sphere chart of sustainability

Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson were earlier champions of sustainability, but most people have no real sense of what it is or how to pursue it. The traditional idea has focused on resources and pollutants. Let me introduce a new approach:

Suppose somebody tells us, “You’ve got a good thing going here.” That good thing may be a marriage, a school, a neighborhood, an exercise regime, a friendship, a club or a religious congregation. Whatever it is, whatever is admirable or precious is on that count worth sustaining.

What people try to sustain is something they judge as valuable but perishable. So they figure it deserves support to secure its continuation. Often two people will differ about what deserves that support. Then they will conflict when one believes that the other’s success will interfere with what matters to him. Rather often, the actions they envision will conflict within the environments in which they find themselves, but such conflict is not inevitable!

Imagination allows us to envision the changed environment that would harmonize multiple goals. Indeed, the most successful of movements, policies and technologies have actually synergized the convergence of diverse goals by finding the means through which they are not only compatible but will actually produce desirable side-effects. Accordingly, people do well for themselves and each other when the sense that conflict is brewing steers them to the virtues and practices through which humans may successfully coordinate their interactions.