S-S-S-Sustainability!

Cover of "Ecotopia"
Cover of Ecotopia

“I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.”

That’s what I want to do with my life. In some shape or form, anything I am doing, I want it to mesh with that belief. The belief that we should live in a sustainable society and we owe it to ourselves to get there. The belief is also contingent upon the thought that what we are doing is not sustainable and that there is oodles of room for improvement.

I heard of sustainability first, while reading Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia. In it, he referred to this concept of sustainability as a stable state system. A system in which everything is in equilibrium with everything else. There was a process for nearly everything to make sure that you really had the best information moving forward about making a decision. You harvested the wood if you wanted a wood frame home, for example.

A co-worker, during one of those nice “just go out to lunch with one of your co-worker” things, prodded me after I asked him why he was doing Construction Project Management. He returned the question. I wasn’t expecting that. I started with, “Oh, I don’t know.” But I had to pause. Because, I knew it wasn’t true.

I was at the end of a nearly 5 year break from college. I had gained more life experience, talked more with different people, read more about different ideas, and began formulating my own. Yes, in fact, I did know what I want to do … and I apologized for my cop-out statement and came up with that.

“I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.”

Sustainable. But, what does that mean? I had the opportunity to go back to school, and back to school I went. What a fortunate time it was. Sustainability was popping up everywhere! Lucky for me, minors and specialized programs were too. I didn’t want to do another dual major attempt but rather, efficiently wrap all my interests under one degree.

One of the amazing opportunities I had after I decided on my minor in Sustainable Urban Development was to visit Italy for two weeks on an agri-tourismo property that specialized in sustainability. We were a crew of about 15. Some of us were young, some were middle-aged, and some were fresh of the boat young college kids. One of my favorite attendees was a Bosnian gal who spent much of her adult life in the US. I loved hearing her cross-oceanic view of the world.

People, she said to me, in one late night conversation around the farm table with tea and wine. People. People often forget about people. Labor. The people who do the job.

As someone who was raised in a blue-collar family with white-collar dreams, I can relate.

What did my minor say about that? Only that to define this stable state equilibrium, we should measure people, profits, and place on the same playing field. A field in which they all get equal play and are measured so that no one suffers. Equity, Economy, and Environment. The Triple Bottom Line. The Three-Legged Stool. Sustainability.

But, why then, if that’s a decent measure of how to define sustainability, do people still forget people?

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