Ever since Jimmy Carter’s infamous “Crisis of Confidence” speech
calling on Americans to conserve energy, Sustainability has acquired an (undeserved) reputation of requiring a dark, sweater-wearing future. But that is thinking about it all backwards, Sustainability is really about achieving the future that we want
. That is not is not to say that we can have any future we want. I like to visualize our Sustainable futures as the diagram below illustrates:
Now here is what some might consider the bad news, there are futures which are unsustainable (and I would argue therefore inherently impossible to maintain equitably). All seven billion people on Earth can not own their own Hummers and drive them out to their McMansions everyday- that imagined future would, I am afraid, fall in the red zone. While it is pretty easy to imagine such an obviously unsustainable future, determining whether a future is Sustainable
is trickier. These are what we would call the “boundary conditions” for a Sustainable future. These boundary conditions should be determinable via scientific inquiry-basically what are the biophysical limits of our planet.
The most obvious example would be space. There is not enough coastline that we can all have ocean-front beach homes, that exceed the physical limitations of our planet. These boundary conditions are very important and we’ll discuss them future in one or more future posts. So far it probably seems that I have not really strayed too far from the notorious Jimmy Carter, but here is the good news.
Within the boundary conditions imposed by the biophysical limits of our planet are an INFINITE number of possible futures which are Sustainable! Deciding among these infinite possibilities is a fun and exciting challenge which must involve every last one of us.
What are you waiting for? Your Sustainable future awaits!