The Myth of Sustainability

2p. The Myth of Sustainability

In ecological terms ‘sustainability’ (as used in the 1987 Brundtland Report) meant ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Another definition is: ‘improving the quality of human life while living quietly within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems’. Unfortunately the values of industrialism are not compatible with those of life itself. The use of the term ‘sustainability’ in this context today is often corrupted, even by supposedly mainstream politicians, to ‘something we can keep going’ in general terms, like ‘a scam’. This process of popularisation / corruption of word meanings (aka dumbing down) is one reason why we need to redefine concepts and reach for new meanings and ideas in new words. What has become clear is that ‘sustaining’ an economy of ‘business as usual’ is not compatible with keeping the nature on our planet.

The idea of sustainability begs the question ‘What it is that we are actually trying to sustain?’

  • an outdated cultural narrative?
  • an unhealthy conception of the relationship between humanity and nature?
  • business as usual in a deeply inequitable world?
  • a structurally dysfunctional system and worldview?

We need to search for new ways to restore ecosystems, not destroy them. Why can’t we just celebrate cultural diversity, rather than all of the ‘us and them’ racisms?  Such cultures will assure the future of life as a whole and not merely sustain a humanity divorced from its roots in nature and alienated from the ground of its own being.

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