Sustainability

Seems like a simple word. Sustainable. Sort of like the ability to survive. To keep on keeping on. Where I work we teach sustainability. I had likened sustaining to efficacy. It is the more efficient systems that are sustainable.

Of course I am now an old person. When I was young they said to trust no one over forty. Well I am sixty percent over that now. Why should a twenty year old trust what I have to say. In a way, I understand that. So I listen.

When asked for a movie recommendation for a Sci-fi film featuring manufacturing a young expert suggested Snow Piercer. Spoiler alert, I will talk about the film. It is a relatively recent film (in my years) by a Korean director. As I am tired of Hollywood propaganda, I thought it might be interesting. It was. The scenario was a perpetual train on snowball earth. The only life on earth was aboard the train. On board the train was a fascist society with the goal of sustainability. The population on board the train consisted of the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots wanted to overthrow the haves. There was lot of violence.

I disagreed with all the violence. The movie was basically just a train wreck. At the end of the movie two people survive the train wreck and see a polar bear looking at them. Sustainability would be going back in the train and getting a gun to shoot the polar bear. Not a very good definition of sustainability.

Yet, the movie got me to thinking about what people perceive as the meaning of sustainability. The movie described sustainability as the justification of fascism. Yikes, I do not view my job as a justification of fascism. Of course that may be an extreme interpretation, yet violence was heavily promoted.

We teach the U.N. defined definition “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A rather nebulous statement, that seems a bit word salad to me. As I poked around looking for other definitions I did see a man versus nature balance thing going on. It is true, we do teach we cannot survive living like we do. Something that I personally do not agree with. If I remember correctly it is something they taught when I was in school. Yet here I am, it is something I remind the students of when they ask.

Of course sustainability is not the big thing for me. I believe that manufacturing makes our lives better. The better we make things the better our lives will be. Efficiency and utilization are important, that is how we make things better. Am I fooling myself when I consider efficiency and utilization to be sustainability? I could be. Like the Ying and the Yang I consider the Holy dance of the compass and square to be enlightenment. The articulating she and the he. Sustainability might just be the fourth part of a circle, but it is not creation. Yet where I am, sustainable is the first word. So it demands reasonable definition.

Don’t trust anyone over forty, it is true. I trust the students. They are my muse. They are the future. I willing lend them my experience, for they can use it better than I. Yet I now desire to describe sustainability for them. For they are not satisfied to have sustainability described as a lie.

“The preservation and promotion of humanity” will be my description of sustainability. It is not a us verses them thing. Sustainability should promote improvement, and infer an innate goodness. I will have to ask the young people what they think. I am open for suggestions.

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