Second Nature imagines a society in which all present and future generations of humans:
- are healthy and can meet their basic needs;
- have fair and equitable access to Earth’s resources;
- have a decent quality of life;
- celebrate cultural diversity;
- are realizing their highest aspirations;
- and restore and preserve the biologically diverse ecosystems on which we all depend.
How might society achieve this vision? We provide you with the following ideas that shape Second Nature’s response to that question, and suggest that you simultaneously picture a sustainable society, and elements of your own vision.
We must align social, economic and natural systems for mutual benefit and sustainability.
Imagine that all people understand their connections to the natural world and to other humans, know where products and services come from and where wastes go, and know how to measure and minimize their ecological footprint. Our ecological footprint (our impact on the Earth) is invisible to most of us. We must make the invisible visible.
Imagine that we have stabilized the population at a level that is within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems because we have increased the education, as well as the social and economic status, of women. All current and future generations are able to pursue meaningful work and have the opportunity to realize their full human potential both personally and socially. Imagine that through our “dreaming” and “doing,” we have reduced resource consumption and waste in the developed world so that there is opportunity in the developing world to be healthy and have a decent quality of life. Imagine that communities are strong and vibrant because they celebrate cultural diversity, are designed to encourage collaboration and participation in governance and emphasize the quality of life over the consumption of stuff. Think what it could be like if globalization is humanized to support democracy, human rights and economic opportunity for everyone.
Imagine future scientists, engineers, and business people designing technology and economic activities that sustain, rather than degrade, the natural environment, that enhance human health and well-being, and that mimic and live within the limits of natural systems. Imagine a future where we design our technology inspired by biological models: we operate on renewable energy; we’ve eliminated the concept of “waste” because every waste product is a raw material or nutrient for another species or activity, or is returned to nature’s cycles. Imagine that we are managing human activities in a way that increases biological diversity and complexity.
Imagine that we have timely and accurate economic and ecological signals: micro-economic signals for price that reflect the true social and environmental cost to society; macro-economic indicators that reflect the true well-being of society and the Earth; and ecological signals that we receive in time to prevent or remedy damage to humans or the environment.
To create this future, we will need a huge shift in thinking, values and action. To paraphrase Einstein, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we used when we created them.” We must reinvent the world socially, economically and environmentally. In effect, we must decouple social and economic progress from environmental deterioration — or as Bill McDonough says, “We must take the filters out of the pipes and put the filters in our minds.”
Does this vision describe an unattainable utopia? No. It is possible because of the thousands of things that are being done, by progressive groups in civil society, philanthropy, universities, industries, governments and communities around the world today.