The word ‘Sustainable‘ used in an aspirational way describes the means by which human habitation on the planet can be made permanent, safe, self-supporting and benign where the planets ecosystems are concerned. The opposite of what human habitation currently is, i.e. unsustainable.
In its less aspirational meaning the word ‘sustainable‘ is used to mean something that can be enabled or made to continue, for example the delivery of low quality housing for poor people to live in, or a banking business that exists to finance arms sales to oil rich countries so that they can terrorise their inhabitants.
What do the references say?
Wikipedia defines sustainability as ‘the capacity to endure’
- capable of being supported or upheld, as by having its weight borne from below.
- pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse: sustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.
- able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process: a sustainable negotiation between the two countries.
- able to be confirmed or upheld: a sustainable decision.
- able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds: a sustainable life.
Clearly, item number 2 on this list is what we commonly mean when we talk about sustainability, by ‘we’ I mean the subset of people involved in discussing the topic of how to enable sustainable human existence on the only known habitable planet. It worries me that for many other people, item 3 could be used without irony to refer to something that they care deeply about, such as running a chemical processing plant that employs hundreds of people but is very polluting. So it is perfectly possible to discuss sustaining(item 3) a business or process that is inherently unsustainable(item 2). From a philosophical standpoint and from a linguistic standpoint this seems wrong to me.
Bob Ainsworth, Minister for the Armed Forces, said: “This partnering agreement secures the long-term supply of ammunitions to our Armed Forces.
“The 15-year programme will ensure that the UK has a modernised, sustainable munitions industry which will support British jobs and protect our capacity to produce ammunition.ORThe Sustainable Fossil Fuels Forum is a working group of the Berlin Forum on Fossil Fuels. The European Commission define it as a part of the its structured dialogue on the outlook for fossil fuels. This working group brings together corporations, industry associations, Member State administrations and representatives of European civil society.
Sustainable: pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse: sustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.
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