From Transition Culture via Energy Bulletin, a short but fascinating interview with “green thinker” Fritjof Capra. While Capra deals with a number of complex concepts related to “relocalized” communities, I was particularly impressed at how well he simplified the concept of sustainability (one I still have trouble explaining):
…the concept of sustainability is alien to most people, and many don’t understand it. Lester Brown who devised the term 25 years ago and if later became widely known as the Brundtland definition, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
When I first heard it I was confused by it. It set me thinking as to why I found it confusing, and I ended up thinking that it was because it is a moral exhortation to create as many opportunities for future generations as possible, yet it is an exhortation that doesn’t actually tell you how to do it. I tell people that what we need instead is an operational definition. The key to this is that we can use ecosystems as models. They are adaptive and sustainable, they support life, they recycle, they are solar powered.
In terms of creating sustainable human communities, our aim has to be to redesign them so that they don’t interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. Our first step is to understand how Nature sustains life. The second step is then to introduce these principles into design, which we call ‘eco-design, to redesign our technologies, social institutions, commerce and so on. The first step is that we have to help communities become what I call ‘eco-literate’, there is really no way round this. It needs to happen at a very early stage in a relocalisation process.
I’m always on the lookout for good resources for people new to these concepts, and will likely include this interview on my list. I’m constantly pointing to books: The Ecology of Commerce, Ishmael, Midcourse Correction, or nearly anything by Lester Brown. I still think these are necessary and important reading, but Capra’s description of sustainability here makes for a great “elevator speech” on the subject.