Gen 8, 2011


from “Mobility and Environment. Humanists vs. Engineers in Urban Policy and Professional Education” Springer: New York-London, 2011, pp. 16-17

“It is by this that Rubens proves himself great,
and shows to the world that he, with a free spirit,
stands above Nature, and treats her conformably to his high purposes.
 … But if it is contrary to Nature,
I still say it is higher than Nature …”
Wolfgang Goethe (reported by J. Eckermann)
 “Faust is dead!”
Guenther Anders
 “The atomic bomb has made Goethe unlikely” 
Karl Jaspers


1.1.Sustain or progress?

Would you be happy if, being young and in love, filled with enthusiasm and expectations, your beloved partner replied to your proposal to pursue a lifelong relationship by saying: “It’s ok, I think we can have a ‘sustainable’ relationship and our ultimate goal will be to make it last as long as possible, no matter how we feel and what we do. Hence, don’t ask me to change any of my routine and I’m not going to do anything to cope with my possible shortcomings.” You would probably not appreciate such a response, unless you were so dejected and your life was so miserable that you couldn’t even conceive any real improvement in your gloomy existence. Surely you would prefer a response along the lines of: “Yes, I am going to share my life with you and this relationship will help us both to realize a real improvement in our lives. Together we might even be better off, but what really matters is our emotional fulfillment. Our lifelong relationship will make us better human beings and we will fulfill our personalities and satisfy our everyday needs. We will even contribute to the welfare of others, albeit indirectly. We will pass on appropriate values to our offspring and we will look ahead to our relationship continuing and flourishing through generations”. If we would be happier with the second answer, then why should we accept for ourselves and the rest of the world the dull perspective of “just sustainable” development? Why should we not strive for rewarding, marvelous, brilliant development or, even better, just for “development”, without attributes? Admittedly, in real life one should allow that in relationships, after some years, “sustainability” may become the only possible solution for the mere conservation of a family ménage. However, even if the main priority is the dull sustainability of the relationship, any family counselor would suggest to the partners that, in order to muddle through a sustainable relationship, they should find out something new to pursue together,  make new goals and eventually a new covenant between them. In this metaphor, the partners are, on one hand, humankind, society and economy; on the other hand, Nature and environment.

The Sustainable Development approach has become the sole strategy available do deal with the environmental crisis and it operates as the proxy of a missing ideology. The removal of any alternative to environmental policy is paralleled with the elimination of a century old political dialectic between capitalism and socialism. This temporary lack of conflicting comprehensive political projects has impoverished the current intellectual and political debate. The elaboration of a political alternative – based on new social and political values related to a radically new covenant between humanity and Nature – would help to recreate a new dialectic and the conditions for human progress. (THE FULL TEXT IS AVAILABLE ON LINE AT SPRINGER’S WEB SITE).