Minimal Footprint. Maximum Impact: 3 reasons why the sustainability movement is unsustainable


If I asked you to describe the sustainability movement, the following would probably come to mind:

  • Clean energy
  • Recycling
  • Organic food
  • Green buildings
  • Shop local

These things in themselves are great and certainly necessary, but the reality is the sustainability movement has remained simply that,“a movement,” rather than a true transformational shift. As with all movements there are key biases and assumptions that are not being challenged, preventing real transformational change from taking place.

So, what does it mean to be sustainable? To be sustainable, long-term viability must be achieved, which generally requires large-scale cooperation. So, why is it that the sustainability movement mimics the system it is trying to correct? The movement itself assumes that the current system is unsustainable.

The sustainability movement has often been likened to trends, cycles,and fads, such as could be found in previous decades. If we look at the 1960s we see the emergence of free love, the hippie movement, and a fundamental shift in the way our society operated. Using the hippie movement as an example, we see that every 10 to 15 years the clothing, styles of music, and some semblance of the message reemerges. But ask anyone who grew up in that time period, and they will certainly tell you it is not quite the same. It is easy to grow dreadlocks (well, for some), dress up in bell bottoms, wear patchouli, and refuse to bathe; but, this won’t guarantee another fundamental shift in our society such as that which occurred in the 1960s.

The sustainability movement, like so many movements today is too fragmented, representing a collection of fads and trends rather than a unifying and truly transformative shift in ideology. The following three concepts represent a sustainable and profitable reality we can all benefit from.

  • Profitable Ecosystems: Whether you realize it or not we are all part of an ecosystem. In order for us to thrive, succeed, and ultimately survive we must first recognize that we are codependent on various factors in our environment. Trying to operate outside of this reality will only ensure our extinction.
  • Adaptive strategy: There’s a lot of buzz about the concept of “adaptability.” However, the concept loses its significance outside the context of an ecosystem. In order to adapt we must be aware of changes that not only affect us and our long-term success, but also, and more importantly, the long-term success of our social and economic habitat.
  • Cooperative growth: This may sound like an oxymoron to some. However, if we think about a healthy ecosystem we quickly realize that although competition certainly exists, cooperation is actually more pervasive. There’s a natural balancing that occurs by means of cooperation and, although it does not ensure the survival of every member, it does create a thriving habitat for those that do.

What are you doing today to ensure the long-term viability of your organization, community, or business?

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