Mapping the Movement

Andres Edward’s The Sustainability Revolution provided a fascinating portrait of the sustainability movement- not just it’s ideas, but of who is involved and of what they are doing. Each chapter featured a different group who crafted and purpose and used them in a different way. 

Sustainability and Community talked about coalitions who used principles to establish unity. These principles were coming out of weeklong workshops in international conferences, they’re the representation of common ground shared by diverse constituencies. They’re useful because they let people with radically different backgrounds and agendas envision a common goal and support one another. These coalitions let everyone else communicate and faciliate a broad cultural shift towards sustainable values.

Sustainability and Commerce, interestingly, featured few statements by actual commercial businesses. Instead it was a bunch of ideas from people who influence business: regulators, activists and consultants. Their principles seem like a way to create boundaries, with activists and regulators enforcing those boundaries while consultants make sure that businesses understand them.

Sustainability and Natural Resources was where the businesses started to come in. They are using principles as operating procedures, ways to do their thing while benefiting from the coalitions and avoiding the wrath of the influencers. 

Sustainability and Ecological Design was a bunch of creative types looking to principles for inspiration. (Except for LEED, which falls more in the industrial operating procedure camp.) These are the people that the businesses hire to come up with new designs and operating procedures. 

Sustainability and the Biosphere perplexed me a little bit. After all, no one has power over the way that humankind relates to our biosphere and no person, movement or single philosophy ever will. This section seemed to be about, well, shit-disturbers. I mean that in a completely good way- people who buzz around the rest of the movement questioning assumptions and maintaining the free flow of ideas. They used principles as meditations that they can lob around to open people’s minds and get them ready to receive new inspiration, adopt new operating procedures, envision new boundaries and build new coalitions. 

It’s a cool little web of relationships, but the book also hinted at some big holes. Executives who use principles to establish solid business cases weren’t really represented, which is evidence of how much the movement needs us Presidians! I was also a little worried that there weren’t scientists using principles to know what to study. It could just be the author, but I haven’t seen this group that well represented in the movement as a whole. On a basic level, it seems like this is a movement abotu respect for our human and natural environment. A big part of respect is listening and I just hope that somewhere in this revolution we’re making room for people who listen.

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