Sustainability

In this article from Scientific American, Michael D. Lemonick discusses the Top 10 Myths About Sustainability. No, this isn’t an affront to environmentalism – it’s an article that seeks to define just what sustainability is, how it can (and can’t) operate, and how it can help. The concept of sustainability, the article points out, is widely and legitimately applicable to our modern global society but can be difficult for people to understand. I found two points in this article to be especially succinct in describing the concept of sustainability in very simple and very real terms.

“The economy,” says Anthony Cortese, founder and president of the sustainability education organization Second Nature, “is a wholly owned subsidiary of the biosphere. The biosphere provides everything that makes life possible, assimilates our waste or converts it back into something we can use.”

This is immediately followed by,

If too many of us use resources inefficiently or generate waste too quickly for the environment to absorb and process, future generations obviously won’t be able to meet their needs.

As humans on this planet, everything that we rely upon to provide us an environment in which we can not only live, but flourish, is a product of the earth in at least its most basic form. Therefore, if we are wasteful and abusive towards the planet, it is likely that we will no longer be able to flourish – perhaps not even live. Sustainability may require us to use less (whether that be fossil fuels, water, etc.), and to use what we do take from the earth with greater efficiency, but it is not about returning to cave dwellings and loincloths. Sustainability requires each individual to be both responsible for themselves and conscientious of others in the way that we live our lives, manipulate and use resources, and to consider how our actions of the present will continue to resonate in the future. Regardless of personal politics, I fail to sympathize with any individual’s inability to recognize not only the merit, but the absolute necessity, of sustainable living. The future of humanity does not look to be an easy or pleasant one and will require a massive overhaul, but that is no reason to feel hopeless. At the individual level, even small changes and adjustments to your habits and lifestyle are better than no changes at all!

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