Sustainability: Then & Now
Do you keep hearing about global warming or climate change? How about the term, “sustainability”? What is sustainability and what does it have to do with first two terms? Read on, my friend, for Sustainability 101.
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Sustainability 101: How Did We Get Here?
First, let’s start with some background… Throughout the years, individually and organizationally, we have built our lives around “lives of convenience”, as I call it. Is that bad? Well, convenience itself is not bad. However, throughout the development of civilization, we as a human race (“Society”) have ignored that we are a part of a connected system here on Earth (“Environment”). Remember learning about ecosystems in school? Yes, ecosystems include us!
By ignoring that important component, the environment, our society has created a materials economy based on a one-way, linear system of extracting, manufacturing, consuming, and throwing away that we have not only become dependent upon but have also built it placing the financial bottom line as the success indicator. Therefore, as the diagram below indicates, our current linear economy is considered more important than society or the environment. Yet, are we a happy and healthy society now that we’ve placed the economy’s well-being over our own? Is our environment, which sustains us, healthy? I didn’t think so.
Sustainability 101: Where Are We Now?
In short, we’ve created a “take, make and waste” way of living focusing only on the financial costs and financial success, which is failing us and our environment. We have become a society of consumers prodded to continually go out and shop ’til we drop to keep the economy happy and healthy. But at what other costs? Scientists have repeatedly said climate change is a result of the actions of the human race.
For example, we consume fossil fuel energy and use fossil fuel-based transportation methods that pollute the air with toxic particulates and carbon emissions that are heating our atmosphere as a whole leading to bleached coral reefs, increased hurricanes and flooding, drought, increased diseases, and more. We buy and use products with toxic chemicals harmful to our bodies, water ways and the wildlife. Why don’t we have cleaner energy, transportation and products to use in our daily living or business practices?
Additionally, we live on a planet that has finite resources. We only have one Earth and when its resources are gone, then what? In essence, we have designed a way of living that is destroying our ability to support each other, and the Earth’s capacity to support us sustainably, while ruining our health in the process. It goes without saying our current system is inefficient, harmful, and unsustainable. To make this serious topic a little easier to digest, The Story of Stuff did a great, short video in 2009 and how we can rethink the way we live and do business: