Personal Happiness and the Environment: A Sustainability Connection
Originally posted on Sustainablog on July 8, 2009.
In previous posts, I discussed the “Sustainability Prism”, the link between personal happiness and the economy, and the link between personal happiness and equity. In this post, I am exploring one more connection in this prism — the connection between personal happiness and the environment.
A common awareness all over the world now is that a major problem causing worldwide pollution, loss of natural lands, and extinction of species is overconsumption in the United States, and the developed world, in general. What is at the root of this overconsumption? Is it cheap production, and technology ‘improvements’ allowing for mass-production? Is it television and superb advertising of products? Is it the greed of rich and comfortable people?
All of these factors may help in the overconsumption process. They are even integral to the process. However, I would not say that they are the root of the problem. The root of the problem is the tendency to consume that results, on an even deeper level, from discontentment and a lack of personal happiness. If we have personal happiness deep within ourselves, we do not have a drive to consume. Even if the advertising is superb and the products are cheap as nothing, if we are happy within ourselves, there is no pull to consume these products. We see them, but we know they cannot add to our happiness, our peace and contentment. We have no drive to take in order to look for happiness, because we have found that happiness within. This is the root of consuming, or not consuming.
If we want to look for a solution to the problems of the world, the overconsumption and resulting environmental problems, we have to look inside ourselves and find a contentment, a true happiness, that does not want from the world and that does not find in the temporary happiness of ‘taking’ or ‘having’ anything that is comparable to the happiness that is within each of us, the soul of our life, the soul of happiness. Happiness is always found within — we look outside and see something that we think adds to ourselves within, but nothing adds to the true love of the soul. We cannot find that true love as long as we are looking out, and so we think our soul is a limited and possibly even a weak thing, but our soul is the most unlimited and happiness-producing thing in this world.
We look within, and we find the answers to our problems without.
image credit: zachary shahan