At a sustainability board meeting the other night, one of the members insisted that affordable housing was not related to sustainability and therefore did not warrant the board’s interest. When it was explained that under the commonly accepted definition of sustainability that integrates economic, social and environmental considerations better known as the “triple bottom line”, it seemed clear that it should be included.
Still, he seemed to have trouble grasping this concept and continued to insist that there was not a connection. He continued further and commented that the commissioner who had appointed him thought that his role on the board should be to save the city money. With this thought in mind, I realized that perhaps he ultimately had defined sustainability best.
Sure, the dictionary states something else entirely. Sustainability means to sustain, to continue. Naturally, being ego-centric we assume it is to sustain our lives, perhaps our way of life. The concept of entitlement, our human sense of entitlement allows us to exploit resources simply because well, we are humans and entitled to them. So as the green movement moves forward, now more comfortably cloaked under a less “buzzword” like word, sustainability which is rapidly being displaced by the word resilience are we really moving forward?
Or are we really simply substituting one habit for another, one product for another. Instead of buying a gas guzzling vehicle we buy electric or hybrid vehicles. Did we demand a vehicle that will last longer or produce zero waste or is environmentally sound from start to finish or no vehicle at all? In our thirst for saving money we replace incandescent light bulbs with LED lights adding to our landfills. But these ultimately are easily solved problems, let’s go a little deeper.
Morality, ethics, the climate of business, the business of climate; Al Gore is currently worth $100 million dollars. When the corporate world wakes up and realizes that there is green to be made from the green, without a paradigm shift in thinking in regards to exploitation, the workplace will not be fairer or more equitable. In fact, it will probably become worse and it is. Encouraging people to work from home sounds environmentally sound. Reduce your carbon footprint, who wouldn’t get behind that and yet this is now probably an independent contractor who has been stripped of all the usual employment benefits such as vacations, sick days etc. Lean has become mean.
The argument is that our passion for the environment should carry us forward and yet it is compelling us to accept conditions that should be unacceptable. When did it become okay to be a presenter at a national conference and have to pay for the privilege to be a presenter? When did it become okay for students with masters degrees to become unpaid interns? And when did it become okay to transition to a green business without a moral imperative?
The earth does not need us to survive. We have become like a cancer that is eating away at the planet. When we simply substitute a bio fuel for a fossil based fuel without addressing the essence of the problem which is how we live our lives on a day to day basis, our level of respect for one another and all life around us, nothing has changed. It is the ultimate green washing and like our inability to actually change we will be washed away in a flood of our own making, climate change and global warming will merely be an afterthought. The earth won’t care, it will adapt, it will survive. We won’t care, we won’t be here.