Sustainable Living and the Moral of Nature

Sustainable Living and the Moral of Nature

The use of natural resources in the most efficient and productive way, without exploitation or consumption is the most concise description of sustainable living. From a wider perspective though it is about being responsible and aware of the physical, humanly, political, sociological and psychological surroundings of human being. Raising awareness, mindfulness, and transforming into a sustainable lifestyle is more important than doing things by the enforcement of law or by merely pretending to care. The verb “sustaining” also entails secondary meanings of “absence, consumption and famine”. Meaning, some things are going extinct and this phrase has come to the central point of human life as a result of necessity. 

In the 15th century, the limits and structure of our planet was not fully understood by the mankind. During that period the population of earth was approximately 400 million. If we see things from a completely materialistic and pragmatic level it could be perceived that there was a huge planet and a handful of humans at that time. Naturally no human being thought about the decrease of resources or extinction in the environment. At that point human being was to only strive changing and structuring his surroundings for his own comfort and interest at the best of his mental capacity. 

The interaction with the nature and environment had been innocent as it was limited to protection, sheltering, purification and eating. Humankind did not have “sustainability” on its agenda. Because the unknown limits of the environment, the unaccounted number of resources did not make the human being think of “the end”.  That period in humanity was considered as the beginning not the end. Without really knowing what to expect, humans of the period were busy with the “explorations and beginnings”. He did not think much while cutting the trees, using the water and hunting animals. We can’t say the indifference to these on the 15th and 16th century has much importance considering the point we have reached today.

When we reach 18th and 19th centuries, “clear minds starts clouding” and slow attacks to our planet, limits and capacity is mainly clear by then, starts.” At the core of these attacks “human ambition” is found. Human beings have “blinded themselves and darkened their conscience” to gain political and economical power through basic and shared heritage of natural resources. The world population at that point was around 750-800 thousand not having reached to 1 billion yet. We can’t see an environmental concern, consciousness or awareness on the extinction of natural resources at this point either.

When we reach the 20th and the 21st century humanity has witnessed the attempt to “destruct nature and natural resources”. The attack on natural resources were scandalous and the environment had been destroyed purposefully. “Sustainability” has come as a lifesaving jacket to us as our planet had been suffering in agony, most of the natural resources were either destroyed or about to be destroyed.

Against all the individual, social, global, political, and economic initiatives, companies and certain entities, openly or secretly, still operate threatening the blue planet.

We need to think about the ethical, conscious, religious and cultural interaction of nature-human relationship after reviewing the chronology of this interaction. We shall evaluate the relationship of our society, history, religion, culture and human by comparing it to the approach of the world. If the world was to be saved by the laws, rules, police or soldiers we wouldn’t be experiencing any of the problems we are facing today. Hunger, thirst, income imbalance, wars, conflicts, global climate change, climate crisis, desertification, melting glaciers, acid rains, ozone depletion and fossil fuel would not be the problems of our age. These problems are going to be solved by conscious, moral and virtuous people and societies not by higher laws and dissuasive penalties. If so, then societies should direct their energies towards raising conscious and virtuous generations. They should improve their educational policies to raise conscious, ethical and sensitive generations.

The prescription that could rescue the nature from the heavy infection it is experiencing is the moral of nature. What is the moral of nature? It is accepting the nature as a wise person amongst us and showing her endless respect and gratitude. It is not about memorizing the book of nature, it is about feeling it. It is about learning her language. It is about imitating the nature.

Just like human relationships, the foundation of nature-human relationship is also respect and love. In a relationship where human is only the recipient and never the giver, the nature will begin to weaken then completely be destroyed. Human being too is to give soul to the nature, blow from his own soul. HE shouldn’t ruin the harmony in nature. He has to give what he takes. It has to treat nature as a child of its own, with compassion and interest not with animosity. If the nature is working for us with all her parts we should not take more than what we need and return as much as we could and rise to the challenge of doing so. We have to use what we take from nature as long and as much as we could and develop policies for not taking again. We don’t harm nature only by taking things from her.We harm nature every time we throw things around unconsciously. Actually we are hurting nature at every unconscious step we take. Then we should strive to reduce our “harmful footprints”.

How could we reduce our harmful steps? Zero waste is the biggest and most sincere step towards this direction. Imagine not producing any waste. You recycle all the waste, then the nature will restart itself. Preferring natural pesticides and fertilizers instead of soil and water polluting pesticides, artificial fertilizers, reducing and eventually completely stopping the use of fosil fuels, preferring clean energy sources like solar and wind, using natural cleaning products for hygiene and cleaning, stopping the use of disposable items in our life, reducing the percentage of plastic use, not opting for the packaged food, energy saving on electricity, water and gas, composting biodegradable waste will decrease our carbon footprints.

Talking about “sustainability” we think more about the agricultural policies. However sustainability is a concept that includes everything from financial behaviors of families to economic policies of countries, from building residences to designing cities, bottled waters to glaciers, from energy to automobile use.

“Sustainability” and “zero waste” are fairly new terms born out of necessity that are developed to fight the destruction of natural resources, but when there was no concern over resources and the resources were abundant and diverse it is our religion that advised “eat, drink but do not waste”, we are followers of a prophet who said “even when you are performing ablution by a river do not waste water”, and we are also the descendants of a ruler like Abdulhamid II. who said “ among the reasons that take countries to bankruptcy is wasting”. We are a society who learnt the principles of zero waste and sustainability as early as we were born whilst the world was still unaware. Thus we should be very successful and become a role model to the world on these endeavors.

Zülfikar Abaz

NUN Schools Social Sciences Head