Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sustainable and Desirable

It may seem kind of obvious, and I'm certainly not the first to express the sentiment, but needs to be said:

a sustainable future is not necessarily desirable, a desirable future is necessarily sustainable.

As interest in 'sustainability' continues to grow exponentially, so inevitably does confusion and misunderstandings of terminology. Sustainability is the bare-minimum we're shooting for, it's not the end-all, be-all by any means. It's the eye of the needle where we stop contributing to unsustainability, get restorative, and start opening up the "funnel walls".

"Sustainable development" is the process of moving towards sustainability, and 'beyond' (and "development" shouldn't be confused with "growth", the former is the growth of value, the latter is just the growth of stuff). Of course, none of this will be a smooth, linear process. We'll move step by step, more and more people and organizations will continually increase their awareness and create more and more solutions, and new, fresh ways of being that don't systematically undermine the social and ecological systems upon which we depend.

In order to do this of course, we need to break away from some deeply engrained habits of thought and action, and backcasting from a compelling vision is really necessary to do that - to move from incremental steps of 'less bad' to transformative, exciting steps of 'creating a sustainable and desirable society'. And that vision needs to be more compelling than just "sustainable," no one is really looking for a "sustainable life" or a "sustainable community" - we are looking for meaningful, interesting, exciting, fulfilling lives, communities, relationships, careers, etc.

The Sustainability Principles are just the basic constraints, derived from basic laws of thermodynamics and social systems... they set a frame for "free creativity within constraints," empowering the creative process of sustainable development, or 'creating sustainability' - they are not prescriptive in terms of how we get there or what it will look like.

So yes, it's sustainable and desirable, and also just, healthy, fecund, and caring ... sometimes I'll just say "sustainable" to catch all that.

Stay going.

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