I’m sitting here next to one of the oldest roads in America (209 years), in a climate controlled room by a south facing window. The lights are on, but there is no music. I have a bottomless cup of coffee and a plate that formerly held and everything bagel with cream cheese. Half the cream cheese is still it its individually sized plastic . I don’t need (check’s label) an eighth of a pound of cream cheese. The bagel is in me.
And I thought: sustainability is bunk.
Do not get me wrong. I am a dyed in the soul environmentalist. In my preteen search for meaning in the world, I chose mother earth over the conventional presbyters, methods, caths and bapts on offer in my native Atlanta. But I had to adapt that environmentalism to a pretty harsh disconnect with reality. The more I learned about Atlanta, the more I learned what it was. Real estate. Developable pads, and Septic Fields for places too “serene” and “exclusive” to bothers with more efficient sewage treatment. Being far flung, as any successful American city was, it was also about traffic. When they built MARTA rail along the same rail rights of way the city had occupied for 120 years, Atlantans had already figured out that all the jobs, housing and shopping worth having were out in the suburbs.
I could recoil in horror and become a creature of rage. I have seen them. As long as they stay in their ego, they are fine, but never make good company. Alternately, I could figure out a path between here and sustainability.
The problem with sustainability is that it is a group and future behavior. Each of us are poor judges for both the needs of others and the needs of the future. We are excellent judges of our own needs, right now. People value sustainability for their own affairs or their households. They want to build wealth and cry when things break. We all need green nature and untrammeled wilderness for the sake of our souls. We need food and shelter more immediately for the sake of those same souls.
As I move further and further away from the cares of people and places I know, my need for them intact declines. Especially if their prosperity comes at my expense. I did not even know about the plight of many faraway places and people. Palm oil and Orangutans? Tibetan deforestation and Bangladesh, Mahogany and the Amazon rain forest? Shrimp and the Thai coast? I have only read of these places. If you have not read of them , then you don’t know of the magical, horrible places and processes your dishwashing soap, cargo, furniture, and food comes from.
No one can know all these things in a global economy. No one should. It is useless information. Even if you were omniscient, you would be hard pressed to get all the conveniences of globalism and technology for ten times the price on your own wits. We just all assume it is being done to better the lot of the people and places that provide it. It is often not.