Sustainability – Is it really the answer?


Why changing of how we think about sustainability could be much more important than finding sustainable solutions

It is no secret that mankind has had its share of creating great environmental problems. Think about oil spills, nuclear reactor blow ups and the like. It is only understandable that we need to start thinking about alternatives and therefore there has been much debate about finding sustainable solutions. Many of us are aware that if we keep on wasting and exploiting natural resources they way we have been we might actually run into a few problems in the future. One does not need to be an environmental activist to care about sustainability though as it has also surfaced in other areas, such as the corporate world.

Companies are more and more looking into sustainable practices not only regarding the production of their goods but also within their own corporate culture. After all, the environment is not the only area in which people tend to waste and exploit resources. Sadly, the same is true for our human resources. Those of us who have ever worked in a large company have probably experienced this ourselves in one way or the other.

When we realise we need to something differently sustainability does really sound refreshing. To advocate sustainability usually shows some level of concern, care and the desire to create a better future. Yet, the question is if this really is possible? So far sustainability has been about finding alternative solutions to keep the status quo. Swapping one way of exploitation for another way of exploitation, only that the later is supposed to look a bit nicer.

As mentioned above, it seems obvious that we need to start doing something differently. However, the answer may not lie in finding the number one, most sustainable solution that magically will solve all environmental and human issues but some place else. Breaking down the word sustainability shows that it comes from the verb to sustain, which, interestingly enough, is defined as to bear, bear the burden of or endure without giving way or yielding. This understanding put in the context of all this debate about sustainability might point to the real heart of the matter. When we talk about sustaining the environment and the corporate world are we just looking for ways to sustain a current system that is not upheld by the wrong structures but where the foundation itself is the actual problem?

We are looking for solutions that can sustain, or rather, bear the weight of a way of life and a system of existence we have created based on the wrong principles and motives. It seems that many of the existing institutions are either focused on producing immediate results and instant gratification or enabling us in the quest to satisfy short-term wants rather than long-term needs. Are not so many of us concerned with how we can get the most satisfaction out of a particular situation right here and now, without considering maybe long-term consequences? (And this is contrary to the idea of simply being in the now. If we are truly in the now the feeling of wanting and needing actually dissolves because these are just illusions created by our ego; which is a subject discussed in another article)

For example, we want to get that important business deal sorted out as quickly as possible to make the most money now. We want to buy whatever it is right now because it will make us fulfilled now. Are we not always striving for getting whatever we perceive we need to have to be more powerful, better looking, richer, more satisfied and happier right NOW? For this we use the environment and others to our own liking and dispose of the natural resources and the people in our lives when they no longer serve us. This behaviour is called selfishness. Essentially, we live in a world that is operated by selfish people who may mask their selfishness with all sort of pretence. If we really do get honest with ourselves we might see that there are times when really we are just looking out for our own best interest (or what we believe our best interest to be) without regards to those around us.

It is the same selfishness that drives us towards wanting to find sustainable practices so we can uphold this unhealthy system instead of looking to alter the mindset our current existence is actually build upon. Yet, if we started to work on the foundation new structures would fall into place automatically. Imagine what would happen if we stopped looking for sustainable solutions and started to look at the kind of system we could create that is actually worth being sustained? Another way of defining the verb to sustain is to provide for or to supply for. This would mean that a sustainable natural and corporate environment could actually also supply for us what we really need.

The point is that we do not need to create sustainability because it occurs naturally anyways. Nature is set to keep things in an equilibrium and to sustain what is really needed. The earth, Mother Nature, our environment is always perfectly balanced. It is just us who mistake our ideas of what we want with our real needs and ask something outside of us to provide those wants for us. This could explain why our attempts of creating sustainable environmental and corporate practices have not been terribly successful so far. Perhaps the universe is not interested in supplying for a selfish, greedy, egoistic, instantaneously gratifying and unconscious way of life. If we started to focus on living based upon principles such as integrity, honesty, commitment, perseverance, patience and service (in short, spiritual principles) then maybe the sustainability question would simply solve itself. While an unhealthy, ego and fear driven system is set on self-destruction, a healthy, wholesome, caring and nurturing paradigm will do much more than sustain itself. It will blossom and spread without us having to do much – other than start changing from within.

Love & Light

– Carina

Photo Credit: Khanthachai C.

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