The living earth ethical principles: spreading community.

AuthorAssadourian, Erik
PositionESSAY - Essay

This is the eighth and final essay in a series that describes a system of ecological ethics for living sustainably. For references, earlier essays, and additional discussion, visit

Spreading Community. To succeed we must educate others and encourage them to adopt an ecological way of being in the world. As the movement grows, outreach efforts should be established around the world, whether through social enterprises, meeting houses, social service providers, or other means. These efforts will help keep members engaged and energized, facilitate their efforts to do good works, and teach others to live by this philosophy.

I have saved this principle, perhaps the most controversial, for last. I have laid out 10 organizing principles that might bring together those who understand that sustainability cannot be achieved by a watered-down climate change bill, carbon capture technologies, green jobs, or even vast areas of solar panels. Sustainability will only be achieved through a dramatic transformation of how we live, of our very cultures. And considering the level of capture of governments by special interests, the only way to do this may just be through individuals and communities actively spreading a new cultural norm--intentionally, proactively, and systematically. An ecological philosophy may be a useful organizing tool to drive this effort forward.

A few political and religious philosophies throughout history have spread globally and persisted over decades, centuries, or even millennia. In recent times we have Communism and consumerism, but more remarkable are the missionary religions: Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam, to name the largest three. These religious philosophies have oriented how people interpret the world for millennia, evolving with new geographies and eras.

How have they spread? I see three clusters of tactics worth discussing (a fourth being the sword, which, at least for this ecological philosophy, is not on the table). First, the use of marketing and franchises has been incredibly effective, particularly in spreading consumerism. Second, the tools of governments have worked in spreading Communism and consumerism, as well as religions (in times and places where the state has had an official religion). Third, and most importantly, "people power" has proven a potent method. Early Christianity spread via traveling believers preaching the lessons of Jesus and building communities of adherents from...

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