Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The local newspaper had an opinion piece this last weekend on sustainability by a local writer, and while it does focus somewhat on local issues, it still has some interesting ideas sprinkled throughout it while it wanders all over the place.

I liked the expressed opinions, probably because they closely reflect my own. The piece takes a good shot at briging down the whole concept of sustainability, how it is probably a meaningless term now completely co-opted by marketers and businesses, even as there is this undercurrent in the article that it truly is worthwhile for us to not try and consume as much as possible while on this earth.

Some snippets:
"Does generating all your power on site -- however inefficiently -- really contribute to a thriving community that's built to last? Can a community be sustainable even if the economy on which it depends -- something largely out of a community's control -- doesn't sustain? Another problem, as [Environmental historian David] Worster points out--sustainable for how long? A year? A generation? Forever [?]...Few societies in human history have sustained beyond a few centuries."
(This hints at the idea I mentioned last week that the global optimum is not found by optimizing each sub-piece.)

And I like the irony of this one:
"Today, China and India are gambling on so-called unsustainable development--heavy use of water, coal and polluting industries -- to lift their people out of poverty. Paradoxically, that unsustainable step may lead to a more sustainable future."
I personally don't think that sustainability is possible for humans. It would require thinking with a long term perspective, a very long term perspective, an ability that we show less and less capacity for with each passing year.

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