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Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

Against ‘Sustainability’ and Other Plastic Words

How techno-speak is robbing us of our feelings and our future.

Marine biologist Daniel Pauly of UBC: ‘Sustainability is a deceptive goal because human harvesting of fish leads to a progressive simplification of ecosystems in favour of… fish species that are adapted to withstand disturbance and habitat degradation.’ Photo source: Common Sense Canadian video interview.

The word sustainability, were it up to me, would be extinct, wiped out, kaput.

It is hard to escape the word’s tyranny. 

Economists promise “sustainable economies” while business types explore “sustainability accounting.” 

Greens promise a “sustainable future,” and even greener pundits swear that technology will deliver “global sustainability.”

Miners promise to dig more sustainable holes and foresters propose to mow down old growth trees more sustainably. 

The United Nations champions “sustainable development goals” as though SDGs were a delightful venereal disease. 

But apparently every nation must set some SDGs, and go for it. 

Why, there are even research chairs in sustainable development at universities. And I suppose, somewhere, there are people proposing to be sustainable journalists.

We have forgotten the original meaning of sustain, which stems from the Old French sostenir, meaning “hold up bear; suffer, endure.” In the 14th century — a period of pestilence and famine, it meant endure without failing or yielding.”

As civilization collapses we are going to need that old word again. 

But well-intentioned greens took a word with historic meaning and turned it into plastic soup with the Brundtland report published by the United Nations in 1987. 

That document let the word loose on the world like feral cats in Australia’s outback by defining “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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