Evolving My Definition of Sustainability

Jeez. I lost all of my documents from first semester in a hard drive crash, but I think my definition went something like.

“A sustainable organization seeks to maximize and deepen its connections with its natural and social environment.” How young and foolish I was then.

Now I know that “sustainable” is one of those words like “art”, “clean”, “valuable”, or “sexy” that can’t BE precisely defined because they denote a way of perceiving the world rather than state that it’s in. Name something that’s categorically unequivocally not art. What about something that’s categorically not sexy? It’s trickier than it seems.

Art isn’t about specific objects, it’s about being able to see the world in terms of asthetic beauty. Understanding value doesn’t mean understanding money money, it means understanding the world in terms of its functional and spiritual usefulness. I think I’d define sustainability in that vein. Cleaning isn’t about picking up trash, it’s about having a vision of what “neat” looks like and striving towards that vision.

Sustainability is the practice of integrating the health of economic, social, and environmental systems.


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