Why Sustainable Isn’t

Sustainable this. Sustainable that.

What are your policies on being sustainable?

How is your business addressing sustainability issues?

Have you signed up to the Tourism Sustainability Commitment? (Which we have because it is a step in the right direction, but will it make a real difference – doubtful) When I questioned the use of the word sustainable for the commitment, I was told that – “Brian, just thinking about being sustainable is going to be a huge leap for many businesses without going any further”.

Can We Have Some Bull Manure with That

Let’s be honest, ‘sustainable’, what a load of cow manure, or should that be bull manure.

The reason I take this view is that the present starting point for our society, our economy and our natural environment to be sustainable, is simply too far gone to make ‘sustainable’ possible.

The Cambridge Dictionary has this to say about the meaning of ‘sustainable’ – ‘causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time’.

sustainable tourism commitment

Burying Heads in the Sand

Now us human beings have a long history of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring bad news for as long as possible. This is especially the case when on an individual level we can do so little towards making any major changes or effecting outcomes.

However, what we can have as individuals is a level of honesty and look around ourselves without our blinkers on.

What do we see:

** Polluted rivers – not likely to get a lot better while we still have the present forms of intensive agriculture and waste water systems in urban environments

** Cities choked with motor vehicles, generally carrying only one person. Even the slow, but steady growth of electric vehicles is not going to change that.

** A food system that is the equivalent of us all eating oil, so critical is the use of fossil fuels in food production.

** Weather patterns that are increasingly unstable due to Climate Change

** The growing gap between rich and poor, even in previously egalitarian countries such as New Zealand

** The ongoing collapse of wild animal and fish populations through crowding and habitat loss on land, and over fishing and plastic pollution at sea.

** Too many people and our domestic animals – human beings and our domestic animals are 95.8% of the total biomass of all mammalian animals

** An economic system that can increasingly be called predatory capitalism

It would be easy, but depressing, to go on.

So, get a grip folks, this isn’t ‘sustainable’ in any way, shape or form.

Cattle being wintered in mass beside the Rangitikei River. We managed to convince the farm owners that this operation was having a negative effect on the river and it has now been discontinued.

So Why Do We Take This Low Road?

Why do we take this low road of being ‘sustainable’, when anybody who thinks about it for a short while can see it for the futility it really is?

A great deal of the problem is greed. Ours is a society and economy built on the education of us all to want more “stuff”. A bigger home, a newer car, the latest phone, nicer furniture, more travel. Hand in hand is the proliferation of one-use items, and the throw away society. Once you can’t see it anymore it is someone else’s responsibility.

We have been educated to think this way. We have been educated to think that making a few small changes, being ‘sustainable’, we can somehow continue to have the lifestyles we enjoy into a limitless future.

Just more bull manure I’m afraid. We may not realise it yet, but the party is over.

But Is There an Answer?

There is no one answer to this avalanche of problems, but a general change in mindset is critical. That change in mindset on an individual and societal level needs to be built around the concept of being regenerative.

Being regenerative is about putting things right. It is about recognising limits, it is about being honest enough to look at any problem, or resource use, and not just say, can I use less of that, but actively grow that resource to use and to share.

Regenerative is about adopting a process of looking at problems from a holistic viewpoint. It is about considering all of “us” in any decision making or every-day living, and that “us” includes all the organisms that are our neighbours on this our only planet. It is not about just what is in it for me.

Possible? Probably a pipe dream, but one I intend to pursue for the rest of my time on this earth.

Sustainable just isn’t.

A final thought – “If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make major changes, change the way you see things” (Don Campbell)

Brian Megaw

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