Monday, February 8, 2016

What is Sustainability?

The Triple Bottom Line    

       When you think about sustainability, what comes to mind? Maybe solar panels, electric cars, or recycling? While these are all parts of sustainability, it is actually a much broader concept that spans from governments and ecosystems down to you and me and our personal habits and ideologies. This all encompassing idea of sustainability is called the triple bottom line and brings into account almost all aspects of life and how they relate to making a more sustainable and livable future for all. There have been many arguments that the three main components of sustainability; Social, Economic, and Environmental, can't jive. This idea is largely based on the current way that our world operates, but that does not mean that there isn't a better way or that we can't change. Lets look at how these things fit together.

       The social aspect of sustainability is such an important factor because it involves us, the people that live on earth and for better or worse, now are largely responsible for the current state of the environment and how we must fix it. Living in a world that is clean, safe, and diverse is imperative to our survival as well as the survival of all other life on the planet. This is not only dependent on how we interact with our environmental, but also each other. Having a healthy society where we can communicate, engage, and coexist with one another is key in order for our species to function. And all these things play into our relationship with the natural world. How bearable our environmental is a large part of this relationship. This means clean air, water, and soils, as well access to the natural resources that we need to survive. For many of us in the United States, this seems like a no-brainer, but there are millions of people across the world that do not have these basic things. We must protect our environment because the damage that we do it at home affects more than just us. And there is no better start to solve this issue than with education. Teaching people of all ages about the environment, their role in climate change and related social justice issues, as well as the way their government and economy plays a vital role in the larger picture should be pillars of environmental education.

       Economics has often been seen as the enemy of the environment and for a long time the policies and practices of corporations and businesses that have been the life blood of our economy have heavily contributed to climate change. Only recently, with in the last 40 years have these things become real issues in the public eye that has resulted in reform. This polluting of resources in the name of industry has not only happened in our country and is part of how the economic, social, and environmental aspects all combine to create a sustainable future. Many developed nations, especially the US, have exploited developing nations and used their resources for their own good and in return these societies are suffering because they do not have their basic needs met. These practices not only siphon resources and capital away from these poorer nations, but it also often degrades their environment, leaving the people that live there marginalized and left with unbearable living conditions. However, recently there have been more movements and discussion about sustainable development and how environmental well-being and economic viability do not have to be contrasting ideas. An imperative of this notion is investment in sustainable organizations and technologies and shifting of long standing subsides from the fossil fuel industry to green initiatives such as alternative energy. When this is done we will still be able to foster a thriving economy, but it will no longer be carbon based and will instead devote our resources to ensure the health and longevity of the environment and the people of the world.

       When thinking about sustainability it is hard not to think first of the environment. We must remember though that this is not just in relation to ourselves. The earth is home to countless forms of life, compared to which humans are the minority. As humans strive for sustainability it is important to keep in mind that life on this planet is about maintaining an equilibrium and the balance between. A sustainable future is not just one that can sustain a healthy society and economy, but just as importantly it is about ensuring our earth is a place that does not compromise biodiversity and the plant and animal life that existed long before humans and are such a crucial part of the balance that makes all life possible. Though we have entered what is now being dubbed "The Anthropocene," we must not let our thoughts and actions continue to be anthropocentric. For a sustainable future to come to fruition, humans must increasingly become aware of their position in the natural world, realize their effects on it, and make every effort to live their lives in a manner that promotes a bearable, equitable, and viable existence for all life on our planet.


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