Sustainability is what fuels us to create a better tomorrow for ourselves and future generations. It is a practice that prepares us for a world filled with change and uncertainty. Sustainability is working towards things that will positively change the way that we interact with the world and how we live our everyday life. Additionally, it involves looking at our own environmental footprint and reducing that to zero through innovative measures such as finding energy efficient solutions and recycling our waste.
The first and foremost way of creating a sustainable society or achieving sustainable living is making use of the three R’s of sustainability—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - which are the main drivers of production and consumption. However, the most important thing in this process is ensuring less exploitation of natural resources as a means of continuing economic activities.
Most of us have been conditioned with powerful, pervasive myths that prevent us from understanding sustainability and conspire to maintain the course toward ecological disaster. We like to think of ourselves as having somehow graduated from nature because of our large brains and posture. However, the reality is much different—it is impossible for us to extract ourselves from our dependence on the Earth.
Our technology, food and all that civilization entails ultimately comes from the Earth. We are unique among creatures, but creatures nonetheless. We believe we are able to control nature because agriculture and other technologies appear to free us from the limits placed on other creatures.
However, if we continue with our current ways we will eventually run into the natural constraints of our environment that we have no control over.
The discovery of abundant hydrocarbons made possible inventions that powered automobiles and factories. Today, the fingerprints of oil are everywhere. The process to create petroleum takes millions of years, yet our consumption continues at a rate beyond any possibility for renewal. The use of fossil fuels is the very definition of unsustainable. It is a finite resource that will run out eventually.
Much energy and many resources are spent promoting solutions such as recycling. Instead of leading to sustainability, this often assuages our guilt and allows us to ignore our own complicity in larger systems that degrade our environment. This doesn't mean we should stop recycling, but we should recognize what it accomplishes and what it doesn’t.
Renewable sources of energy may be able to provide a level of energy indefinitely, but we should not expect to continue current energy consumption rates. Scarcity is a foundational assumption in modern economics, assuming that human wants and needs are unlimited and the resources available to satisfy those needs are scarce.
Capitalism claims to solve this problem by allocating resources using the tools of the market.
Unfortunately, the current economic arrangement does not account for things such as the value of common goods, including natural resources like air and water quality, topsoil and biodiversity. The truth is, the earth naturally provides an abundance of resources.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed." Scarcity only exists if human wants and needs are, in fact, unlimited.” And in that statement, truth abides.