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The Cultural Imperative of Sustainability

Recently, we hosted a truly inspired interview on our Impact Series webinar program with celebrated author and philosophy professor Kathleen Dean Moore about the ethical, spiritual, and cultural imperative of sustainability.

In the interview, Moore articulated her theory that humans are currently stuck in an impossible position between blind hope (which enables us not to act because we feel that everything is going to be alright regardless of what we do) and blinding despair (which paralyzes us into inaction because we’re convinced that nothing we do will make a difference).

According to Moore, somewhere between that hope and despair is the broad moral ground of integrity. In this place of integrity, individuals act gracefully towards the Earth because they consider it a gift; they don’t take more than fair share because they believe in justice.

Moore declares that celebrating the natural world isn’t enough. It’s no use to rejoice in frog song if bulldozers are taking out the marshes that comprise their natural habitat. She believes that humans are the creative evolution of world—the universe’s way of understanding itself, so we’re the ones who have the responsibility to imagine change and then take action accordingly.

“Our children will have to live in whatever is left of world when we get done with our extractions and degradations,” Moore says. “If we love them, then we can’t take away what they need to thrive. We need to love them in definite and active ways. Lack of action is a betrayal of our love and an abandonment of responsibility.”

She believes that climate change is the greatest violation of human rights ever experienced, since the people who will suffer the most from the effects of climate change (including extreme weather events, drying waterways that feed human population centers, disruption of food systems, and rising sea levels) are not the ones enjoying the short-term benefits of fossil fuels.

Science and technology alone can’t produce the economic and social evolution that is required to combat climate change. Human action is required as well, and Moore advocates that we develop a moral conversation about our cultural values that is as robust as our current scientific dialogue.

New economic models are requisite as well. The updated version of capitalism will need to incorporate the principles of ecology, recognizing that our natural resources are finite and interconnected. Moore calls for the creation of an economy that honors natural world without destroying it.

Moore believes that humans’ cultural diversity may be our biggest asset, as she is convinced that we’ll need a broad spectrum of imaginative ideas and innovative action on local, national, and global levels to solve our environmental predicament.

She is heartened by the common threads of humanity. “Everyone loves their children,” Moore says. “Everyone needs fresh water, air, and food. Everyone desires purpose and meaning.” She recognizes that it is difficult to act on a global level, particularly when the web of responsibility for climate change is so difficult to pin down, but she is hopeful that our commonalities will be the call that unites us into meaningful action.

Sara is the Co-Founder and CEO of Green Builder Media. An experienced entrepreneur, investor, and sustainability consultant, Sara specializes in developing companies that are simultaneously sustainable and profitable. Sara is a former venture capitalist and has participated in a portion of the life cycle (from funding to exit) of over 20 companies. Sara graduated Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance from the University of Colorado. This article was reprinted with permission from Green Builder Media.

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3 thoughts on “The Cultural Imperative of Sustainability

  1. Great article, and I intend finding out more about Kathleen Dean Moore’s thinking. Consciousness and capitalism can go together, and I agree that new economic models are needed as we move towards a low carbon future

  2. This paragraph is quite powerful. Thank you for your article:

    “Our children will have to live in whatever is left of the world when we get done with our extractions and degradations. If we love them, then we can’t take away what they need to thrive. We need to love them in definite and active ways. Lack of action is a betrayal of our love and an abandonment of responsibility.”

  3. I agree that the paragraph is powerful and meaningful, to those who would listen. It reminds me of an old video from more than 20 years ago. The daughter of Canadian biologist David Suzuki spoke to attendees of a world conference on the environment. It’s long since been dubbed “The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes”. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQmz6Rbpnu0.

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