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Chapter 1

Sustainability and Discontinuity

1.1 Introduction For the last 50 years, humankind has faced possible self-destruction and found itself in an unforeseen condition of being conscious about it, i. e. knowing that nuclear weapons and the ecological crisis can not only change the path of history, but also become the end of history (as in “the day after” there will be no us – humans, to tell the story). It is still too early to judge how much this discovery has changed our culture or how much it will still change. But it is certain that this new condition is not going to pass: once our capacity to hurt ourselves has reached this point, it is no longer possible to return. From here onwards, among the possible scenarios open to humankind, will be one without future. This confirmation certainly has a tragic dimension, but is not necessarily dominated/ruled by pessimism. The ability of humans to hurt themselves is a characteristic rooted in their ways of being: Taking this into account is not a pessimist presumption, on the contrary, it is more realistic to note an inevitable component of human nature. From the other side, human nature is also capable of loving, feeling and, put prosaically, uses its intelligence to search for a way to hurt itself as little as possible. Also, it can and has to be aware of this. The lives of individuals and social groups are always immersed in the plotting and combination of these two components. And this is how it is always going to be. A new question arises about how they are going to combine with each other in the face of the understanding that the first can destroy the world, in case it surpasses the second. Nobody can foresee this. Only to have faith: the appearance of possible self-destruction in future scenarios might help to grow collective wisdom. Just as understanding eventual death can help an individual live his or her life more wisely (and appreciate it more); thus, acknowledging the possibility of collective death might promote a society that would be “wiser” and more capable of understanding the value of those unstable conditions called “peace” and “social and ecological equity”. 3

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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