Issue 63: A Framework for the Future - advance to page 44.

by Hamish Wills, Sustainable Redland

With all the evidence we have about the speed of climate change, advances in technology and population increase, it is vital that we think about our future working and living needs. We have two choices in going about this. We could do nothing and allow events to dictate what happens, or assess our needs and manage events to make them work for us in a positive and beneficial way.

On the climate change front there is no doubt that if we are going to survive as a species, we will have to learn to live sustainably. That means fossil fuels and high energy lifestyles are out. Flying off to Barcelona for a weekend's shopping, high energy bills, gas guzzling cars, throwing new things away all the time and relying on food from far away places must stop. So if that has to happen, our expectations and work skills need to be channeled towards much greater self reliance and lower impact energy dependency.

We do not control nature, but are part of it. Sometimes when we transform a landscape through building, farming, mining or any other of a number of ways, it's hard to remember this, but we forget it at our peril. At a basic level we know how soil dries up, erodes and wildlife disappears if we remove woodland and replace it with grazing or building land. We are now being told that fairly soon nano technology will enable us individually to have whatever we want despite the laws of nature, but the truth is that if we fail to keep nature relevant to our lives and aspirations wherever we live and under whatever circumstances, no amount of science or action will replace it. That especially applies to those of us living in cities where our achievements in technology and engineering tend to blot out the centrality of nature to our lives.

We know we are social beings, but for most of us solitary living does not sit well. However economic and sometimes social pressures push us into living as individuals rather than with communities. The internet can do a great job connecting people, but it can also give an impression of living in a community made up of friends who are really strangers with different interests. In truth, nothing can replace face to face social interaction.

O course, we have to eat and exercise, train our young, relax, stay healthy, live fulfilled and safe lives and pay for it. Considering these within the framework of sustainability, nature and social interactions is the way we need to plan our work and the way we live in the future. That may sound trite in the onslaught of the internet and automation, but neither will exercise us, keep us in touch with nature and replace the daily face to face interactions we depend on.