We can live meaningful life by preserving the environment and building more robust systems for survival

Because our purpose of life is sustainable survival, we can live a meaningful life by doing our best to preserve our sustainable survival. We all have different skills, resources and circumstances so each of can best contribute to the survival of mankind in his or her own way.

We can live with purpose for example by implementing sustainable practices to protect our environment and decrease the probability and severity of our decline. The less we consume, the more we recycle, the less we destroy habitats, the more people can our planet support in peace. There are many easy reduce, reuse, recycle routines that anyone can do to contribute towards sustainability. It’s best to start with yourself – leading by example is proven to inspire others. You can increase the impact by implementing such practices in your family, workplace, neighborhood, amongst people you know and in wider society, depending on your power and influence.

  • Drink (filtered) tap water instead of buying bottled water, refill water bottles
  • Preserve water during shower and washing
  • Install energy-efficient lights and appliances and turn them off when not in use
  • Make home energy efficiency improvements (Energy audits are often free and will tell you how you can best save money and environment at the same time. Ask about local government incentives that can make payback of such investments surprisingly short)
  • Ride a bicycle, take public transportation or share a ride
  • Buy environmentally responsible products
  • Avoid excess consumption of anything
  • Sell or donate stuff in good condition that you don’t need anymore instead of trashing it
  • Recycle garbage, old electronics and don’t allow nasty stuff like batteries into landfills
  • And much much more to reduce, reuse, recycle

We can reduce the probability of a steep decline of our civilization by promoting more robust and less vulnerable systems. Centralized and large-scale systems tend to be more efficient and that is why our profit-seeking society prefers to build them. The disadvantage is their vulnerability. For example small scale electricity generation from renewables is not as cost-efficient as a nuclear power-plant, but will come handy if some terrorists attack the centralized facilities. Living in a downtown high-rise makes your life easier now, but a suburban house with a garden will make survival easier if things turn sour. If you support local farmers by buying their produce, they will be able to supply you with food if the shipping lanes of cheap imported food get interrupted. Having a well in a garden might sound old-fashioned, but will be invaluable if central water supply system fails.

We have pretty much lost our ability to survive in wild nature, but we can increase the probability of our own survival by preparing skills and tools for the worst case scenario. How about taking family or friends out for some adventure fun survival course that might come handy one day? Or how about sending kids to Scout so that they learn to start fire and use compass? At least studying a survival handbook1 can be fun and provide you with some useful knowledge.
There are many tools that can help us survive depending on the severity of the threat. The most proactive survivalists build survival shelters under their homes or on some secret location. If your net worth is a couple of million dollars, it probably makes sense to spend a small fraction on such real life insurance2. But even with limited budget you can stock up on basic survival supplies that are cheap now, but will be invaluable in case of an emergency (see Survival packing list)

  1. For example try the ‘SAS Survival Guide’ by Collins gem  
  2. Financial products called ‘life insurance’ will be completely useless If our society collapses. Systems that will help you survive will be the real life insurance then.  

Earth won’t have the resources to support all of us in the future

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

                                                                      – Mahatma Gandhi

It is very clear that our lives and survival depend on the environment. At minimum, we need air to breathe, clean water to drink and food to eat. Because these resources exist on Earth in relatively large quantities it is not natural for us to think that there is only limited amount of each. These resources naturally renew so we can live sustainably as long as the rate of our consumption is not faster than the rate of their renewal. The equation is simple and we can influence all of its parts.

Average consumption per capita × Population ≤ Resource renewal rate

Opinions vary on whether we have already breached the balance, but the trend is clear: we are heavily increasing the left consumption side of the equation and reducing the renewal rate on the right side and thus disturbing the natural equilibrium. Our population is undeniably increasing, but also the average consumption per capita keeps growing. New technologies can help people in developed countries slightly reduce the consumption, but that will be offset by the increase of consumption in the much larger developing world. People in these countries generally feel it is only fair for them to reach the same standard of living (and therefore levels of consumption) that people have in the countries like USA before they start cutting on consumption. You can imagine how the consumption will grow when all Chinese and Indian install air-conditioning and buy a car every five years.

On the other side of the equation we are reducing the renewal rate. For example the more trees we cut in the Amazon, the slower renewal rate of clean air. The renewal rate of fossil fuels is extremely slow and negligible compared to their consumption so we will probably run out of them in several decades.

We don’t know how far exactly we can go, but the scariest part is that we are in a one-way street – many of the changes we inflict on Earth are essentially irreversible, so we can’t simply turn back when we realize that we went too far. It is alarming to see for example the dangerous reductions of biodiversity.

Nobody can predict what effects our behavior will have on the interconnected and fragile ecosystem that we are all dependent on. Nature had been able to adapt to changing conditions by the means of evolution, but the changes human inflicts on Earth are much faster than evolution can keep up with.

It seems inevitable that one way or another a huge reduction of population needs to take place and it is not going to be pleasant.