Towards a (Re)Definition of Sustainability: Justin Van Kleeck and Caroline Savery. 6-Caroline

Dear Justin… and Dear all!

Special thanks to Jeff Strasburg for helping us indulge our imaginations in this series!  I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Justin for engaging me in this form.  It has been edifying to explore concepts about sustainability.  I hope that the readers of this “debate” have enjoyed the process as well, and I know I speak for Justin when I say: we welcome all comments!  This a dialog, a free exchange of ideas, so tell us yours and help to fuel the mutual inspiration.

(Author’s Note: I include the image above not only because, figuratively speaking, the “sun is setting” on our Sustainability dialog, but also because I will be travelling westward-ho! throughout the United States until the beginning of September.  My objective is to get some relief from my high-technology-based lifestyle right now, so the vacation will heavily consist of camping in national parks.  Therefore, I will blog if I am able to during this time, but if not… be prepared for both the Sust Enable episode debuts AND a bona fide blogging bonanza upon my return in early September.)

Without further ado,

Here are my final thoughts, in conclusion.

1) If you can learn to modify your life to be as close to environmental sustainability as possible, it is necessary that you proceed to do so. The human will is one of the most powerful–and dangerous–elements on the planet.  At first glance, it might feel like “too much” to give up using a flush toilet (just for an example).  But is it really?  Think about the idea.  Get familiar with it.  Picture what it would look like to use a composting toilet in your home.  Maybe start with a little one, to be used only sometimes.  Soon, the consequences may not seem all that daunting. There is always a choice. 

Don’t let your true identity and dreams for what the world could be become casualties of conforming.  You only have one life, so use it, in the most effective ways visible.  If many individuals decided that, deep in their hearts, ecocide felt wrong to them, that many persons when taken together comprise a mutiny against old, obsolete customs and beliefs.  Your little action today plays a role in a social revolution, of the “green” kind.

Human beings are alleged to be the most intelligent creatures on Earth.  Let’s live up to that.  If you perceive that your actions–such as using a refrigerator or an air conditioner unit, etc.–are harmful to the ecosystem in any regard (whether in terms of ozone, CFCs, manufacturing processes, etc.), it is your responsibility to cease doing so.  Life is happiest when the focus is on reducing dissonance between one’s ideology and one’s reality.  When my concerns about environmental change (EC) reached a climax, I tried to mediate that dissonance by throwing myself head-long into the Sust Enable project–and I learned a lot!  What does your fantasy project look like?  As Alison Wiley commented on Justin’s last post, “More joy, less consumption!

2) If you want to see sustainability, change MUST occur on the social level. This does not mean that it is ineffectual to take any action on the individual level.  However, this does mean that thinking of yourself as an enlightened island of green consciousness is probably a waste of time and energy.  I feel it is appropriate to split your time and efforts between enacting personal efforts (which includes educating yourself about options for reducing your footprint, trying new things, and involving your neighbors) and effecting social change (researching corporations, boycotting and petitioning, organizing community actions.)  See the recent article “Widespread Sustainable Consumerism is More Vital than Taking Individual Actions” for more information on the role of social movements.

All things considered, here is my definition of “sustainability.”

Sustainability: to live in a way that allows all others to live.

As the human community grows toward an understanding of the resources AND limitations of planet Earth’s biosphere, we must accept, not evade, the responsibility of that knowledge.  “Sustainable” is when humans accept the responsibility that comes with our great intellectual power, and using our maximal creativity, design personal- and community-based ways for living within our Earth’s life-sustaining capacity, so that endless generations of people may learn, thrive, create and grow at the unnatural expense of no other life-giving systems.

photo credit: Luca Galuzzi – www.galuzzi.it under a Creative Commons 2.5 license

One comment
  1. mel y

    You had a choice to “live off the land”. Others have their world taken from them. Imagine living under a bridge because your home and income were longer available. What’s wrong with eating one meal a day??? My thoughts are that this society is allowed to be wasteful. With unlimited credit for any whim, unlimited resources that seem to be designed to be thrown away after the new improved model appears on the tube. If I can collect rain water to keep my garden happy, to flush my toilet, to wash my clothes once a week makes no impact on the environment, at least I save my hard earned $$$, since water is charged twice, once for suppy once for sewage. I am content to wear clothes that I buy from the goodwill and rather hike in the woods than spend $50 for a night @ the movies. We all need to think about what will be left for our children’s children. Oh that’s right we would rather be greedy and selfish and enjoy what the good Lord has given us to use once & throw away. Perhaps it would be a good thing if this country would suffer a crisis. How long would it take if we had no gas for our hungry hummers, no food at our piggle wigglys and Oh My the Walmart is closing next week!!!!

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