Lifework: Meaningful Careers in the Emerging Sustainable Society

Why painting by numbers won't sustain us

| May 19, 2005

At the rate we're going, it will be slim-pickin's for our progeny. Modern living cannot sustain itself at current natural resource consumption levels. This is the concern that stokes the fire in the belly of a growing segment of the populace -- those choosing to devote their life's work to finding sustainable solutions for every sector of society (of which there are precisely 17: health, food, shelter, clothing, energy, community, science/technology, and education among others.) These individuals are packing up their cubicles in search of sustainable opportunities that will give their life meaning and jive with their personal and political values.

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman, psychotherapist and career counselor, explains that each of the 17 sectors of society is in some stage of transition in the unsustainable/sustainable continuum. Sectors that have moved forward include the development of green building, the integration of alternative healthcare into westernized medicine, the harnessing of sustainable wind energy, and the amalgamation of ecopsychology.

Buzzell-Saltzman emphasizes a need to change ourselves before we change our occupation asking us to consider what means most to us in our lives. What matters, Buzzell-Saltzman finds, are our relationships with others, our health, shared resources, creative expression, and contribution to the whole, not more stuff.

The first step on this journey, says Buzzell-Saltzman, is to make your own life sustainable, which may mean getting out of debt, making a vocational leap, or shutting off the TV, which seduces consumerism. Also, paring down the excesses in our lives will allow more time and energy devoted to more meaningful and enjoyable activities.

The groundwork has been laid by visionaries such as Gandhi, Dr. King, and the Dalai Lama for a progression toward a society that is sustainable. With the help of individuals from all lifestyles who place meaningfulness before profit, nature before consumerism, and other people before themselves, Buzzell-Saltzman says this goal is attainable.
-- Marca Bradt

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