What is sustainability ?

Division of the World

The world’s population is divided into two main camps. There are those that believe that the earth is so huge and so resilient that nothing mankind can do can destroy it.

First Camp

These people believe that no matter how many fish are taken from the oceans; no matter how much arable land is destroyed to put up condominiums; no matter how much pollutants are pumped into the atmosphere from cars, trucks and factories – the earth will be able to absorb it and in essence shrug it off. There will always be more fish. There will always be more land. There will always be more breathable air moving into the space where now there is only noxious fumes.

Second Camp

The second camp is comprised of those people who believe that the earth cannot recover from such unlimited destruction and alteration of the natural cycles of life. They believe that unless a balance is reached, unless sustainability is maintained, life as we know it on this planet will be irretrievably altered.

Individuals in the second camp believe that humans are supposed to be stewards of the earth, to protect it and ensure that its many bounties will be available for generations to come. These individuals believe in sustainability, in balance, in taking nothing from the earth – either the oceans or the land – without giving back to it in some way.

The concept of sustainability has been bruited about since the 1980s. Although many parts of the world have been environmentally conscious for decades, it took the energy crisis in 1973 and in 1979 to bring the concept home to Americans. It was also about this time that the greenhouse effect began to be noticed by scientists and, more importantly, reported to the public at large. The dangers of not having sustainability in the way humans were treating the earth was brought home.

Nothing could really be done to encourage people to live a sustainable life style until the concept of sustainability was reduced to a science. Once facts began to be gathered that showed just what happened to the life that existed in an ecosystem before and after that system was irretrievably altered now abound, and the second camp and its demands for businesses and individuals to begin living in a sustainable manner have gathered strength.

What are some examples of sustainability – or rather, a lack of it?

The populations of many island countries, for example, rely on seafood. They have little or no arable land and so they must make their living from the sea. In the past, these island populations took only small amounts of fish, crabs, lobster and so on from the coasts and inland waters, so they were living a sustainable existence.

With the advent of technology, more and more of this bounty from the sea was taken. Whatever the people could not eat themselves, they would sell to other countries. Thanks to technology, the fisheries around these coasts were laid waste. Generations of lobsters were taken, so that too few remained to start a new generation. The same thing happened to the fish and the craps. These people were no longer living a sustainable existence, and as a result their fisheries were destroyed and they are now dependent upon the charity of others.

That’s in remote island countries, but the same concept holds true for larger countries as well. Indeed, it is worse for these larger, more technologically developed countries, because they have always been used to the bounty and weaning them off it, into living a more sustainable lifestyle, is extremely difficult.

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