Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 1994
Healing the Ills of Unemployment, Societal Breakdown, and Ecological Degradation
Gandhi’s Vision for a Sustainable Way of Life
In this paper I describe Gandhi’s vision for a way of life that would be an essential part of any sustainable solution to worldwide problems of unemployment, societal breakdown and ecological degradation. Gandhi’s vision included a communitarian lifestyle of simplicity and non-accumulation in which agriculture would be supported by cottage industries using appropriate technologies (e.g., spinning). Assuming obligations to future generations, Gandhi’s proposal highlights the degree to which our First-World lifestyle is morally impermissible. One objection to this criticism of our First-World lifestyles is that we can solve the problem of ecological degradation by exporting only appropriate technologies to the Third World and supplementing our use of consumptive technologies with technological cleanups. This suggestion is not only irresponsible and unjust, but also hopeless, for our resource consumptive standards are already the model for development worldwide. To counteract this destructive model we must begin to recreate, in the First World, sustainable lifestyles that others will want to emulate. Part of this task involves the inner work that has been a casualty of the ideologies of modernity, and Gandhi’s vision is a blueprintfor both the outer and inner work that are essential to recreate a sustainable society.