question that hereby remains could be how to set objectives or sorts of standards for something that is sustainable, but not setting sustainability, including CO2 neutrality as the idealized globalized standards for everything and everyone. Supposingly, sustainabiltiy even idealizes for everything to stay for ever “to sustain”, while in nature not all sustains. However, we treat most notions on sustainability like that too.

Resources

Inspiration from Psychoanalytical Theory focusing on fantasy and ideals and further literature on business model short-commings as well as conversations with people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

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Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

When students enter the end of high-school, the question who they want to become for the rest of their lives becomes fundamentally present. “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Many don’t know, some know, and some know, but they can’t. So they deviate their choice of interest or begin with any interest, that eventually as adults might leave them locked-in or question, whether what they do is actually something they thrive in. “If I could go back in time, I would have done that.” “Why haven’t you?” I would ask back, and receive a range of different answers or the sheer expression of not knowing.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

I remember the end of my high-school and I wanted to study psychology. I had no understanding of psychology and at the same time, I could not study it, because my high school grade (NC) was too low to enrol into a German university to study psychology. I could not become who I wanted to. I looked over the border of Germany and I realized many universities do not have a NC. Instead they have intake tests and some (like mine) had intake interviews to validate student motivation for a certain study program. Mine integrated business and public health. I quickly specialized in mental health. I thrived, my grades thrived. I could become who I wanted to still a bit; just differently.

Yet I am not a psychologist working in clinical practice. Can I become one still? No, unless I invest around 5-10 years of formal and practical education. However, I can enroll in further education (which I do) and integrate aspects of clinical knowledge in my work and private environment. I also do not have to become a psychologist “by titel”, but I can offer counceling services that also help improve the lives of people differently. So yes and no, I can and I can’t.

Could I (still) become a diplomat?

If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to answer it. But I remember having looked up political studies specializing in politics and conflicts, so that one could work for a foreign ministry. This never interested me, but for some time in my studies, or at the end I had developed a huge passion for ecosystem services in relation to livelihood. Eventually I decided to intern at an intergovernmental organization in China. I wanted to do so, because they specialized in bamboo. Ironically I did not know they were a diplomatic organization, but was quickly involved in that. Now I had diplomatic experience written on my CV and I could have continued that path. After all, diplomacy is about understanding differences and navigating jointly towards a common goal; Why does country a benefit from improved ecosystems and how can country b support such collaboration? ->Diplomacy. You can become a diplomat by specializing, being the expert in a field of your interest. Interest thrives!

Can I (still) work at the NASA?

If someone asked me that randomly, like a neighbour, I would quickly find out, that they might have expertise in a different field, let’s say pharmacy, being a cashier, kindergardener. I would say that the chance is quite low unless they changed their entire lives. Yet, I might just be so wrong. One of the alumnis from my Bachelor, developed a huge passion for waste and somehow she, her student team and professor came to think about waste in space and the effects it has on satelite crashes, whereby functioning satelites are essential for the many services we use today (mobile phones, health and more). She became so passion, that she founded the “Sustainable Development Goal 18“, is invited to give guest lectures on space and waste. As I last heard her talking, she got into the last round of job interviews at the European Space Agency for a job. She has to say 0 formal background in space, but much informal. Passion thrives and other people see that too. And passion/interest can be developed at any age.

Can I (still) become a teacher?

A teacher is someone who delivers information, ideally engaging, so that students learn, can feel empowered. I never intended to be one, but now I happen to be one ” a lecture at a University of Applied Sciences”. I don’t have the formal education for teaching, but I lived almost 7 years abroad, and I enjoy putting some of that knowledge together in a course and teach it to students. I will though. There is a demand for that, because education often looks for practical examples. So at any age, even without the formal education, you can become a teacher. Unsure? Put a free training course together and teach it (online). That also lands you skill-sets.

Can I work in counterterrorism/ intelligence analysis?

Often we look at profession as if they were a narrowed path, but less likely the skill sets needed for a certain profession; i.e. the ability to read people, to remove bias from information, to be fast, to communicate clear, to be a critical thinker, a single and team player. Instead we look at: To do this, I would have needed to study this in particular. Therefore, I never qualified and I still don’t qualify. In fact, often that is not true. For instance, in intelligence analysis the skill-sets listed above are important, but they can be found and developed in different professions. Of course, skill-sets very likely need further development, but the lack of a certain education that has let there, no longer should be an excuse not do it. Most of all; if you thrive, they thrive.

