Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sustaining sustainability

It seems we've all hit a bump in the road. When the idea of sustainability started creeping up, it was logical and as such its spread made good sense. Picture your fair trade coffee or chocolate bar. People started taking responsibility for the way they ran their businesses and started looking at the long game.

See, if you run a businesses unsustainably, well, that's just it; it's unsustainable. You can't keep damaging the earth, for example, 'cause at some point it isn't going to be able to produce what you're willing it to produce. You can't keep digging stuff up and throwing it away, 'cause you eventually run out of stuff.

It's like going into your kitchen and seeing the cupboards are full and gorging, for days. At some point you run out of food. And at some point you need to restock. We'll what happens if you can't? Say somebody blew up Tesco or something, and that was it, no more. All gone. Destroyed. 

(Ok, maybe the Tesco analogy isn't really up there with clear and distinct bits of prose, but I'm just going to keep talking and hope you're following.)  

Nonetheless, the idea that actions need to be considered in terms of the possibility of it being able to be sustained over time, is great. Real great.

Now, at some point, this became another buzzword. It's a word people throw out there to feign green credentials ('green' is also one of those buzzwords. Like 'up skill' and 'solution'.) But it isn't even just that the word struggles to really mean anything anymore, the word also seems to drum up moans from the masses. The masses who class it all as voodoo or a trick, like wanting to make things last is crazy talk from hippy sorts or witches. It drums up distrust, as though somebody made it all up. Like it's just a theory and the environment is fine - and heck, who gives a crap anyway, right? It'll last longer than me, so what do I care?

All this social responsibility lark is hard work. Energy and materials are expensive, water is essential and recycling takes too long. And don't forget in our beautifully capitalist society we must all worship money and not waste it on frivolous activities, such as preserving the environment. The environment is just there to be raped. Screw the animals, screw the poor and screw our future generations. The world is over-populated anyway.

But the thing is, we don't really have a choice. Or, I guess we do: try and slow our demise down, or try and speed it up.

Sustainability isn't just about the planet and our futures and happy-clappy crap like that. It can also save you money. And one of the saddest things ever is that to get people to do good, you have to bribe them with cash. But whatever, it works. Maybe the reasons aren't so important, when the outcome is so great. So people, weighed down by the crushing costs of energy and governments trying their hardest to make life harder, are slowly getting used to the idea of sustainability; but differently this time. Because the first time round it was all exciting and loud and boomed of its importance, and this time it's almost automatic. Almost. Kids dropping waste in the right bins without thinking, office slaves not over boiling water on the tea runs and finance directors dishing out the upfront costs for energy efficient measures.

People are doing it. Slowly. But we really need to step up our game a bit.