Four Questions for a Sustainable Society: Does it Create Abundance?

| 3/26/2010 5:37:49 PM

Costa RicaAbundance is a very old word. It came to modern English speakers virtually intact from Middle English about a thousand years ago. They got it from Old French, which picked it up nearly intact from the Romans who had a goddess, Abundantia, who reigned over the concept and guarded the mythical cornucopia, the horn of plenty. At some point she passed the torch to St. Abundantia, an Italian girl from Spoleto who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and spent five contemplative years in a cave in the Egyptian desert. St. Abundantia was known for her generosity, the spontaneous ringing of bells and the tendency of flowers to bloom in her presence, even in the middle of winter.[1] 

People have always been aware that abundance was what we desired. It is a feature of every Utopian vision. But nature has a bad habit of reminding us that the symbols of abundance — flowers blooming in winter or a goat’s horn that delivers unlimited amounts of excellent food and drink — are mythological. In the real world resources are limited.

The only practical means of creating abundance in our world requires examining the ratio between our capacities and our desires. Our capacities can be measured. Our desires can, presumably, be adjusted to fit within our capacities. And if we fit our desires within our capacities with some room left over then abundance is possible.

A few years ago Natural Home magazine profiled Michael Funk’s California foothills home on the Yuba River. Funk made some money in the natural-food business and chose to build his dream home among the waterfalls, gorges and pine-scented woods of the Sierra Nevada. He built the home off the grid to generate all its own electricity with passive-solar energy for heat and efficient natural ventilation. He used reclaimed wood, recycled wood and wood certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council from renewable sources. He used local granite for walls and foundations, insulation made from recycled denim and wool clothing, natural wool carpets, permanent natural slate for the roofs, natural waxes, solar hot water and cultivated extensive orchards and gardens that provide a lot of food for Funk and his guests.

By the time he had incorporated guest rooms and conference rooms for business events and an extensive root cellar, the home was a little bigger than he had originally planned — about 6,000 square feet in all.

And some of the magazine’s readers took exception.

jarrod starr
10/8/2010 6:07:56 AM

What this article does not address is that abundance is fleeting. We here in the US and other industrialized nations take abundance for granted, but all you have to do is travel across the globe to see that abundance has very different meanings to other cultures. Further, all of the points the writer makes about the technology in the house being an example of what may trickle down to us poor folks is lost on the fact that it could've been done in a smaller home as well. In fact it SHOULD'VE been down on a smaller home. What happens when the owner moves out or his financial circumstances make it no longer feasible to live in such a space. Too late. By nature of its square feet, this is an abundant home that will not appeal to anyone but those that feel that they are entitled to such space. We're lucky to have "extra" everything, but it's only for now.

4/6/2010 8:32:30 PM

Abundance is having enough left after you feed yourself to help feed your neighbor. Greed is having enough to feed your family and wanting your neighbor's food too.

Mel in WA_2
4/1/2010 11:02:56 AM

Love the article. We can all have abundance in small quantities. Cherished jewelry handed down. One zucchini seed.

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