Living a sustainable lifestyle is often based on the assumption that we are separate individuals that make autonomous decisions. Yet, the wise one recognizes that every individual is deeply embedded in their social and environmental surroundings.
Some examples: Without the trees, there wouldn’t be enough oxygen for us to breathe. We would be nothing without trees. Our parents, our ancestors, and everyone who came before us made us think the way we think. We would not exist without them. Because of our cultural surroundings, we pursue specific values and norms. We would be different people in a different culture. When bees die, plants die, we die.
That is the beauty of the concept of eco. Ecology is a unique branch of science. It seeks to understand the parts of a system and how those parts relate to one another in a broader whole.
We are beings with boundaries in relation to the greater whole. Aka: we are relational selves.
When an individual acts unsustainable, you can’t blame the individual and tell them to “just change”. The individual is embedded in a society that makes it possible to act unsustainably. So you have to ask the deeper question of the larger context and systematic faults.
“Ha, I knew it; it’s the system’s fault”. You might think.
But be careful, my friend; blaming society and the system can not serve as an excuse for taking responsible action. Because we are also individual agents, we have a choice to act in alignment with what we know we should do or not. (If not, you are sort of a dumbass). We have the chance to influence each relation we are in – to our selves, to other humans, and non-humans: do we enter the relationship with care, respect, and reciprocity, or do we enter it with an attitude of “what can the other do for me?”. Because of this ability, we also have the responsibility to use it wisely.
The wise observer will avoid both: blaming it all on the individual or blaming it all on society.