Being Sustainable

23 06 2012

What is sustainable anyhow? The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says:

: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques><sustainable agriculture> b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

I listened to an episode of Q on CBC yesterday that attempted to debate the need or not for sustainable agriculture and the locavore. Besides the fact that both authors were clearly lacking expertise in their said areas the debate speaks to the complexity of the ecological and food production systems. We are living in a time that doing good = creating change. What we don’t have is a deep understanding of the issues at hand and how to wrestle with them. Agriculture is inter-related with governance and policy, capitalism, trade and business as well as the justice and law system. Although attempting a sustainable life-style is a practice to continue – it’s not enough. If we stop at the romantic (as one author described it and I agree) ideal of eating local and being personally sustainable we miss understanding the bigger picture (the part he clearly misses).

It will take those in positions of influence and power to understand the relationship between systems like economics – politics – policy – eduction – business – agriculture – justice – ecology etc. to create adaptive levels of development and integration between them. Making personal choices about food isn’t enough, speaking out and demanding understanding and change is better. Change in food production in isolation of any of these systems results in GMO foods to keep up with production needs and a predictable collapse of mono-crops in the Western Hemisphere; and the continuation of millions of starving people in the Eastern Hemisphere because Western practices are infiltrating the same systems which can not sustain these practices. They are seeing the collapse already from not “harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged” as per Merriam-Webster’s definition above. The issues are not that simple of course, stress of climate change, lack of diversity, population strain, decades of civil unrest and more are certainly a part of it.

An article that points us closer to the problem and how the current fashion of buying local, learning to garden etc can be seen as some personal green washing: If you are passionate about living well and being responsible to the future of our planet and generations to come, give it 10 minutes of your time to read and give some considerations to the systems at play.

We should all be careful not to stop our thinking at our own actions, this is limiting. The solution is not easily in reach, but if we all operated in a narrow frame of ‘self-fulfilling’, ‘feel good’ action the systems at play will win, keeping us exactly where they want us to be.

How’s that for a Saturday morning rant? Time to go to my local market and tend the garden 😉

Eat well, Be well,




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