In the modern world, green politics struggles to make the impact it deserves. The greater good is easily overlooked for the short return. Ignore the environment and it’ll go away.
One consensus to ensure environmental well being is sustainability. It’s is a positive concept. Many people do great things in the name of sustainability. However, it won’t pull civilization over for speeding. Sustainability alone is no solution.
The issue is that whilst the long term viability of our ecological support systems is critical, ensuring sustainable practice is a vague objective.
Sustainability is practically undefined. And without a clear and specific definition on what constitutes sustainability, there is no unifying strategy, set of tactical methods or itemised action plans on how to get there.
Sustainability is a value. It means different things to different people. And so it’s prone to sacrifice in the name of profit.
The inconvenient truth is that capitalism trumps sustainability. People respond to incentives. And whilst our economy and entire way of life is based upon the consumption of resources we will continue to do just that.
This unfortunate tyranny of the majority will dilute every genuine effort of sustainable implementation under the motivation of self interest. People won’t spare the resource or invest in the clean up if that means less personal profit in a selfish world.
And so we have to change. The universe may be infinite but the world is not. The more resource we use; the less we have available to use.
At this rate, the world will one day become uninhabitable. Sustainability is critical but it’s not a plan.
So to move beyond sustainability we must demonstrate economic practicality. A working model for this is efficiency.
Efficiency is already more than a concept. It is an existing pillar of practical sustainability. It’s a proven method with popular consensus. In terms of energy, it’s the success ratio for reducing waste i.e. energy efficiency.
But efficiency is more than just fuel policy. It’s an economic incentive that is founded in growth and accountable by nature.
If we can reward the most efficient use of global resources then sustainability will ensue by design.
If we can power efficiency with design and imagination, then we can continue growth and also promote a less drastic use of resources across all sectors.
Systemically re-inventing an economy and re-invigorating an environment, is no small measure. But efficient initiatives like cradle to cradle design are definitely part of the solution:
“In the long run we are all dead.”
So imagine being in a position where ‘nothing more can be achieved given the resources available.’
Buckminster Fuller called it ephemeralization; doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more.