See more keywords in our glossary of terms
The ideological context
- Many paradigms that sustain enduring habits are also sustained by processes of languaging.
- For example, the term sustainable development emerged when the collapse of the Soviet Union made 'alternative' (as in 'Alternative Technology') a politically unthinkable term.
- Its primary context was how much regional or economic development the environment might be able withstand without disaster.
- Download the 1987 Brundtland Report
- Since its usage in the original context of 'development' the term has been more commonly used on its own (i.e. sustainability) to refer to the environmentalist agenda that has proved to be a dominant and inescapable aspect of human development.
Unhelpful usage of the term sustainability
- Literally speaking, the 1994 term sustainable consumption is an oxymoron.
- Similarly, practical (mis)use of the term sustainable business often seems to signify 'business as usual' with an apparently stable system of money-flow.
- This is especially poignant if one agrees that the unspoken (temporal) aspiration of sustaining human lifestyles is seldom justified within ecological terms.
Towards a more ecological concept
- Although the meaning of the adjective 'sustainable' is diffused, it gains credibility from the verb 'to sustain'.
- In its transitive form this can mean either to hold together (i.e. integrative) or to prolong (i.e. over time).
- It is rare to find anyone clearly specifying which of these two options they mean.
- In most uses it implies the latter meaning, which is the more stridently humanistic and ecologically presumptuous.
- Without a subject, and in its transitive mode, the idea of 'sustaining' does not specify what sustains what.
- How might one differentiate between 'that which sustains', and 'that which is sustained'?
- What sustains what - and for how long?
- what is it that sustains our lifestyle?
- what is it that sustains food, shelter, and health?
- what is it that sustains our technology?
- what is it that sustains our capital?
- what is it that sustains our society?
- what is it that sustains our culture?
- what is it that sustains our belief system?
- what is it that sustains the environment?
- what is it that sustains Nature…?
- what is it that sustains God?
- What we assume to be a unidirectional cause and effect is usually a state of working co-dependency.
- By adopting the term co-sustainment we would become more attuned to the need for a symbiotic, or integrative (rather than temporal) nature of ecological systems.
- Wood, J. (2000, June). Un-managing the butterfly; co-sustainment and the grammar of agency. In Conference Proceedings, Second International Conference on Sociocybernetics," Designs for Globalisation and Sustainability", Panticosa, Spain (Vol. 29). See Abstract or download draft version
- Wood, J., (2011), Languaging Change from Within; can we metadesign biodiversity?, Journal of Science & Innovation, Vol. 1, November 2011, pp. 27-32, ISSN 2078-5453