In the time it has taken for me to write this three-month series, so much has happened. Our world changes faster and faster due to technology and globalization, and it is up to us to move forward in a deliberate and mindful way. The third ethic of permaculture is called Fair Share or Care for the Future and takes into perspective our limited resources and the consideration for future generations. The ethics of permaculture are similar to the goal of sustainable development, which is to balance the environmental, social and economic needs of a community. Often the economic benefits are more heavily weighted in the decision making process leading to unbalanced outcomes.
We have an economic system that is part of our lives; but, it is not the only piece of the pie. Regulations have been implemented because social and environmental needs are critical and addressing only economic concerns are often at the expense of the other two. Every country on earth, besides the United States currently, are members of the Paris Climate Accord, banding together most of the world in recognition of the importance of a sustainable future.
The current population is over 7.5 billion people, and expected to rise to 9 billion by 2030. However, it is not the number of people on the planet that should raise concern, it is the spread of consumerism. According to the Global Footprint Network, per capita use of resources in industrialized countries far exceeds the amount of resources used in less industrialized areas. In a world with a finite amount of resources, we cannot continue to expand an insatiable economy. If everyone in the world used the same amount of resources as a typical U.S. citizen, we would need four planet earths (BBC, 2016). If one of our goals is to Care for the Future, this consumeristic trajectory is not sustainable, or even possible.
Do these extra resources make us happier or healthier? A study by Princeton found that people need $75,000 for optimal happiness. Breaking that down, people must have basic needs such as food, water, shelter, good health, plus discretionary money, and meaningful work. Beyond that, happiness does not come from material things.
The World Happiness Report indicates this by listing countries’ happiness score, as well as social and economic ratings. By sorting the information by different categories, you find that there is a correlation between an extremely low GDP per capita and lower level of happiness, but the highest levels of happiness did not depend on economic data, but a mix of the social and environmental factors as well. For 2018, the U.S. scored overall 18th out of 156 countries measured for overall happiness; 36th for GDP per capita; 33th for social support; 40th for life expectancy; and 43rd for generosity. Finland is the happiest country this year (http://worldhappiness.report).
Quality of health is also not dependent on material possessions. For example, Cuba has a GDP per capita that is less than 10% of the U.S. average, but have a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than the U.S., as well as more doctors per capita than any other nation (CIA Factbook).
Care for the Future means mindfully making decisions that balance environmental, social, and economic needs. The Great Law of the Iroquios, states “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” On an individual level, that means that we must reduce the amount of resources we use, and actively participate in change at a regional and national level.
On their deathbed, people were asked about their biggest regrets. They included: wishing that they had lived an authentic life, that they had spent more time with friends and family, that they had not worked so hard, and “I wish I let myself be happier”, (The Guardian, 2012). Actively choose to alance decisions on the three Permaculture ethics, and not only will our planet be happier and healthier, but so will you.
Robyn Wilson has degrees in International Business, Sustainable Communities, and Bilingual and
Multicultural Education. She teaches permaculture design at Colorado Mesa University. Robyn
returned to Grand County after 17 years to manage the cabin community of Grandma Miller’s New