Sustainability Allows Us to Manufacture Time

Go ahead, define sustainability.  Everyone knows countless, tangled and unconvincing definitions for this word which is quickly losing steam.  The problem is that we're not sure about how sustainability relates to us except in planetary ways. We're bombarded with many concepts that if we reduce this by 20%  then we'll get that in 30 years which helps the earth survive. All's well, except we're almost numb because we won't feel the aggregate effects for quite some time. Obviously, we're an impatient lot. 

When it shakes out, sustainability is more about reducing the inefficiencies and lowering the cost of daily life in order to "manufacture time" which allows people to enjoy themselves better than they can today.  But in those terms, this seems like an immediate goal we can relate too.  It crosses all societal boundaries and puts an emphasis on helping ourselves right away, which in turn will allow us to help others. Remember the flight attendant saying, "Put the mask over your nose first, and then help others."  Same idea.

Most people strive to lead very simple lives.  Most importantly, they care about energy costs, health care, children's education and commute time. Everyday pragmatism.  So sustainability is more about finding meaningful solutions to everyday life. Many good strategies based on Complexity Theory can show proven results, if we decide to learn and try.  Yes, home energy savings can help fund individual health savings accounts. They're related. This will eventually be done by either evolution or revolution. 

Realistically, most people are only vaguely interested in how sustainability works. We're willing to pitch in because it's usually the right thing to do and we may even be willing to pay more if we're assured dependability and fairness.

So if the result is a few extra hours at home with the family to do as we please - have dinner together, play soccer with the kids, build a new porch, hold a garage sale, lead a Boy Scout troop, learn ballroom dancing, read, paint, travel, exercise, volunteer for anything, then we have achieved the goal of why sustainability matters.  Even more importantly, how we've created the most cherished byproduct - Time.

Rick Abelson is a Director at Online Land Planning, LLC.



Troy on "Sustainability"

From Patrick Troy (University of Sydney): "The Perils of Urban Consolidation" Published 1996

Re "sustainability":

".....Any term which can mean whatever the speaker/writer or listener/reader wants it to mean, provides little guidance or discipline in policy formulation or program administration...."
"Modern cities are inherently ecologically unsustainable because they need to import food, energy and raw materials and they produce more waste than they can cope with within their boundaries and because they radically change the ecology of their sites. Moreover, the larger the concentration of population, the more unsustainable the city is. Even if we extend the boundary of the city to include its hinterland we cannot usefully describe it as potentially ecologically sustainable. The more the city becomes part of the international economic order, the less it can be seen as ecologically sustainable in any operational sense. To hold out such a beguiling but unattainable prospect ultimately diminishes legitimate concerns for the environment......
"........The only urban strategy which seems to be environmentally sensible is one which has as its goal the minimisation of environmental stress within and outside the city......."

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