If it’s not Fun, it’s not Sustainable

March 13, 2009

First published in Common Ground Magazine

It’s a serious business, living. And all these environmental woes can really spoil a good day. How’s an earnest activist to keep cheerful when everything seems to be such a mess?

My advice comes in two parts. The first is serious and deep, so I’ll keep it brief. It’s this: we’re just beginners. As a species on this planet, we’re like rambunctious two-year olds who have just discovered the delights of running, talking, grabbing, and eating, and who are determined to have things their way.

Dear patient Mama Earth is trying her hardest to teach us to put things back where they belong, to clean up our mess after us, to learn to share, not to take things that aren’t ours, not to hit people, and to say sorry when you hurt somebody. Like most two-year olds, however, we don’t want to listen. If our oil happens to be in someone else’s country, we’ll send in the Tonka trucks and grab it.

So alas we’re heading towards a mighty confrontation with Mama, and we’re about to learn that in the forthcoming battle of wills, tantrums won’t get us far. It therefore behooves us to think beyond the two-year old stage to the wonderful childhood that a calm, cooperative relationship with Mother Earth and Father Sky might promise. Wouldn’t it be good? Golden playdays when we can develop our intelligence and work with the miracles of Nature, instead of trying to impose our will on her. We have all sorts of miracles in store once we learn to clean up our mess and cooperate.

My second piece of advice is to remember the Fifth Law of Sustainability. Four laws were formulated by the physicist and ecologist Barry Commoner: (1) Everything is connected to everything else; (2) Everything must go somewhere; (3) Nature knows best; and (

4) There’s no such thing as a free lunch. The Fifth Law, formulated by yours truly, says (5) If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable.

This is not just whimsy. It is an expression of the fundamental joy that all beings take in living, when they’re not being beaten up by a selfish two-year old. You don’t have to scratch far for a human come alive when fun enters the picture. I’m pretty sure the parrots, elephants and chimpanzees also have fun when they’re feeling relaxed and free.

Having fun is also motivating. People want to come out of a meeting feeling better, not worse. No matter how bad things look, there’s no excuse for being constantly angry, cynical or miserable. So while you’re busy changing the world, remember to hug, tease, laugh, dance and sing.

In that spirit of fun, here are some treasures from the web. So take an hour, get yourself a good cup of tea, and settle down with your computer.

For openers, go to video.google.ca and type in The Galaxy Song for a modern remix of the Monty Python classic.

Next, go to www.littleanimation4kids.com and play around until you find Rosie’s songs, and The Little Earth Charter for Kids, sung by Rosie Emery (who lives in Victoria). Children need to have fun, too.

It’s the adults’ turn now – go to www.rudefood.org, from the Vegetarian Society. They’re veggies, so they must be good – right?

The Wombat has more good learning for the adults in Earth’s kindergarten, very similar to Rosie’s, so go to www.globalcommunity.org, click on multi-media, and then on the Wombat.

Now for the big one. Robert Newman’s History of Oil is a London comic’s take on history, oil, warfare and Iraq. It’s 45 minutes, but well worth the time. Go to video.google.ca, and type in History of Oil.

Next go to www.youtube.com, type in “Asylum + ribbon”, and watch Stick Magnet Ribbons on Your SUV (version most viewed), paying good heed to the words. It is priceless.

Finally, go to video.google.ca and type in “bliss +juggling” for the Amazing Juggling Finale. As Paul McCartney sings, with good understanding of the Fifth Law: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.


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