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Book Chapter

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A sustainable system is not necessarily a high-quality one, but it could be. We could, for example, “survive” on the desperate edge, as the remnants in a self-fouled and deteriorating environment. Why won’t a future sustainable system be just another industrial model of mass efficiency and throughput? Perhaps the incompatible outcomes are a choice between the sometimes nearly invisible civilizing aspects of culture nurturing respect, equality, and cooperation on one hand, and the greed and self-indulgences undermining social tolerance, empathy, and cooperation that ends up promoting violence and dehumanization. The human heritage is subtle, indestructible, and worth nurturing if we want that hospitable sustainable system. But, assuming that a kind of social osmosis will be sufficient to sustain justice and fairness is wrongheaded and dismisses the historical examples. A new cultural narrative is needed to override the maladaptive dissonance preventing formation of sustainable systems. This narrative will be anchored in personal initiatives, incorporates an appreciation of our evolved heritage, and is informed by intentional social learning within groups and occasional social punishment.

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