Why is Sustainability so Complicated
I spend a lot of time thinking about sustainability and trying to explain it to other people, its my job after all. It matters to me that other people understand what I mean when I use the word 'sustainable' because without this understanding I cannot do my job. Other people don't have to explain what their job means, we all understand what teachers do, what beauticians do, what accountants do, so why does the title sustainability advisor need explanation. For that matter, why does my job exist at all?
Many societies have developed, grown and evolved sustainably (continuously and in a stable way) without needing sustainability advisers, the Incas, Australian Aboriginals, African tribes, North American Indians, all thrived for thousands of years within the limits of the land that they inherited, respecting it,maintaining it and living within its natural limits. But they are all gone now, superseded(read destroyed) by the various cultures that have expanded to cover the globe with what we call the 'developed' and 'developing' world. Unlike the early societies that I mention above we have no understanding of the natural limits that bound us. We no longer appreciate the source of the food that sustains us, it could come from next door or from China. We do not know where the oil/gas/electricity that powers our cars/homes/businesses comes from because it is delivered in a way that disguises its origin. Consequently we do not know whether there is a lot of it left, or a little. See here http://www.i-sis.org.uk/FMAS.php for a discussion of the impact and cost of food transport in the UK.
We do not know our neighbour because we no longer need them, for anything. We don't borrow a cup of sugar, a pint of milk or a half-dozen eggs, because we are always passing some shop in our cars and never run out. We are fearful of unrehearsed interactions because they might introduce more complexity into our already busy lives. We are like this because we have become separated from the world around us and from each other and have become more socially awkward and unable to deal with chance interactions.
I believe that most of us suffer daily from this separation, expressed by looking out of our office windows at the park across the street,wishing we could 'just get away from it all', and flying to a resort to recuperate before returning to a life that is making us materially richer but environmentally poorer.