Sustainable Progress: Environment, Psychology, and Social Change

Gilchrist, Alexander
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We live in a world where social change is a constant. Rather than be passive players, citizens can take an active role in the process and direct change to be as sustainable as possible. I will introduce the process ecology perspective, where sustainability can be defined as the hallmark of a system that persists dynamically through time without dramatic temporal degradation. Human society is a system, and change that is sustainable reduces stress and harmonizes its functioning. Since individuals necessarily precede society, I focus conceptual analysis of social change to this level and examine the individual’s fundamentality to sustainable social change. Bottom-up changes are the most thorough and sustainable. Individuals can best achieve social change with a sustainability of mind, which allows the mind to operate harmoniously and without stress, and includes attitudes like love, nonviolence, altruism, and compassion. We see that such attitudes, which often arise in a spiritual context, have secular value as well. Finally, I suggest that a shift toward the more sustainable for society will be interlinked with a new involvement in and valuation of the natural world and its role in our evolution and existence. The ultimate power and responsibility to bring about such change resides within the individual.