One of the hardest things to deal with in our world of iPhones and instant everything is patience. Most of us are freed from the obligation of growing our own food or fiber, and very few of us actually build artifacts of our own use (tables, chairs, household items). Therefor, it is easy for us to not understand the true scale of things in their scope of materials to construction to the finalized product. Our modern expectations drive us to want more, want if faster, and for us to be unwilling to wait or investigate too deeply to any hurdles or issues.
What does this have anything to do with the environment or our relationship to the natural world?
Good question. In many ways, this way of seeing the world not only effects how we interact with our consumer products, but also how we engage with one another and how we psychologically perceive the world around us.
Because we are not needing to see the origin of things (the cow whom became our dinner or the seeds that eventually became our wheat), nor do we see the end of things (the whole in the ground to which our products are buried), we have a sort of shallow relationship to things. This is not our fault and I am as guilty as everyone else. I am wearing tons of things not made by myself or incorporated by my own hands. But this cognitive disconnect is responsible for so many things much deeper than my iPhone or my clothing and fabric.
What are the benefits of thinking longer-term? Would you say that our current society (in America) is strongly thinking long-term? Do you think that we are thinking short-term? When considering this, are you looking at ecological or economic perspectives? In some ways, our long-term economic thinking can undercut our ecological well-being, or vice-versa. How could these two better be accounted for together?
Looking at the Whole Picture
When we are purchasing something or even looking at a potato, we should try and think of the entire picture. We should try and imagine the item from its beginnings in process to its completion in form and then to its final delivery when its done being utilized. If we saw the “full picture” of many of our products, we probably would reconsider purchasing them. Remember that the purpose of marketing and advertising is to key in on your emotional centers and paint an object or item to be something more than it truly is.
If we were willing to be more patient and wait more, what could our rewards be? Do you think that a longer-term reward might outweigh even the pleasure and gratification of a short-term reward? Do you think that by pursuing short-term rewards, we could stifle or trump ourselves from enjoying a long-term reward? What are some examples of long and short term goals and rewards in our personal, professional, economic or ecological lives?
Mother Nature Requires Big Time Scales
Our short term thinking is helpful in a material based consumer society where the next quarter’s widget sales is the bottom line. But when we take this thinking to nature, we bring the perspective of a child unable to grasp the bigger picture. It can take just a century (100 years) for a forest to recover from being logged. It isn’t a stretch to also say our current forests may take 100+ years to recover from the fire suppression policies we’ve ensued throughout the 1900’s (I will write more about why fire suppression is harmful in a later essay). The bottom line is that mother nature takes hundreds, thousands or millions of years to complete some of its processes, or for its various experienced effects to be felt. When we as human beings interact with our planet on a daily basis, we should be considering how our systems in place affect our biological base, and how this foundation may be shifted by the scales of “earth-time”. After all, it is the “earth time” concept of greenhouse gas emissions that are creating the immense amount of worry and concern in modern times: the fear is that the lag effects of “earth-time” will continue radiating heat even if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions today. Just because the effects of our actions are not immediate, does not mean that they none the less do not exist. Maybe it takes 100 years for these effects to be felt. The questions remain: what will the effects be, were we paying attention and how will we respond? Looking at larger time scales is absolutely necessary when we are trying to harmonize with the environment–and this includes scales that may overshadow our economic time.
If we all learned to slow down, slow the urges within us, slow the instantaneous urges of instantness that have been trained within us so long, we might see some positive results. Not just in “saving the whales”, but in changing the ways we perceive ourselves and our relationships to the larger spectrum of life itself. For these instant needs harm us beyond environment, but so too in our personal relationships. If we all slowed down, took some of the pressure and steam off the moment and upon one another, maybe we might see the world a little differently and maybe there’s something there for us to learn from if we’re patient enough to be listening.