Resource Ethics

by Flemming Funch, 5 Mar 1995.

These are some loose ideas that might contribute to creating an ethics in relation to resources.

With ethics I mean: principles to base one's actions on.

With resources I mean: that which potentially can be used to make something else possible.

Mostly I am referring to fairly tangible/physical/natural resources here.

Respect the whole system

Nothing exists in isolation. Specifically, resources are simply functions of a system, not isolated things that can be removed. There is always a system there, a structure with certain inter-dependencies, certain processes. Any system has an integrity of its own. It keeps going by maintaining its integrity.

Don't use up resources, participate in their cycles.

Resources are not something one can just take and use up. The resources are only there in the first place as part of the cycles of the universe. The only viable way of utilizing resources is by participating in those cycles. Resources aren't just magically there, they come from somewhere and they go somewhere. By observing what is available or what is possible, and what the flows of least resistance are, and by acting as a part in a continuous cycle, abundant resources can be available indefinitely.

If there are trees in the forest they might be resources we can utilize. However, we can't just take them out and use them, and forget about the forest. We need to pay attention to how the forest can continue doing what it is doing, and how our use of trees can somehow fit in and participate in the natural cycles of a forest.

Don't try to own resources.

Resources are only flows that pass through your hands. You have no right to try to stop them and possess them indefinitely. If you can utilize a resource while keeping it flowing, it is yours to use freely. But you have no right to try to take the resource out of circulation and keep it from being utilized. Resources are for using and for passing on in an eternal cycle.

You don't own a car just because you are able to cross some wires to start it up and drive away in it. Likewise, you don't own the minerals of the earth just because you are able to lift them out of the ground. You don't own the sunshine just because it warms you. To the degree that you respect and further the viable continued existence of the resource, you can use it.

A resource is never yours. The use of a resource might temporarily be yours.

Go where the resources are, don't just wait for them.

That sounds self-evident, but most modern humans have forgotten what their forefathers based their lives on.

It makes little sense to sit in a desert and complain that it is dry. There is no scarcity of water on our planet, but you might have to locate yourself in its vicinity to take advantage of it.

It makes little sense to move to the center of a big city and then complain that it is too crowded. There is no scarcity of open spaces, but you need to go where they are.

The best leveraged use of resources is where they are most abundant. You can best utilize the sun where there is most sun, you have best access to food where food grows.

Pertinent to our current society, money is also a resource. It does little good to worry and complain about not being paid well for what you currently are doing or are trained in doing. Go where the money is if you want money. Go where the fun is if you want fun.

This doesn't necessarily mean literally that you have to move. It doesn't mean either that you shouldn't make resources more available, whenever possible. It means that you should seek resources first where they ARE available.

Don't go to work, let it come to you.

It is no longer very necessary to travel to do work, there is little need for it to be centralized in one physical location. As a matter of fact, traveling elsewhere to find one's work tends to hide the nature of work.

Work is what needs doing.

You can best determine what needs doing if you are in a place that you have chosen to be, because you care about it, and where you would naturally want to improve conditions.

Work is what you notice is in need of being done, and which you are capable and interested in doing, and which you are able to do in a viable manner with the resources that can be made available.

Work is not a resource, but a utilization of resources for a purpose.

Improve conditions where you are.

Make things better where you are. Don't wear down your present environment, don't use it up with the plan to move on later. Make your current enviroment and current conditions as viable and pleasant as possible, both in the short term and long term.

Don't count on there being other places that can be exploited for the benefit of your place. Don't count on their being other places to move to when your place has been worn down and emptied of resources.

The best place to start improving the world is right where you are. Don't count on "others" to do it for you, don't count on any "elsewhere" that you can export your problems to.

Do the most with the least.

Use the available resources to achieve the most beneficial and productive results possible. Aim at getting more done with less effort and less resources used.

- Flemming