How do I know this is what I actually want?

I find this is the most difficult questions, because even if you remember, what you wanted to do or now think you want to do, there is a lack of certainty in that this is something you really enjoy. For instance, one could start studying medicine and realize, that one can’t see blood, so the “ideal” or the imaginary one holds of a job or profession may not hold true. That is years of time and money lost. To avoid that, it is helpful to go and interview people in the field “What do you like and what do you dislike?” I would even interview more since different people have different experiences and perceptions towards a profession (that’s what I like about science).

You may also want to do an internship, or see where certain skill sets demanded in a job, are skill sets you have but that show otherwise. In the case of the job of the intelligence analyst, I would see where else I am good at analyzing data. Maybe you end up finding out a skill-set unique to you that matches a profession you haven’t thought about i.e. being resilient or great at dealing with conflicts, possibly make you a good lawyer.

How does this relate to sustainability?

In one way its about thrivability. It means thriving in something, therefore feeling more content with oneself and experiencing a lower need to substitute something that is missing (negative feeling, or dissatsifaction such as with the job one choses) with something else that gives a positive feeling (pleasure) such as in shopping, drinking etc.. Often that type of pleasure does not sustain, because it aims at “compensation” or in other words “the coating” of the cake, while the cake foundation needs fixing. So it lacks.

Now by choosing a job, that sustains, that one thrives in, desire for compensation (up to addictions or levels of dissatsifaction) often decreases. One is more willing to “invest financialy” (cash flow;) ) into a career, because of the certainty of it. The return of investment (financially, but most of all emotionally is likely far higher). However, as one comes to think about, one also comes to think about being too old, too young? or too locked-in to implement changes. In addition, there seems as much as fear to change to something that makes one thrive possibly more.

However, that isn’t the case and in any age and stage, there are opportunities to at least integrate parts of another discipline that one might have miss(ed) out. One might even look for new directions, not thought of yet.

What about you? Please feel free to comment, write about your situation, job choices and I am gladly responding. You can also book a free consultation with me.

Playing on circular music

Did you know that music can have a beneficial effect on brain chemicals such as dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure, and oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” And there is moderate evidence that music can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Besides these there are also other benefits like improved mental performance, coordination, reading and listening skills. And honestly, doesn’t it feel great to create music all by yourself – a way of expressing yourself and feeling it?

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Unfortunately, the ability to create music – the specific type of music- we dream of can be exclusive. And that is such a shame, because music frees, music connects and music makes us feel alive. It makes us dance, it makes us cry, it makes us smile, it makes us fall in and out of love, it makes us excited, it creates a unique atmosphere, a rythm, a bond.

Why is it exclusive? There is a great variety of music instruments and each of them is made of different materials , with a different level of difficulty and different costs to create a unique sound. Of course, it is possible to use vegetables or simple sticks to create sounds, but these might never create the sound of a violine. A well produced violine may cost at least 1000 Euros up to hundred of thousands of Euros, depending on the materials used. And this keeps the dream, your dream, a girls and boys dream, an adults dream or the dream of anyone with a low budget always a dream. In reality, this dream should be lived.

Could renting change that? Yes! With 30 years, I decided to rekindle with my childhood dream and signed up for a trial violine class. Unfortauntely, I did not feel inclined to continue the dream, because the price of a violine appeared quite shocking to me. It was then my teacher who recommended me to rent a violine from a nearby store, that offers also repair and maintenance service throughout the use time.

What’s their business model like? Depending on the quality of the violine, I pay between 15 and 19 Euros a month rent. This price also includes a small insurance fee (2 Euros) for any type of damage that could happen. I need to rent it for at least 3 months and then cancel it in advance. If I decide to keep it, the price of one year rent (around 160 Euros per year) can be deducted from the total purchasing price.

Because I rent it, it is expected that I care for the product. While I have no understanding of violines yet other than , good once are made of wood and the bow of horse hair, maintenance guidelines help me care for it and of course my teacher too (I hope : ) ). If I have any problems, I can also always contact the store for help.

What does this mean to me? Really the world, because I had always been fascinated by the sound of violines, and always viewed money as a huge obstacle. Likewise I was so pleased to learn about the environmental benefits of my local produced product and why quality matters so much. Circularity therefore does not appeal to plastic and fashion only, but also to many other sectors that make life livable and yet so joyful. I want more of it : )