At this time of consumeristic frenzy, where greed takes the guise of generosity, wraps it in a cloak of faith and…
No. Let me start over.
Putting aside the tirade on Christmas – a worthy topic for some future conversation, perhaps – the current season of consumption has got me to thinking about the idea of sustainability. It’s a word we use and hear multiple times a day, but one that mostly goes undefined and unchallenged. The more I think about it, the less I think of it as a useful term at all, and since working toward sustainability is so often a stated goal of industry, politics and even consumers themselves (the irony), it might be time to unpack the word and the concept, or at least start to, for the sake of whatever clarity might arise.
- ‘Sustainability,’ is a word that does not mean what we may think it means. When we speak of ‘sustainable energy,’ and ‘sustainable agriculture,’ for example, we speak of the idea of sustaining our own level of use, and we are primarily considering human desire and convenience as the reason for the process. We perpetually seek the quality of life to which we have become accustomed, plus seven-to-nine percent a year. We never even seem to notice that the term ‘sustainable growth,’ is the very definition of an oxymoron. Or if we do, no one comments.
- The environment is not something that exists outside of us. We are a part of the world around us and connected in every direction to the larger universe. If we talk of a sustainable future, and that term is referring to a human-centered view of the world, it is a goal that can only be pursued by standing apart from the rest. Apart and above. This is the separation that drives the continual downward pressure, even if it sometimes comes dressed up to look more ‘sustainable.’
‘Sustainability’ is a term that has mostly lost its meaning, much like ‘conservative,’ or ‘sugar-free.’ Without acknowledging the basic interdependence of all life, including human life, it is robbed of any real meaning.
It isn’t that I have any answers at the moment, but that doesn’t stop the questions from coming.