ferns, photo by Hennie Aikman

Sustainability

Humans have a very special ability over all the other species that inhabit our planet. While others leave the planet very much as they found it, we humans are remarkable in our ability to alter things.

But, more than that, we humans aspire to leave to our children and their children a better world, one enriched in knowledge and technology, and yes, in material things as well. For some civilizations that have left a good record of their days, this has been true. Certainly, most of those now living have experienced a richer material existence than their parents did, or at least not a diminished state. This as hardly inevitable, however.

We know from history and archeology that many past societies simply disappeared when they weren't able to cope with a changed environment, or encountered limits that their resources or technology could not overcome. Some left very little behind to tell of their decline and fall.

Today, our limits are not those of any region or group; they are limits of our planet and its resources. We don't need to panic, but we do need to recognize those limits before they consume us. Our world and its resources are finite: there is no new world waiting to solve our supply problems, to allow blind growth. In a word, we need a society that is sustainable.

Sustainability is a word much misused, since it usually applied only in the context of growth economics. But our economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment: without a sustainable environmental habitat, neither society nor the economy can exist.

A truly sustainable society is one that:

  • Does not use renewable resources faster than natural systems can replenish them.
  • Does not use non-renewable resources faster than replacements can be found.
  • Does not produce waste materials faster than natural systems can process them.
  • Does not steal from future generations.

The green solution to the problem of growth is to recognize the natural limits of sustainability, and find ways to work within them, guided by the precautionary principle. To do otherwise would be suicidal. Yet, many of our national and provincial leaders lag the public in understanding the environmental threats before us.

Some sustainability perspectives:

A new decade of global consciousness
Worldshift 2012
Planet 2025
The Eleventh Hour
Can we survive?
Sustainability
A sustainable course for Canada
New Earth rising
Mobilizing for the future
My journey to 2030
Earth Charter Initiative
The anthropocene epoch
Olduvai theory
Forum for the future
Vision for a sustainable world
The Swedish solution

"Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you."
"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."

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