Monday, May 18, 2009

Wealth in an Age of Ecological Turmoil

The times they are a changing. We want to live abundant lives, but the current crop of consumer products and their attendant manufacturing and distribution bases are destroying our Mother Earth. How can we justify wealth-seeking in a time when the material badges of that wealth are themselves anti-life?

Local Sustainable "Consumption"
The first piece of the puzzle of reconciling wealth and abundance with sustainable practices is your commitment to "source" your material goods and services from local sustainable producers.

Buying from local sustainable producers saves resources and prevents destruction of the Earth's bounty. If the producers then also buy locally the effect of your spending choice is multiplied.

Ideally, everyone involved in the production of your consumer products would be using sustainable methods and materials. The physical buildings and other infrastructure would be constructed and maintained in sustainable ways, with sustainable materials.

By factoring in our social requirements to our purchasing decisions we can easily signal the business world to adapt themselves to supporting a healthy and long-term life. Most of them already want to, they just need the economic gateways opened up for them by our ready dollars.

Spiritual Wealth
The very nature of wealth is changing. Old fashioned ideas of wealth based primarily on status symbols and ability to command the productive capacity of your fellows are rapidly failing.

Material items don't improve your happiness once you've reached a certain "norm". Your need for personal growth can't be fed by any increase in trinkets. The solution to existential malaise takes the form of moving beyond yourself, of trying to be a better person, a greater human being.

So we find ourselves talking about spiritual wealth, and here we have a plethora of sound advice and guides. Reach out to your fellow earthlings and serve them, engender episodes of warmth and human compassion in daily life. Let your existence become a poem of service and kindness. This is a sure path to true wealth.

Imagine that you're an eco-entrepreneur. Perhaps you bake bread with local ingredients. In comes a new customer and, with a smile on her face, she buys some of your bread. Now, granted there's an equitable exchange going on there, but can't you imagine that you'd feel a bit like that person had done you a good turn?

When you patronize responsible businesses that are competing with irresponsible ones you are, in no small measure, serving the whole world. You still need to do more than shop responsibly to be a good person, but it is a simple way to bring spiritual values into your life.

If we make the decision to buy goods and services that are created in harmony with the systems of the Earth, and if we go beyond material abundance to the true wealth of the spirit, then the drive to live well can be harnessed in a healthy manner and become, not part of the problem, but part of the solution.