I am starting to understand what Buddha meant when he said all life is suffering. No matter which financial situation you are born into, we always want more. It is very rare we reach a stage where we happily say “enough”. The more chocolate I have, the more chocolate I want. The more countries I go to, the more countries I want to go to. The more money I have the bigger apartment I can get, the better the car, the more vintage the scooter, the more designer the clothes, the better quality the beauty products, the more fancy dinners etc etc. Sorry Ecclesiastes quotes are in my head at the moment – 6:7 says “A man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.” I think you could say that is pretty much on the money – things haven’t changed much in the last 2-3000 years.
When it comes to dealing with the elephant in the room (the world population), it would seem it is largely due to an inability for humans to say enough (be it enough children or enough consumption of products that harm our environment), that means that eradicating poverty will eradicate humanity, if we are still the billions we are today.
As I see it we have few options. Either:
1. we accept that billions of people will always live in poverty and allow them to continue creating more and more billions of people to live in poverty (given that those people living in poverty don’t have much of an ecological footprint so while they stay in poverty there isn’t really a problem). Or,
2. we somehow get rid of a few billion people (I’m not inferring not overnight, but thinking some kind of population control with a 100 year plan would be a good start). Or,
3. we suicide of our species (seeing as it doesn’t seem possible for 7 billion people we grow to to live the American lifestyle without destroying our habitat, let alone 10 or 50 or whatever ridiculous number of billion people we allow ourselves to grow to).
I really don’t like any of these options, not one bit.
Surely there are alternatives??? I wonder if Buddha can help?
Buddha observed that greed, anger and hatred were the root causes of the world’s problems. He thought that these three evils were rooted in ignorance about what will make us happy, and that solutions come from non-attachment, from meditating into a state of inner peace, and changing the attitudes that were causing the violence in the first place.
Does this help with the population problem?
I suppose monks don’t have sex so if we all became Buddhist monks that might help – but that’s no more appealing than the first three options.
I guess Buddha’s suggestions do seem to be pointing us toward a less materialistic lifestyle, which means less consumption and less planetary damage, so maybe there is something practical we can learn from it.
The problem with a solution the comes from decreasing consumption, is that for our economy this equates to a dead economy, no jobs, and a downward spiral into depression... I heard from my Opa about depressions, eating rosebuds to stay alive. Nope, don’t like that option either…
One of the best solutions I have come across is the suggestion that GOOD DESIGN can solve all the worlds problems. We need to find ways to consume in ways that don’t harm our environment: designing products and housing that don’t do any damage, setting up more efficient agriculture and trade systems, and consuming more equally around the world. Maybe we don’t have to cut our consumption – we can just learn to consume in different ways?
The exciting thing about this is that a few days ago, while doing a little lingerie shopping, I discovered it is already happening!!! Check out this Simone Perele biodegradable bag. I bought underwear from three shops and put it all in this little bag.
How good is that!!! With a little ingenuity maybe humans change the world. I’m definitely liking the sound of this option…
BUT do more efficient, non-polluting systems and more ecological product designs actually address the elephant in the room?
Will these systems remain ecologically sustainably when 7 billion become 70 billion? And what about 700 billion? Where do you draw the line? And if you don’t draw a line and implement some kind of population control, what will ever cause people to stop having so many babies?
I know there are predictions that the population will stop at 10 billion – but I don’t understand the logic behind it. Just because western countries have bought into the “have less children because children are too expensive” idea, doesn’t mean that other civilisations, as they develop, will culturally adapt in the same way. If a culture values having ten children, why will having enough food to feed them not make them have twenty? Maybe it will, but I’m not convinced.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” – said Gandhi.
I think this is true but I wonder: is greed something that will ever disappear? I’m not so sure. To be continued…
Note on the picture:
I am not actually sure if this is Buddha – I think it’s a Hindu god – if anyone knows, please let me know. I took this in Kathmandu, Nepal and am too lazy to find a better pic to suit this entry.