Environmental Sustainability and quality human survival is all about the survival of Papatūānuku, the Earth organism (biosphere) our host.  The earth is the absolute and finite platform for human life and all other life, as we understand it.  All of earth life is inextricably connected and therefore totally inter-reliant.  Consequently, and totally defensibly, the management of all of the natural and physical resources of the planet, including the human population (read: responsible global governance) has to focus on the host – Planet Earth, not on humans, who aren’t necessary for the survival of the host = ‘primary logic’.  This logic extends to putting the quality survival of the Earth at the very centre of sustainability, which, obviously, includes the careful and considered management of our actions, as we are the uniquely-intervening-species.

This does not mean that the needs of us humans are to be disregarded, but it realistically says that all of us need to seek our fulfilment and make our life-journey-decisions in the context of responsible and informed biosphere management.  The guidance for our own journey and the wisdom to undertake that journey responsibly must begin with that acknowledgement.  Because, to extend this proposition, our entire survival as a species depends upon sustaining a healthy host, which requires that the effects of all human activity must be understood and managed in that context.  (Potentially we have control over human behaviour and decision making.  We need to rise to that challenge.  The things we don’t have control over are the impacts of natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, fires and asteroid strikes.) 

Naturally our life-journey involves the consideration of people but our related actions must centre on decisions based upon sustaining Earth-health.  If the Earth survives, then it will be capable of being host to a certain number of people living in a particular way that defer to the infinite quality survival of the host.  Readily available scientific information, derived from monitoring the condition of our host and of our human society, reveals that we are a long way from achieving this outcome and that we won’t succeed in so doing unless we change the way things are, profoundly.  Therefore, the current state of things confirms that the way we are being lead (governed) is not enabling us to meet our plainly required responsibilities as Earth-inhabitants.  Consequently, we need to accept that our current living practices are unsustainable; they degrade our host. This is a simple case of too many people behaving badly.  To manage the host sustainably, it needs to be determined, with a safety margin, what the bottom-line living practices might be for the number of people the host can support with justifiable living practices. 

Much is made of the proposition that sustainability is about leaving adequate resources for future generations.  That is the opposite approach to what is required for the Earth’s survival / our survival, because it is based upon human-centred-reasoning.  The converse is required:  As far as the next and succeeding generations are concerned, it’s not about us leaving them with enough resources for them to carry on with, it’s about our accepting that it’s our responsibility to teach them how to live responsibly, to ensure the quality survival of the host, and, by extension, themselves.

The Three Waters Review – a korero

4 October 2018