The true meaning of sustainability

June 03, 2011
Maureen Morgan
Westfair Online

Note: This is the second part in a two-part series on the Genesis Farm, an organic farm that’s run on solar power in New Jersey. The writer recently attended a weekend-long conference at the farm, which has become a part of the international Transition movement. 

The goal at the Genesis Farm “Deep Transition” weekend was to take the participants from where they started on Thursday evening to an entirely new place by Sunday afternoon. It began with “the awakening,” meaning the development of a profound awareness of the gravity of the stresses on the planet and the potential for impact on one’s person, family and community.

To some readers this may seem like the consciousness-raising seminars of the ‘70s. However, in the “Transition” context a personal awakening demands action. It means getting to work on a plan to prepare your community to be resilient in the face of the coming uncertainties in food and fuel, in other words, to prepare a community to be able to sustain itself in the face of serious adversities.

Now there is a word that has been manipulated almost beyond recognition. To the general public sustainable appears to mean that if one buys into all the “green” strategies that abound these days a sustainable environment will result. Maybe so but it is definitely not resilient.

Another definition of the word sustainable is to strive to leave the Earth in the same way you found it so that there may be a livable environment for the next generation. That is clearly not happening. In the Transition context sustainable would mean “How can we survive in the face of severe uncertainties in the supply line of all that we depend on?” In other words, how can we sustain ourselves.

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