This raises the question, what measure should we use as our guide: what should be our goal? Some people have argued that the goal is the maximization of happiness. Society, particularly the media, regularly acts as if the goal is the avoidance of boredom. Another measure, though, which is not unrelated to the first, is the preservation and creation of value.

Over the last 3.5 billion years all manner of life forms and natural habitats have evolved on our planet. Similarly, in the last two hundred thousand years – the period of time since Homo sapiens evolved as a separate species – an extraordinary array of distinct human cultures have been established. This diversity represents what is truly unique and beautiful about the Earth: it constitutes the real value of our world.

Every time a species dies out, every time a natural habitat is cut down, every time a traditional human culture is “assimilated” by the modern world, part of this value is irrevocably lost.

This concept of value can also be used to evaluate any actions that humans consider, as individuals and through groups. If such actions preserve environmental and cultural diversity, and establish the conditions in which they can continue to thrive, then they are acceptable. However, if the actions reduce the diversity and the potential for further development, even if only through indirect consequences, then they are not

- Dictator Watch Manifesto

Earlier I listed a great number of specific activist causes, in which you might choose to become involved. But this still raises the question of our overall goal. If we are to change our society to escape from its present destructive path, what is the alternative? And, how are we to measure our progress?

The issue with development, or progress, is development or progress towards what? Are we working to create a stable society where human needs are fully satisfied, and is our system sustainable and not causing environmental harm? Under the current system, development, as in the idea of a nation’s development, is seen in purely commercial terms, really, in how much money corporations, i.e., “developers,” are making. There is little consideration given to – or calculation of – the cultural and environmental damage that is being caused. Indeed, land development means, it is the same thing as, irreversible land destruction: to pave it over and put up some type of building.

Real development, the type of development that should be our goal, is social or cultural development: the achievement of our social goals. And what are our social goals? The following is a prospective list:

- Voluntary control of our breeding, to reduce the pressures from overpopulation.
- The protection of all natural habitats, with minimal human impact thereon, and as natural resources are needed for industry and agriculture, the minimal, least impact, and sustainable extraction therefrom.
- Human happiness, through the satisfaction of our needs as individuals.
- An ethical society, where people care for others as well as for themselves.
- The construction of a social infrastructure that guarantees all people access to quality education, health care, housing, transportation and basic utilities.
- The preservation of cultural history and traditions, including such things as languages, arts and crafts, and environmental knowledge.
- Opportunity equality.
- Within reasonable tolerances, wealth equality.
- A meritocracy.
- No intolerance or discrimination; rather, a celebration of diversity.
- A level society, where the disadvantaged are given support and assistance.
- A level society, which does not sink to the lowest common denominator, but rather in which individuals strive to achieve personal creativity, excellence and sophistication.
- A highly productive society, with a great store of wealth, thereby minimizing work requirements and maximizing the time available for leisure and personal development.
- A stable society; one at peace, in equilibrium, and undergoing a natural process of evolution with minimal disruption and unrest.

Are these the goals to which modern society is leading us? If so, it is by a very roundabout route. And are these the goals by which we measure the success of our development and progress? I don’t think so.

Also, as a final measure, it is essential that we recognize that for real development to occur, we have to be able to minimize the effects of chance. We have to eliminate the social forms that lead one individual to be a beggar on the streets of India, and another a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley (or Bangalore!). Even in the greatest cases of merit, chance still plays a significant if not dominant role. In a fair and just society, this would not be the case.

© Roland O. Watson 2005