Really Changing Thinking

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The WWF has a cute video on their website showing how much water it takes to produce a cup of latte. The theme is more than just about changing the way we think than about saving water. The message is to "Change the way you think about everything." Sounds pretty good, but it really is not about everything. It is only about thinking and acting more eco-efficiently. And, as I often write, eco-efficiency can at best only reduce or slow down unsustainability, the signs of stress on us and on the world we inhabit.

If you are concerned about the state of the world, then it's good, as the WWF says, to think about it and work to lessen the stress. But sustainability, the hidden message that lurks behind the action in the WWF video, is much more than reducing unsustainability. It is a positive condition of the world where life flourishes. Thinking only about humans for a moment, flourishing means healthy bodies and minds and the realization of a set of ends, like dignity, justice, and so on.

Changing thinking requires asking a different question: not how much water does it take to brew a cup of latte, but do I really need to have this cup of coffee and, if so, why?. Sustainability rests on a model of human being with caring at the center rather than need or having. Am I drinking coffee out of a habit, is it to deal with stress, does it makes me conscious of being human? Only the latter question will open one up to being. The question alone will not do the job, but it can produce reflection and probing. It can break the pattern of acting out of conformity to social norms, too often represented by advertising, and free one to make the choice authentically out of taking care of one's body. What is it that I am taking care of, which of my myriad of concerns am I addressing? If I can access the concern, I will experience the coffee differently, discovering more aliveness or other similar quality that comes forth.

It is not just coffee, but every action taking out of conformity with embodied social experiences that diminishes being. The exercise of reflection allows for a different kind of choice that is missing in the everyday mindless way of everyday behavior. Mindless, used in this way, is not a value judgment, just a descriptive term. Media messages like the coffee video say the right word, but accompany them with an overall message that misses the more important point.

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