Solstice Song
  • Solstice Song: A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century
    Solstice Song: A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century

 depth sustainability 101


There are many definitions of sustainability, (some more controversial than others): the Brundtland Commission Report definition, the three-legged stool concept,  cradle to cradle etc.  Viewed within their historical context, and approached as guidelines for understanding and exploration, rather than as a set of rules for how to live (e.g. "Sustainability In Three Easy Steps") this diversity of views can function as a valuable resource.   

Developing a working definition regarding sustainability is an important preliminary step....but then what?  What can you do if you want to get beneath the surface of the sea change we're facing as a species? How can you tease out the threads that might make a difference in how you approach problems?

One way to dive beneath the surface involves developing a sense of the behaviors and attitudes that underlie core concepts of sustainability, learning how the practices related to them interconnect, and applying those practices over time, while attending to their outcomes.   

At the heart of this deep dive lies systems thinking: increasing our awareness of the feedback loops involved in everything we do, from how we capture energy from the sun (and it's all energy!), to how we handle conflict, to how we manage our waste. And, in addition to thinking systemically, we must learn how to act systemically, that is, in ways that are ideally, generative, and minimally, congruent, with the optimal behavior of a given system. This may sound easy in principle, but because systems are dynamic and non-linear, we cannot take a cause-and-effect stance toward how we act within them. Instead, we must learn how to respond skillfully to complexity and ambiguity. These are two of our biggest 21st-century learning edges.  

If we view depth sustainability as a practice of increasing our awareness of feedback loops, and of learning how to design environments, processes, and policies--over time--that take that feedback into account (in service to fostering generative, restorative human systems) then it becomes clear that we have to do more than read a book, attend a set of lectures, or change how we get to work.

Successfully making the transition to a sustainable society requires a deep values shift.  It begins with a willingness to roll up our sleeves and get dirty...learning how to grow some of our own food,  learning how to participate in local planning and zoning decisions (and acquiring the skills to do so constructively), learning how to reduce our consumption, and generally, learning how to alter our patterns of daily living and interaction at multiple levels of scale...in part to reduce our impact, but also because the process of learning how  to do so--at the individual and collective levels--is essential to our development and maturation as a species