Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

The Promise of the Future

By Ken Hall on August 1, 2008

When I was 19 years old, I was feet away from my best friend as he took a chance and lost his life to a whirlpool in a western mountain stream of ice-melt. The choices he made that day cost him his life. Today, we stand at a threshold as a young adolescent species, clever enough to rule the world, and foolish enough to throw it all away. I believe truth is found in paradox, and that our choices about sustainability require us to embrace paradox.

Early lessons in paradoxical thinking came from my family.
My father advised me to go to church with my friends. He said that I should go to many churches with many friends before making up my mind. From him, I learned to see the world paradoxically; to see the true within the false, the false within the true, and to suspend judgment. This led me to understand our ancient wisdom traditions and modern science as two sides of the same coin, telling the most powerful story ever told – the universe story. It is our creation story — from the original flaring forth into the deep future, it unites us in common heritage of a living earth within a purposeful and sacred universe that is evolving towards increasing complexity and beauty.
My grandfather taught me how to hunt and fish, giving me a fierce love of the outdoors. From him, I learned the fisherman’s dilemma: that we have to work in order to fish, but then we don’t have enough time to fish; and when we’re out of work, we have time to fish, but no money. The sustainability dilemma is similar: our global industrial growth is the force slamming the door of sustainability shut, and “green” business is the force that can wedge the door open. Humans everywhere take care of the world around them when basic human needs are met and they have hope for a future, otherwise they destroy their future to survive the moment.
But it wasn’t until I returned home and told my mother that my best friend (who had lived with us in our home his last year of high school) had died in a mountain stream that I finally broke down crying. From her I learned that mind is more than brains, it includes our gut instincts and a loving heart. Crossing the threshold into sustainability depends on caring about the future of children around the world and not yet born, and embracing an ethics that makes it criminal to reduce the durability, resiliency, or biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems which make life possible.
Standing as adolescent humanity at the threshold of sustainability, paradox teaches us to embrace multiple truths. Sustainability requires a big heart, “green” business, and a really good story to unite us. Small choices by each of us are all connected and add up to ultimate consequences. We must not live in fear of the future, but must raise our spirits with a fierce determination and awareness of fearsome consequences. We must raise our children in such a way that children for generations to come will be able to pry the door of sustainability further open, and pass on the promise of the future.