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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What’s therapy like?

It’s mental health awareness week, 2022 and indeed, I am visiting a therapist too. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a good thing? Yes. Unfortauntely therapy is often stigamtized although in the USA it was for some time quit common to have a therapist. Therapy can be for everyone, of any age and often its not just about being “mindfull”, sometimes its a change in perception or putting emotions into language. Much I didn’t know about, so that I put together this small blog on a few of my learnings, to kind of change that narrative on mental health and illustrate that different forms of looking at mental health and perception can contribute to well-being as individual and within the broader cultural context. After all, its for all.

Look at the bright side!

Its’ been one of the comments I heard most in my life and also said it most to myself. Something didn’t go well, but I had to or made myself look at the bright side. “A relationship ended sadly, but on the bright side it ended. A family member died, but on the bright side, I was on holidays. I got rejected for a job, on the bright my CV looked great. I was sad about moving to another city, but on the bright sight new people could be met. I lent someone money who did not pay it back, but on the bright side I still had money. I was scared about teaching, on the bright side I looked beautiful. The project proposal did not get accepted, on the bright side new calls would come. I felt lonely, on the bright side I have a cat.”

Though, my therapist taught me, these statments have nothing to do with the experience felt. They devalue and they distract from what has caused the feeling to begin with; Why did the project proposal fail? Why was I scared of teaching? Why couldn’t I be sad on holidays? Why did I lend money to this person? Why didn’t I get the job? Not feeling “the side not bright” instead pushed feeling inwards, made expressing them difficult, has led to isolating more inwards. It devalued, took away the meaning of what was felt, created uncertainty and supported acceptance over the non bright side. Leading to no changes that could serve a truly brighter side. Its’ called toxic positivity.

Your feelings are wrong!

I remember one of the first conversations with therapist and I said “Sorry for crying I know it’s stupid to be sad about this.” From then on many conversations were about “Why would you feel stupid for feeling a certain way? It’s how you feel and there is nothing wrong about feeling. It’s like saying it’s stupid that you feel sad for having lost a leg [if you did]. It’s not stupid. It’s valid in your own experience”. From then on, more conversations centered around the validty of my feelings, the fact that each of us has an own “subjective narrative” to which we react in certain ways that holds true to how we feel and perceive. Indeed telling others that their feelings are wrong, is by fact wrong. Its okay to be annoyed, its okay to be angry, its okay to be happy, its okay to be.

A narrative on celebations on mothers day being for happy mothers only is one-sided. When we have a society that celebrates or rewards only certain type of behaviour or feelings and disregards different perceptions and experiences, society is limited in its being. That is reducing the feelings of people to an inadequacy that more likely pushes them into shame instead of finding a supportive networking or feedback that more likely reinforces or is accepting their feelings. Telling them, that their feelings are”right as oppose to wrong”.

This won’t work!

There are probably many times in which we got rejected, as child, as lover, as employe, so often that trying feels scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Trying to avoid rejection, is a bad thing. Telling someone that a change in direction won’t work because the risks are uncertain may not pay out in the long term. Sometimes we do have to risk. Telling someone they can’t love someone because the circumstances are off, minimizes their feelings but may also leads them to self-reject, before they may even try within the circumstances that are off. Recommending someone to avoid talking about a certain topic, because it won’t be liked, likely leads to that things will always stay the same.

It is not rejection itself that people fear, it is the possible consequences of rejection.Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself (Robert Foster Bennet)

It’s not important!

My shoe is dirty, but it’s not important. I have relationship problem at home, but it’s not important. I feel lonely, but it’s not important. I am stressed because I have to pick up my child earlier, but it’s not important. I want to take a shower, but it’s not important. I want to become a writer, but it’s not important. I want to try out a new music instrument, but it’s not important. I want to study something else, but it’s not important. I want to set up a business, but it’s not important. I want to change my curricular, but it’s not imporant. (…)

“Why isn’t it important?” my therapist asked and I said , some things I think, in the large scale don’t matter. I can’t change them, I have no experience” “It matters because it matters to you.”

Whatever small it is , it matters. If nothing really matters or if importance is reduced to the smallest feeling, then everything that is perceived as seemingly not important, will always stay that way, when its the small things, the small irritants that need more listening to. Small things, that make living so worthile, a clean shoe, a random post, a great conversation, an egaged student, a happy pet, a great meal, shiny hair, a great book, time to breath, time to do nothing, a boring holiday, a cool class, an experiment that fails.

This has to be perfect!

There is no perfection. Even in nature, leafs don’t look perfect symmetrical. There is always some sort of lack of perfection. But we tend to want make things perfect, write perfect, say everything perfect, think it all through, wait so much, copy other people who we think that make something perfect, lose some sort of sense of self or how ones own uniquness can be perfect to another, thinking one needs to be like another, than realizes one is not, had their own perfection already been perfect to themselves. Misses hours and days of simply “doing” or “doing” by perfectionizing, when things aren’t always perfect. They may appeal, more or less, but there is no guideline on perfection, and where there is, they miss out the uniqueness that imperfection offers; a typo in a CV or text of a brilliant person, an academic article trying to be published by a non-native struggling English speaker, an idea terrible explained, but fantastic in its implementation, a haircut not appealing to the mass, but so appealing to one it truly does appeal to, love true and messy in the eyes of others, but so rich and fullfilling in the eyes of oneself with the other, a uniqe business to be shared, but isn’ because its not like other [go for it !]

Narratives on mental health?

Hiding, not feeling, pretending not to, ignoring, avoiding, not living, not being, determine how things should and should not be, all that effects our mental health. It is the range of feelings, the range of narratives, the range of experiences that makes being human more human, within the experience that one shapes with oneself and the expereince one shapes with another. There is no right or wrong to being, there is more likely wrong to “denying being” and that is where much of the mental health headeachs reside ; thinking one isn’t good enough the way they are, devaluing feelings, the experiences one makes, not wanting to change, because one things they can’t, wanting others to be the same, denying individuality, denying love, denying being.

(…)

Resources

[Experiences from my therapy and readings following Freud, Lacan, Instagram posts from therapists]

Mari Ruti (2013): The Call of Character: Living worth being. Book