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Sustainability is a hot topic these days… but one which may be little understood. While the green movement is helping raise awareness of natural systems, politicians, and the corporate world, have yet to truly accept the critical notion of what Wendell Berry calls the real economy. Long-term environmental protection, perhaps even the survival of life supporting ecosystems, may depend on achieving a greater degree of economic sustainability.
With cultural conflict in mind, author David Korten co-founded the Positive Futures Network with visionary writer and editor, Sarah Van Gelder on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Korten writes extensively about sustainability and related issues in his books including The Great Turning and Agenda for a New Economy. He describes the evolution of politics, economics and power from the time of medieval kings to present day banking, political and corporate empires largely based on exploitation of resources, excessive profit and continuous growth. Korten promotes many solutions to current economic and environmental dilemmas with great historical perspective and a common sense approach based in balanced community prosperity.
Sarah Van Gelder works closely with Korten and is co-founder and Executive Editor of Yes! Magazine, a journal of the Positive Futures Network. She shares a common outlook about sustainability, hope and positive direction for a healthy culture.
Van Gelder: Sustainability has three components and I took these out of the Earth Charter but I did filter them down to their primary components. So, one of them is that we need to support the living systems of the planet because without the living systems of the planet, we can’t live either. A second is that we need to include everyone, exclude no one, lift everyone up. And a third is we need to do it all democratically. The standard Brundtwin Commission definition of sustainability is to live each day so that we meet the needs of the people of today as well as the people of future generations.
But how do we translate these basic principles into everyday economics? What kind of economy can thrive without exploitation of resources, growth, military dominance and excessive profit?
Rob Dietz is Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, or CASSE. He says his group… may have an answer. He says a stable, prosperous and dynamic economy does not require constant growth. The individuals at CASSE, led by Founder Brian Czech, have spent years developing a new balanced economic model that adapts our current boom and bust cycle into one based on natural systems… for the long run. Major organizations have endorsed CASSE’s economic sustainability goals as being among the most important choices of our lifetimes. Dietz defines Steady State Economy.
Dietz: A Steady State Economy is a truly green or sustainable economy. It aims for both stable population and stable consumption of energy and materials and does that at sustainable levels. So, really, instead of aiming to get bigger like a growing economy does, a Steady State Economy aims to get better and it does so at a scale that it achieves balance with the natural environment. A Steady State Economy follows four basic rules. To maintain the health of eco-systems and the life support services they provide, to extract renewable resources, like fish and timber, at a rate no faster then they can be regenerated, that we consume non-renewable resources, like fossil fuels and minerals, at a rate no faster than they can be replaced by the discovery of renewable substitutes, and finally, we deposit wastes in the environment at a rate no faster then they can be safely assimilated. The principles can still apply to the smaller scale, to families, to businesses. The main idea is to consume resources responsibly. Let’s focus on getting better instead of getting bigger, quality instead of quantity and development instead of growth.
Van Gelder: There’s so many opportunities to get more out of what we already have and it’s a lot more fun when you do it together. Starting with the people you know and you already enjoy hanging out with, starting with something you already care about and have in common with other people. So I think you start with the things you’re passionate about and that give you joy.
For more information about how you can get involved in sustainability at home, at your place of business or in your community, please visit our website at good dirt radio.org.
Shift Happens….from the bottom up… when millions of people get involved in their democracy. We encourage you to find issues you care about and get involved in the move toward sustainability.