Living Within Limits

Suggested Reading

  • "Biophilia" by E.O. Wilson
  • "Limits to Growth" by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, William W. Behrens III
  • "Voluntary Simplicity" by Duane Elgin

In the West, particularly in the United States, we use a disproportionately large amount of resources. Generally, this is in the form of energy – oil, natural gas, coal – but it's also in the form of other natural resources such as minerals and old-growth forests. If we continue to consume our natural resources as we currently are, we will destroy all that is important to us. It won't be just the physical world that we'll lose, it will be our lifestyle as well; one is inseparable from the other.

The problem is simple: many natural resources are non-renewable; once they're used, they're gone. Using these resources moves them from their initial state and changes them into something that makes them inaccessible to future generations. Sometimes they become pollutants and we have troubles containing or storing them. Such is the case with energy resources and toxic minerals such as mercury. Sometimes the resources become combined with other materials that make them difficult and expensive to isolate. For instance, semiconductors are generally encased in a plastic compound. To get at just the metals that are used to make semiconductors, you have to break open the plastic package and then isolate the metals from the rest of the material. It's not quite as impossible as getting the eggs back from a cake, but it's not easy, either.

Why am I bringing this up here, since the purpose of the site is to eliminate suffering? The reason is that the rapid consumption of our resources is contributing to suffering in many ways. In no particular order, we are poisoning our environment, killing and eliminating other forms of life, causing sickness within ourselves, and exploiting poor people both within our own country and in countries around the world. By living a simpler life, one that considers our effect on other people and is more in cooperation with Nature than in competition with it, we will decrease suffering for everyone and everything, ourselves included.

When Greenpeace got started on its mission to save the whales, there was a reaction to it that said, "Save the Humans." Fair enough. However, if we don't save the whales, we won't save the humans either. Conversely, if we strive to maintain a society that lives with consideration toward all people and things, we will not only save the whales, we will save humanity for many generations to come.