The alternative to what we call progress isn’t what you think

April 18, 2023 by Joshua
in Leadership, Models, Visualization

I see American culture moving toward increasing isolation. Compared to any time in human existence, we spend more time alone.

Our paltry amount of skin-to-skin contact between parents and infants might be considered child abuse in other cultures. We talk about visiting other cultures, but even when in-person, we generally look at them from the outside through curated experiences like going to zoos. All that visiting is homogenizing culture more than learning. When I pollute someone’s environment, plunder their resources, impose my values on them, and run roughshod over their culture, I don’t want to connect with them. It would make me feel shame.

Despite our medical advances, returning longevity to ancestral levels, and such, that isolation leads to anxiety, depression, and suicide. The pollutionist view sees such results as side-effects of progress that are worth it. The alternative would be to return to the Stone Age or create a post-apocalyptic dystopia. I’ve simplified the pollutionist view of the top image in my post Is this your view of sustainability versus progress? as a spectrum:

The trade-off pollutionists see about progress. It comes with unintended side-effects, but the alternative is worse.

The Sustainability Spectrum

I live far from sustainably. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to live how people in long-term sustainable non-imperialist cultures do. In many ways, I’ve learned less of them than someone there does by five years old. I have taken small steps, but I’m moving in that direction and can see a different spectrum:

The view that moving toward living sustainably is bringing. Our isolation isn’t necessary and the alternatives are more valuable.

Sustainable non-imperialist cultures would call what we call progress disastrous, as we know because they consider us vicious and cruel, as described in Us from their perspective. We think we’ve created comfort and convenience with washing machines and cars, but they see us as working needlessly hard, not relaxing or enjoying each other’s company.

Most of all, the alternative to what we call progress are what create value in life: mutual support, community, humility, love, and more. I haven’t gone far to this end of the spectrum, but I’ve moved enough to see it’s worth moving that way.

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