Sustainability is a word that (similar to green, going green etc.) has been thrown around a lot lately by many different types of groups and organizations. So what does it really mean? Lets take a look. In order to truly understand what the word really means (in the context of how it has been used) we have to check its academic background. So for practical purposes we'll use the popular online Merriam-Webster dictionary
as a source for our search for the true meaning of what we are talking about. Sustainability (a noun) is rooted in the word sustainable (an adjective), which is rooted even deeper in the word sustain (which can be used as either a noun or a verb). Whew! a tongue twister, but follow me for a second. To sustain (according to Merriam-Webster) is "to give support or relief to".
Ok, in the context of what we're taliking about (sustainability being a lifestyle) let's look at two definitions from Merriam-Webster, and then we'll cross check these definitions with another academic source to create a bigger picture. According to Merriam-Webster sustainable means: a:
of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. (Examples= sustainable techniques, sustainable agriculture) b:
of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods. (Examples= sustainable society). The United States Environmental Protection Agency has this to say
about sustainability as a lifestyle; "Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment".
People, water, air, earth, land, sea, housing, animals, the sun, energy (especially the heat that goes out the window of an unweatherized home), everything that is around you everyday that you might take for granted, is a resource. We all (whether we'd like to admit it or not) are interdependent on each other. Nowhere is this fact more apparent than amongst the lower rung peoples of a capitalist society. It is quite imperative that the people at the bottom (one could say the 99%) or those with the least financial resources make the best use of mother Earth's natural resources "to give support or relief" to each other in order to survive. Surviving not just for the now but for the futures of our children. That's why the concept of a net zero
house is important, that's why wide spread (low income) access to weatherization in cold weather cities/areas is important, that's why making sure the people in a neighborhood can make a decent living wage (not working at McDonalds) is important, that's why making the most efficient use of our God given earthly resources is important. So here we are, sustainability the concept is not very complicated at all. Let us be good stewards of what we've been blessed with. Let us use what is around us everyday to the best of our abilities, to give support and relief to each other.
Posted on Mon, January 9, 2012