Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Alan's Soapbox - Sustainablilty

Explanation - Technically it is not a soapbox. It is an old apple crate. It's missing a few slats and a bit worm eaten. If I stand on it very carefully it provides a platform from which I may rant at the world (or more often scream into the void.)

Disclaimer - All the opinions expressed in these rants are mine. My wife often reminds me (when I start expressing my opinions) that I am "often wrong, but never uncertain".


There has been an interesting discussion going on over at Garden Rant around the topic of sustainability. It is covered in three posts, The Killing Fields, Soil Will Save Us?, and Saxon Holt on Sustainability. I can't leave this one alone.

I've written a bit about sustainability, so I'm not going to rehash it all here. I have been struck lately by how much of our way of life is structured on unsustainable ideas. Two ideas in particular seem to keep coming up. The first is the idea of growth. It is the only measure of success we use in the world of economics. No one ever says this business or sector is doing well because it is stable, it's filled it's niche and is functioning as an integral part of the community. We only look for growth. In other systems we would call this kind of continual growth ecosystem collapse, cancer, disease. Yet this is what we put our efforts, talents, energy, intellect into producing and sustaining. The second idea that keeps striking me is borrowing. We live on resources taken from elsewhere or, in the case of the financial sector, elsewhen. We do this because we think we have to continue to grow, and that is the only way to sustain unending growth. I was struck by this the other day when an ad came on the TV for debt relief for people with credit card debt over $10000. I couldn't quite get my mind around that. I had been grumbling about a business modle that think it is OK to opperate in the red, and the governments willingness to continue supporting that modle only to realize that many among us live the same way. Then I made the jump and realized we all live that way. The food we eat and the energy we use is borrowed from elsewhere those resources are never repaid. No wonder the system is collapsing.

The real difficulty is even when we recognise the problem (which we mostly don't) it is hard, if not imposible to imagin a different way of living. This paradigm is that basis of our civilization. We have no other modle. Except of course every other creature living on this plannet. They all manage to live sustainably, except where we muck up the system. They do it by living locally. All their basic needs are met from local resources and all the resources are returned to the local pool to continue the cycle. Those resources limit growth to what that local will support, but they don't limit diversity. Infact, diversity is the surest sign of a healthy ecosystem. More creatures utilizing the resources in more different ways. The local cycle is the key. We should be applying our money and intelect to developing ways of living that mimic this. Or better yet, ways of living that allow us to step back into our place in the natural world instead of pretending we are exempt from natural law.
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