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Sustainability (the meaning of)

Peace, n.  In international affairs, a period of cheating

                    between two periods of fighting.

                                                             –   Ambrose Bierce           The Devil’s Dictionary







One of the domain names I “own” and maintain (but still haven’t done anything with) is


                            Sustainability Equals Survival


(which is true enough, but)

I have come to appreciate that ‘Sustainability’ is also a euphemism for Survival.


It allows us to talk about Staying Alive WITHOUT the unpleasant ideas of (maybe) dying.  We live in a society, after all, which is NOT comfortable with (our own) mortality.  


We Americans spend more on entertainment … than we do on Education and Healthcare combined.


Now, I suppose that it’s possible that our tendency to stick our heads in the sand is completely unrelated to our determination to keep ourselves distracted … but – realistically – what do you think the chances are of that?


Probably … these two behaviors are (quite) connected.


No doubt – quite often when the term Sustainability is used its meaning is a bit mushy … (vague).


it is NOT meaningless.


The only way this term can be understood is to put it alongside its opposite – Unsustainability (or Unsustainable)

Up and Down.   Left and Right.  

Such terms are meaningful only in the context of each other.


Also – it will be worth noting – that Sustainability (just by its nature) tends to be a bit invisible.  There’s no drama.        

But such is NOT the case with a behavior which is (very) unsustainable.


Suppose you notice some broken glass on a roadway … and you take the trouble to remove it.  Then you sit a while and watch the traffic. It will probably be boring. No drama.

But suppose (on the other hand)  you PUT some broken glass onto a road … and then observe the cars as they pass the spot.   Soon – one or more cars will pull over with a flat tire.

This is (a little bit) more newsworthy.  Some drama.


Sustainability is like that.


So (to get clear on what Sustainability means) – we’ll need to look at (extreme) Unsustainability.   


Let’s consider two recent movies


‘Peppermint’ (with Jennifer Garner) 2018


‘Cold Pursuit’ (with Liam Neeson) 2019 [released less than 2 weeks ago]          


These are (both) “revenge” stories.

In both stories, the protagonist suffers the loss (by murder) of someone they loved dearly … and decides to seek revenge personally and directly.


I haven’t seen either of these films  (but I’ve seen other ‘revenge’ movies.  They’re not rare.)

Probably ANY revenge story will contain an example of severe mistreatment.       


And mistreatment is NORMALLY dealt out with a sense of impunity, isn’t it?   


But when someone is able to beat the odds … to prove that it was a FALSE sense of impunity … that’s what makes for a ‘good story’.   Mmm?


Did you know that (during the Revolutionary War) before Washington ‘crossed the Delaware River’ … that Gnl. Cornwallis (who let the British Army) had gone home.    

He reckoned that the war was over.   (Washington’s army was dreadfully underfunded and ill-equipped.)  But the Americans won that war anyway.    


You may like to read the (great) Declaration of Independence –




It carefully details why the colonists regarded their treatment by the British Crown … as intolerable mistreatment … (which is, of course, the essence of social unsustainability)   


There are (of course) other arenas  (than social)     to which may be applied the notion of Sustainability.






Personal practices which are healthy, life-sustaining, and produce general well-being … may be said to be Sustainable.  (good habits, universal kindness and respect … etc.)


Alcoholism may be regarded as a good example of a practice which is personally unsustainable.   

Even though it is not uncommon, it (nonetheless) brings destruction (families dissolve, careers collapse, health deteriorates, etc.)  The misuse of alcohol causes enormous human damage.


Our Environmental unsustainables include –


Our addiction to fossil fuels

Our laws which permit planetary destruction

Our miscreated (ill-designed) corporations


And (if what Noam Chomsky says is true) our (own) Republican Party is the most dangerous organization which has ever existed … because they are determined to destroy the whole planet.

(Here’s a 2-minute video on the Republicans & global warming)



(and here’s an 8-minute video from Democracy Now)



Basically … the Whole of Human History is one long Nightmare of Mistreatment, Exploitation, Greed, and (the resulting) Suffering.


Nevertheless … it seems to me … that True Sustainability

is actually devoid of any and all forms of mistreatment and exploitation.


We need to learn how to treat each other … like Family … and our Planet – as if it were our HOME.  


We need to figure this out.

Our very survival depends on it.          



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