When we think of sustainability, often we think of durability, longevity and environmental respect. In general, a sustainable practice is a practice that takes the health of the future into consideration. However, this idea isn’t just reserved for the physical, material world- it also applies to thought, belief, human conduct and society as a whole.
An unsustainable practice is one that has an unbalanced negative effect, which, through time, will adversely effect a person, society and/or the environment. A classic case is our current use of Oil as a medium of energy. This could be considered unsustainable due to the fact that oil is largely unrenewable and, when burned, is damaging to the environment. Any practice that causes an irreversible resource depletion or long term environmental pollution is an unsustainable practice.
Likewise, if a particular company outputs large amounts of waste byproducts during production, polluting the environment, this would be considered an unsustainable practice as well, regardless of what they are producing.
Similarly, if materials or knowledge used in the production of a particular kind of product are not of the highest known quality, very often the integrity of that product is compromised inherently, leading to the eventual creation of more waste when that product fails or becomes obsolete. Given our current system of profit, most everything that is produced is done so with a built in weakness, due to the need to compete for market share. In other words, if two companies are each competing to create a certain item, both will need to be strategic in the materials and designs they use, very often compromising quality for the sake of affordability. The result is a product which breaks down much faster than a product which was given the greatest care and highest quality component materials.
This doesn’t happen in our system for two reasons: 1) If a company was to use the best known design and the best known materials, they would likely have a much higher production cost and would likely lose a competitive edge. 2) If products were made to last for extended periods of time, people would not need to repeatedly replace, update and fix their items as much, and a vast amount of revenue and jobs would be lost by industry at large, slowing the economy.
This is, of course, unsustainable by definition, for the inherent inefficiency of the economic system eventually creates unnecessary multiplicities, waste and pollution, and this leads us to unsustainable ideologies.
An unsustainable ideology is one that inherently leads a person or group to unsustainable practices. For instance, the reason a production plant might use poor materials to create unsustainable products, while also outputting a disproportionate amount of waste, is really the result of a larger force, known as the Monetary or Profit System. In a Profit System, there is no reward for sustainability, for the system is built upon competition and regeneration. In such a circumstance, sustainability is always second to profit, for the survival of a company is based on profit, and profit is partly based on reducing costs and expanding income. Therefore, the unsustainable practices that exist in all industries are the result of an underlying flaw in the ideological economic structure itself.
In theory, most would agree that having an abundance of resources, along with products that are made of the most endurable materials for maximum sustainability and efficiency, is a good thing. However, these notions are not rewarded in our current world monetary system. What is rewarded is Scarcity. Scarcity and planned obsolescence are rewarded in the short term, for it creates a ‘turnover’ of profit, while also making more jobs. Sadly, this ‘short term reward’ is at the cost of ‘long term destruction’.
The Free Enterprise System, along with all other subgroups, such as communism, socialism and fascism, is an unsustainable ideology, for it has built into it a propensity for environmental and social abuse. To put it more clearly, a world that is in competition with itself for labor, resources, and survival is an unsustainable system inherently, for it lacks an external conscience.
So then, what is an sustainable ideology?
While this question will always bring new answers as human evolution continues, in the present day we have a concept called The Scientific Method. Very simply, the Scientific Method is a process of investigation which, though the most modern methods of learning, measurement, testing and experimentation, works to demonstrate the validity of a particular understanding or possible resolution to a particular problem.
An example would be a problem with a car. If your car doesn’t start, you would begin a train of thought, based on logic, to find the source of the problem. Logic would guide your focus, likely beginning with how much gas is in the car, moving towards the ignition mechanism, etc. This is the scientific method applied to problem solving. A non scientific method for such a problem would fall under the category of ‘irrational’. For instance if you car doesn’t start, it would be irrational to start looking at the tires, for the tires would likely have nothing to do with the mechanisms associated with the problem.
Sadly, our approach to social operation is largely without logic or methodology, but rather it is submerged in tradition, superstition and outmoded methods of conduct. A scientific approach to society, using logic and reason to assess and react to social issues would have a natural gravitation towards sustainability, for nothing can be isolated or detached in such an approach. In other words, we need to stop looking at the world through the blinders of the systems and ideologies that have been created in the past, and start looking at the world in the most broad, unbiased way we can. The only medium which supports this approach, is Science, and the gifts of science have proved its validity without question. Therefore, it is time we utilize the methods of science in our approach to society itself.
A quick glance at the modes of operation used in the world today reflect a gross negligence of reason, logic and scientific application. Our economic structures are based on mediums of exchange and values which have little relationship to true resources and reality. Religion continues to preach worldviews which have long been overridden by progressive scientific thought. Our labor system is setup so that people must be “employed” in order to gain money to survive, while the actual contribution that these occupations have to society are highly suspect, showing that “jobs” often exist simply to keep people doing “something” in order to live and support the economic structure. This is a waste of human life…
There are many, many facets to the understanding that our current social institutions are unsustainable. To summarize the issue, our life on earth must have a foundational premise by which our operations relate. This premise must be as empirical as possible, and not based on opinion or projection. From a scientific perspective, we see that resources and human ingenuity are the most valuable issues at hand. Human intelligence and awareness, coupled with the thoughtful management and utilization of earth resources are really the only two core issues. Everything else is built upon this. Therefore, we need to begin an approach which maximizes education, technology and resource management.
Until this is done, sustainability will be in jeopardy. This is the goal of The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement.