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Sustainable

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:39 pm    Post subject: Sustainable Reply with quote

The current buzzword around planning circles is sustainable.

    We need a sustainable architecture.

    This software provides a sustainable ecosystem.

    Using wind generating turbines, we can create a sustainable power system.


The irony of it all is that sustainable seems to translate into: "Give me some funding for my project."

This would seem the very opposite of sustainable, since the sustainable system requires massive injections of cash and subsidies to keep going!


Last edited by jabailo on Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John-

First, this post belongs, I think, in the "political euphemisms" forum.
I will move it after getting your permission, or you can move it yourself.

Secondly, I think we must travel in different circles. I have not met
anyone asking for a grant for sustainability. However, if I did, I do not
believe I would automatically interpret it as ironical in the way you
suggest.

I *do* agree that the term often comes across as content-free.
However, having been exposed to the "cousin" of "sustainable",
namely "permaculture", I now see it as having some useful meaning that
can inform our thinking both long and short term. In particular,
in permaculture, one does not speak of waste or waste products,
but of surplusses. The challenge is to find ways of transforming the
waste product of one process into a surplus that can be used to fuel
another useful process. Of course, industry is a leader in this kind
of re-use, to get extra value out of raw materials, *except* when the
waste products can be disposed of for a low cost. This is called
externality. Another topic.

In general, if you perceive that groups touting sustainability are
seeking grants, it is because achieving sustainability has become
a research project. We, as a society, have moved far from the
sustainability practiced before the industrial revolution's favorite
fuels, coal and gasoline. I suppose that there are many levels
and varieties of sustainability, but the end of fossil fuels (again,
another topic) gives real meaning to the term. What would you do
if fossil fuels became more scarce and expensive? How would you
stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Is fuel produced
in your bioregon? How far does the food you eat travel to get to your
table? How far is your workplace from your home?

Creating a sustainable economy/society, in this view, *does*
require expense and effort. And, as these things often go,
it requires a little now, or a lot later.

-Brian
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I'm thinking of the game of Go or Life.

If something is really "sustainable" it should just up and grow, based on it's initial conditions. It doesn't need more inputs or resources.

So, you don't need to shout "sustainable" at me. Just go ahead and architect it. And it will grow and be "sustainable", just like a well designed Go structure, or Life configuration....
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds to me as though you are thinking of a different term
than "sustainable". Something like "expedient", or "popular".

There is little reason to believe that the best way to do something
is the first way that works. Or that the best way will naturally
evolve out of ways that are workable in the short term.

When you combine this idea with the nature of capitalism in our
society, you get something distinctly less than sustainable. This
is true, in an unregulated society, for instance, when industries
(including agri-business) deplete the resources upon which they
depend. Think over-fishing. Also, the waste products of
manufacturing processes are often "socialized" to the public
at large. These are examples of the "tragedy of the commons".

Any enterprise that has these advantages will likely succeed,
increase market share, etc. beyond one that doesn't, in the short
term. So, I would not expect a "sustainable" enterprise to be
able to be a success starting out, nor for it to continue and
to prevail in the short term.

Think of fossil fuel. We might need to find other ways to propel
our vehicles and keep our houses warm, at some point. But
the expense of doing so using other technologies cannot compete
with fossil fuel, currently.

This plays out to be another of our long-term/short-term arguments.
As in Go or Life, what ultimately succeeds will endure. But the end results
would be better if we could diminish the appeal of short-term payoffs
in favor of what will work for the "7th Generation". Those who
follow us would have more resources and less pollution if we didn't
have to go down every blind alley.

On reflection, I think you've got the wrong meaning for another
reason. The very word "sustainable" is notable for what its meaning
is not. It *does* suggest that once you get it started, it can continue
on its own. But it does not suggest that it would get started on its
own without external inputs. Without an investment.

Perhaps that is where we can find common ground. If the question
were posed as "investment" in sustainable enterprises, rather than
grants, I am guessing that you would have no complaint.

-Brian

p.s. I'm not sure of whom you are referring when you mention shouting.
If you believe that I am shouting "sustainable" at you, then I'll need
to re-evaluate how my actions are perceived. Perhaps I could adopt
a more academic, and less incendiary writing style.
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