It’s Complicated

Ever since sustainability became an ever-present issue in American society, I have possessed at least a vague impression of what it means. When the aforementioned word is spoken, I immediately think of the color green, Al Gore, hippies, and all of the poor, uninformed souls who think Global Warming is a conspiracy theory brought to you by evil scientists. In the past I have been so frustrated by the politicization of caring for the environment that I kept myself in a state of forced apathy. For the purposes of this class (and of course the future!), however, I have begun to lift the veil of secrecy I placed upon myself. I am not at all surprised to tell you that lifting this veil has resulted in a surge of learning, epiphanies, table-flipping, and desperately asking the question “WHY ARE WE DOING THAT?!”.

Seriously though, why ARE we doing that? Why do we continue to grow cotton even though it requires absurd amounts of pesticides and water to produce? Why do we purchase inexpensive items that we are pretty damn sure an impoverished child made? Why can’t we define with confidence a concept that could literally make or break the future of our species? I’m sure the inhabitants of 16th century Easter Island could offer up some provocative philosophical discussion on this very matter, but they are dead. Unfortunately, they didn’t leave their descendants in a position to do so either. The story of the indigenous peoples of Easter Island is truly horrific. Even more truly horrific is how well their story acts as a metaphor for modern human consumption. It is entirely too relatable. The Easter Islanders were capable of creating majestic and seemingly impossible statues. The practice of erecting these statues, however, was done with such selfish, blind intensity that they literally broke their island (ok maybe not literally, but you get the idea). By the time outsiders made their way to the island the remaining inhabitants had been reduced to war-mongering cannibals incapable of comprehending the majesty of their ancestors. While I do not believe humanity is doomed to suffer this exact fate, parallels can be found and implications made.

The first two weeks of this course have served up a massive portion of food for thought, and I have come to the conclusion that sustainability is so, so much more complex than I had originally expected. Sure, sustainability encompasses environmentalism, but it goes farther than that. Sustainability means creating an entire way of life in which resource utilization can be carried out indefinitely. As of 2015, this lifestyle has not been discovered, so it is our responsibility to become more aware on an individual and collective basis. We can all take the baby steps necessary to ensure someone is around to see 3015. Let’s do it for the children, you guys!

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