Buddhists know the concept as Karma - that the act of helping another will return in some subtle and different way to the helper, although at the time there appears to be no immediate reward for the action.
Christianity takes a similar view with a slightly different emphasis: that those who actively pursue what at first appears to be their own self-interest will suffer for it, but those who pursue the interest of the greater 'whole', asking for no reward for themselves, will find to their surprise that they benefit directly from their actions at some later stage:
"Whoever seeks his own will pursues his own glory; yet whoever seeks the will of the one that sent him, the same is true, and yet there is no unrighteousness in him"
"Whoever loves his life shall lose it - and whoever hates his life in this world shall keep it in the next"
The one single force in the world which consistently provides for another without asking anything for itself is nature. Nature has provided humanity with all the bounties which have enabled us to become the enlightened species that we have, apparently in control of our own destiny. We have taken freely from nature.
What reward does nature have from this? Apparently nothing at first glance: yet now there are 6 billion of us on the planet, and nature's bounty is becoming depleted. It is becoming obvious that nature holds all the cards: if humanity is to survive, we must live within the boundaries which nature imposes. Yet the extent of these boundaries has been determined by the extent to which we have taken from nature, without taking care to replenish as we go.
Very soon the creed of greed will hit a brick wall. Those who have unremittingly pursued their own self-interest will suddenly find that there is no more to be had. Yet for some people, there will be a surprise benefit.
Some people will be prepared. Anyone who over the past few years has listened to the concerns about global warming, and acted upon them, will suddenly find themselves in an advantageous position. Although cutting energy use, and spending hard-earned cash on solar panels, wood burning stoves and home insulation, would seem at first glance to be an altruistic act which has little immediate reward, there is an extremely direct personal reward waiting further down the line.
Because as the big surprise becomes apparent - that although global warming is a huge threat, the greater threat is simply the exhaustion of fossil fuel supplies - those who made sacrifices earlier on will suddenly find that their solar panels, wood stoves etc give them heat and light whilst others, who have all the time been pursuing a much more selfish agenda, will have to go without.
When the crisis hits, the rush for renewables will exhaust the ability of suppliers to supply them, and those who do manage to get hold of the technology will pay a huge price for it. Meanwhile, those who acted simply to look after the planet will be quite comfortable and empowered - and rightly so.
But there is still time, for those who can read the writing on the wall. The power cuts and job losses are on their way. We all need to be thinking about what happens next.
One thing is for sure - the only way to survive will be in co-operation. The power of community can see us through. But only if we all act in the interest of the greater whole - in the new resource-poor world ahead, 'everyone for themselves' will be the way to destruction.
Love and peace,