Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Undeniably sustainability is a word used to mean long lasting. However, it dawns on me that at the age of 17, long lasting reaches as far as applying for a job. Sustainability is a choice more than a necessity; one doesn’t have to think long-term because, simply, there is no immediate benefit from doing something that doesn’t aid the present. Why is it that, currently, recycling seems like a superfluous undertaking when it should be recognised as a responsibility to society? Why is it that energy saving weeks (in school) act as novelty token gestures to satisfy our green awareness? Essentially there is no tangible perceptible reward for being sustainable. There is no instantaneous change because the effects are for the long-term. Yes, the occasional recycled pencil case or recycling bin might cross my path, yet it provides no real motivation to endlessly sort rubbish, prohibit 4x4’s and deter me from my nearest goal. Absolutely, sustainability doesn’t appeal.
I use sustainability as a word to assuage my guilt or promote an argument and I fail to put sustainability in the present. Sustainability is the capacity to endure, yet to endure we must begin (being sustainable). All too often the assumption is that all sustainability is positive, and to an extent there can be no flaw in thinking about future generations, but, when this detracts from the richness of life that each of us desires than surely this is cause to presuppose that sustainability is time wasting and thinning our limited time on earth. Obviously sustainability means different things in different mediums, but the question remains the same (whether it is business sustainability or ones carbon footprint): why is sustainability worth fighting for?

I too ‘endorse the idea of starting small’[1] but where is the impetus. Essentially, when thinking of sustainability in ‘green’ terms, it is fighting a losing battle. The polluting world we have constructed is far too developed to deconstruct and reverse its corrosive effects. We can slow effects admittedly, but inevitably one must accept that with growing population, whatever we do the quell pollution in, for instance, Britain or our own homes; energy consumption elsewhere is increasing quicker, so there is no improvement. Why should I recycle two cans of beans when GlaxoSmithKline is building a new factory in Ulverston? It seems to be like disarmament in the 1920’s; unless everyone universally disarms then no one will do it. Yes we agree it’s a fine idea, nonetheless we don’t want to move first, and thus we keep arming (or negating sustainability). If I don’t feel that everyone is making the same efforts as me and giving as much time as I am, why bother? To assuage guilt by means of ‘five minutes a day’ [2] doing ‘something green’? Well not if GlaxoSmithKline feels no culpability.  Yes, this case isn't immediately transferable to business, but arguably, why would a business reduce short-term profits to maintain smaller profits over 100 years, when bluntly the people working there won’t receive the award. This raises moral questions about how much we value the future over our own personal gain but essentially it brings me back to my first point: why doesn't sustainability appeal, and now ,more importantly, how can we make it appeal?

There is no easy way to make people aid something they will never experience and will never know about, but inherently there is a desire to leave a legacy. What should be promoted is the power of legacy and the prospect of people in 2120 admiring the ’17-year-old boy who recycled his whole life, so that we could live in a better world’. Thus, sustainability should be passed down, recycled through generations, so that despite it not being universal, it becomes tradition or your inheritance. Legacy appeals!

Matthew David Llewellyn Jackman

[1] http://green24.com/aboutus.php
[2] Ibid

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