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Home arrow Randy's Blog arrow What is Sustainability?
What is Sustainability? PDF Print Email this article
Written by Randy Bisenz   
Friday, Apr 02, 2010
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What is Sustainability?
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As the general population becomes more aware of our environmental challenges and the emerging energy crisis certain words have become popular in the media.  Not too many years ago words like sustainable, green or renewable would bring snickers from people who thought the environmental movement and search for alternative energy sources were just hoaxes perpetuated by those with purely political agendas.  Not anymore.  Just about everywhere you look in media and advertising people are talking green and sustainability.

One unfortunate side effect of having meaningful words become marketing buzzwords is that what these words mean and represent is often lost in a barrage of advertising and shallow quasi-news reporting.

The words sustainable and sustainability are powerful words with meaning that reveals great wisdom for the future of humankind.  It is important that we preserve the power of these words to help us understand what we must do to provide a high quality of life in the years ahead.  It would be tragic to be seduced by the spin doctors that because we put a green or sustainable label on something that we are properly addressing our long-term challenges.

Both of these words speak to the ability of something to last and endure.  This means that whatever we are attempting to sustain is capable of enduring times of hardship, scarcity, or change.  Something that works well during the good times but breaks down during times of challenge is simply not sustainable.  This is true of every aspect of our civilization including our economy.

This is a lesson that humanity has had great difficulty understanding and learning.  Our history over the ages shows a consistent pattern of our developing civilizations and establishing standards of living only to have is all fall apart as soon as conditions change or new threats introduced.

The solutions for this are planning for the long-term, which includes planning for times of scarcity, hardship and change; and investing resources like time, energy and money into these plans.

A good example of how this works is in the hurricane Katrina disaster.  The officials in New Orleans had been warned that the levees were not strong enough to withstand a serious hurricane.  To repair and strengthen the levees would cost substantial amounts of money and reduce the amount available to spend on advertising to increase tourism. 

These officials decided to wait on repairing the levees figuring that such a storm was unlikely, and moved to spend that money on advertising instead.  They figured that the increases in their economy would provide the funds necessary for the repairs in due time.  In other words they traded the security that this long-term investment would provide for short-term economic gains.  We all know how well this strategy ended up working.

If these officials would have invested for the long-term and planned for this “unlikely” event a huge disaster could have been avoided.  Today, New Orleans would have recovered from the storm and would be in a position to maintain tourism and the local economy.

As we look ahead to the challenges posed by our energy crisis and climate change we would be wise to vigorously invest in long-term solutions to these challenges today, even if it means forgoing short-term economic gains.  Such investments create whole new areas economic opportunity that down to road will benefit us far more than anything else we might do today to stimulate our economy for the short-term.

You can find our more about practical long-term solutions on the Bright Future website.  If you have not visited lately come a take a look at the improvements we recently completed.  The site has been redesigned with a fresh look and improved navigation.  Also, we have added a brand new networking section and a forum where you can discuss our long-term challenges and solutions with others.  You are invited to take advantage of our free membership offer that gives you full access to these new functions.

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