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This means they have to win total mindset shift—good luck with that



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This means they have to win total mindset shift—good luck with that


Barnhizer, 6 (David, Prof of Law, Cleveland State U, ‘Waking from Sustainability's "Impossible Dream”,’ Geo Int’l Envtl L Rev, pg. l/n)
Devotees of sustainability pin their hopes on an awakening by an enlightened populace that will rise up and insist that business and government behave in ways that reflect the idea that "[a] sustainable society is one that can persist over generations, one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either its physical or its social systems of support." n81 This awakening is not going to happenThere will never be a populist revolution in the way humans value the environment, social justice, and other matters of moral consequence. We frequently "talk the talk," but rarely "walk the walk." n82 This discrepancy is partly an individual failure, but it is even more a result of the powerful forces that operate within our culture. Residents of Western cultures are shaped by the system in which they live. They will never possess either the clarity of agenda or the political will essential to a coherent and coordinated shift in behavior due to a combination of ignorance, greed, sloth, and inundation by political and consumerist propaganda. This combination means there will be no values shift welling up from the people and demanding the transformation of our systems of production and resource use. Paul Tournier captured the essence of the cultural forces when he observed: [People] have become merely cogs in the machine of production, tools, functions. All that matters is what they do, not what they think or feel. . . . [T]heir thoughts and feelings are . . . molded by propaganda, press, cinema and radio. They read the same newspaper each day, hear the same slogans, see the same advertisements. n83 Feeling helpless in the face of inordinate complexity and vast impersonal forces causes us to flee from our personal responsibility and become absorbed into the systems of institutions. The price of the required allegiance includes accepting (or appearing to accept) the institution's values as our own. We become a contributing part of the same system that oppresses us and steals our humanity and idealismThis assimilation allows us to avoid the harshest application of the system's power while reaping the rewards of collaboration. We become, in the  [*629]  words of Pink Floyd, "just another brick in the wall." n84 When we attempt to talk about the need to do such things as internalize costs that are now allowed to remain external to the entities generating the harms and shifting to a system of low or no impact on the Earth's natural systems, we are talking about fundamental, non-voluntary changes in entitlements and lifestyle. Even Alan Greenspan drew severe criticism when he recently suggested that social security benefits should be reduced. n85 Jacques Chirac's party in France has seen its public support plummet due to efforts to reduce social spending. n86 Germans have taken to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to protest their leaders' efforts to develop plans to gain control of the German welfare state. n87 It is impossible to generate the political will that would be required to change the system we have constructed into one that satisfies the demands of sustainabilityThis is not surprising because the clear message is that we need economic growth. The situation we face is akin to Bangladesh where I was part of a group urging the country's Planning Minister to take potential environmental harms and ecosystem impacts into greater account in his planning. He responded that the ideas were admirable in theory but that he had to worry about generating jobs and food for 160 million people. He indicated that while he respected the arguments for sustainability his more immediate needs were to ensure jobs and food for Bangladeshis. In a similar context, while teaching international environmental law in St. Petersburg, Russia, my discussion with Russian academic colleagues related to water pollution in the area, radioactive materials dumping, and the raw air pollution from Lada cars running on 76 octane gasoline and other uncontrolled emitters of air pollution that fouled the air of this most beautiful city. At the end of the course one of my Russian colleagues said, "I found it all fascinating. But you know we have other problems with which we must deal before we can begin to worry about the environment. Perhaps in fifteen years or so we will be ready." I found myself unable to disagree with the speakers in either Bangladesh or Russia. Return to the idea of our inability to generate the political will that would be required to achieve fundamental change if we decided that the Agenda 21 type of sustainable development ideas were good social and economic strategies. Even if  [*630]  they were desirable, they are "impossible dreams" because the people and institutions who set policy and decide on actions in the business and governmental arenas will never accept them as guides for behavior or as requirements for decisionmakingThis impossibility exists because we are not free and independent individuals but creatures of habit, dominated by the culture in which we exist. We desire to behave according to the dictates of the powerful systems that govern our lives and culture.


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