Friday, 4 March 2011

The Problem with the S-Word

Doing this SPEP course, my mind is perpetually on the concept of sustainability*. In all honesty, there are times when I am so sick of it, so disparaged and so dissapointed that I can't even utter the S-Word. But it's such a buzz word, it is simply impossible to forget about it. Sustainability. Global Warming. The Environment. Climate Change. Sustainable Development. You need to live in a cave to have not heard of these terms (the irony being that - if you did live in a cave - you would most likely be more sustainable than all the people who use those words). They're big words... they're so big that they seem to get people walking around like headless chickens over them; academics, politicians, students, anyone who has a care about these things. For example, nobody can agree what sustainable development is, let alone how to achieve it.

But then, every now and again, I am reminded why I study this course, why I have chosen to be 'sustainable'... because it's exciting! Actually it goes a lot deeper than that, but that's for another post. Nevertheless, I am always reminded what brilliant things that wrethced S-Word can create, inspire, build. I was watching 'The Human Planet' on BBC and John Hurt's dulcet voice was telling me about the Masdar Development in Abu Dhabi. This is a green city, carbon neutral, which creates energy not only from the sun but from waste. I mean of course, if I was going to be critical, I could rant on about the amount of energy that it's going to take to actually build this city from scratch (and that's a lot). But I don't want to do that, because it's still exciting! It's a whole new type of city where people will be able to go by their usual way of life, and yet in completely different way-of-living, one that is closer connected to their environment. But the exciting thing about sustainability is not only the major projects, it's also about the smaller things in life. Like getting away from the consumption-driven world and supporting your local economy by going to your local market. Or even going to Tescos and deciding to buy an apple from England, not New Zealand. Maybe it's that friend who is trying to 'greenify' the world's most unsustainable 1980s house from scratch.

With all the over-complications and the pressure of ethics and responsibility, I reckon people increasingly fear the S-Word. Instead, they should see it as an exciting step forward.

*If you want a bit more information on the principles  of sustainability and what it actually means in today's world, take a look at the 'What is Sustainability?' page.