The Laws of Sustainability

 
 


The Laws of Sustainability


By


Mike Whitworth, Ph.D.


Provided by Doc’s Press LLC

http://www.docspress.com


This document may be freely copied, distributed, or posted online as long as nothing is changed, the author is attributed, and a link to http://www.docspress.com is provided.  This document may not be sold.



INTRODUCTION


Herein sustainability refers mostly to global sustainability. Sustainability is simply doing what is necessary to maintain human civilization and our environment in good shape for as long as possible. Some people say forever, but our sun will burn out eventually, and mankind will have to move elsewhere.


To create a sustainable civilization, we must protect our environment because we depend on it for life. We must also reach high levels of renewable energy, energy efficiency, zero waste, and 100% reuse of materials. These things are necessary to protect our environment and maintain access to the resources we, and future generations, need to survive at a reasonable standard of living.


LAW 1. SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES WIN-WIN SOLUTIONS


The basic idea of sustainability is not to use up resources that future generations, or other species, may need and not to damage the environment. Having what we need, yet allowing future generations to have available what they need, is a win-win situation.


Creating win-win sustainability solutions requires very real cooperation between people, corporations, cultures, and governments.  A win-win solution does not involve forcing populations to move into cities, leave their land, etc.  In such situations, people will rebel and progress toward sustainability will be lost.  Sustainability does involve teaching people how to be sustainable on an individual basis.  Sustainability also involves recognizing local solutions.  No one solution will likely work everywhere.


Win-win solutions go far beyond just taking care of future generations of people. We are a part of the food chain on planet Earth, and we depend on all of the other life forms on our planet to survive. For this reason, we must have respect for all life forms on Earth. Taking care of all life (the environment) creates a win-win situation.


LAW 2. SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES TRANSPARENCY


Greed and ulterior motives are the enemies of sustainability. No sustainability effort based on them will succeed. This is why everyone involved needs to know not only what is being done to create sustainability, but how and why it is being done. Secrecy is not allowed.


LAW 3. SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES KNOWLEDGE, NOT IDEOLOGY


Sustainability decisions must be deeply knowledge-based. Only by learning the facts can we design sustainable solutions.


LAW 4. SUSTAINABILITY IS SCIENCE-BASED


We learn from scientific principles and experiments about how to craft sustainable solutions. However, specialized knowledge alone is not adequate to create a sustainable civilization.


For this reason, global systems thinking and critical thinking are absolutely vital. We need a more far-reaching solution than achieved by classical science applied within a single discipline.


That solution is sustainability science. It spans many fields of study and requires an integration of overall knowledge at a scale never before known by Mankind.


LAW 5. SUSTAINABILITY IS ABOUT MOVING FORWARD


To achieve sustainability, we must move forward in a responsible and caring fashion.  For example, feeding people slow poisons and contaminates in food for profit is not a sustainable path.  Neither is rapid introduction of essentially untested GMOs. What we need are ways of producing sustainable healthy, organic foods as close to the point of use as possible.


Sustainability cannot be reached by simply going backward to a simpler lifestyle without great loss of human life and great suffering. There are too many people on the Earth now to return to either hunter-gatherer or simple farming lifestyles


For example, it takes five square miles per person to survive as a hunter-gatherer. With the current population of about 6.7 billion, that would require 510 Earths.


Yields from simple, non-mechanized, horse-drawn farming are too small to support everyone that is alive today. Historical farm yields were about 1/5 or less than those of today. That suggests it would require about 5 times as much farmland as we are using today to grow the necessary food. At present, we are using almost all the available (good) farmland on planet Earth.


However, there are components of past practices that meld well with sustainable efforts, such as composting, etc.


LAW 6. SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES A FOCUS ON IMPROVING TECHNOLOGY


Since we do not have all the answers, we must carefully craft the technologies we need, using a systems approach, and critical thinking skills to be sure we are creating truly sustainable solutions.


No technology concieved to fill a single need will likely prove sustainable.


•For example, using corn to produce ethanol as a main fuel is unsustainable because, among other reasons, it would require more cropland than we have on Earth to fulfill our transportation energy needs.


•We are running out of phosphate rock from which we make the fertilizer we use for growing corn, Estimates suggest we have as little as 50 years of phosphate ore left.


The main foci of technology improvement should be:

•Sustainable food and water

•Renewable energy.

•Energy efficiency.

•Development of non-polluting, clean technology.

•Producing zero waste.

•100% material reuse.


We need to see the global picture for all that we do.  The old ways where we solved a problem without considering the effects on the environment and the planet are woefully inadequate if we are to have a future.


LAW 7. SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS MUST BE CONSTANTLY TESTED AND IMPROVED


As new knowledge and technology surface, we must re-examine old ways using systems approaches and critical thinking. We must carefully implement new solutions as we can.


LAW 8. A SHORT-TERM FOCUS IS THE SAME AS FAILURE FOR SUSTAINABILITY


Not focusing on the long-term creates patchwork solutions that waste resources and create future problems. That is not saying we should wait until we have a perfect solution; just that we should choose our best current options and continually re-evaluate them.


LAW 9. SUSTAINABILITY REQUIRES ACTIVE ALTRUISM


To achieve sustainability, we must care deeply about, not only future generations of humans, but about every species (including humans) and resource on Earth. We are part of one large system (the Earth) and every life form on planet Earth is in this lifeboat together. What harms the system harms us all.


LAW 10. SUSTAINABILITY IS A PROCESS


Achieving sustainability is a process of constant improvement. However, if we move too slowly, we will run out of needed resources. Moving too slowly might spell the end for human civilization. There are no universal or one-shot solutions for creating a sustainable civilization.


LAW 11. SUSTAINABILITY MUST BE AS PAINLESS AS POSSIBLE


The average human being:

•Has a local focus.

•Is unwilling to go without.


That means that for sustainability to work for the greater mass of humanity, it must be painless. People are not willing to give up what they need, or what they like and believe they need. For this reason, the path to a sustainable world will most likely be achieved through carefully integrating education with carefully thought out technology development where the technology is designed to use fewer and fewer non-renewable resources, and where recycling and reuse quickly approach 100%.


GIVING UP ON SUSTAINABILITY IS NOT A SURVIVAL OPTION FOR OUR CIVILIZATION


Mike Whitworth

http://www.docspress.com


Note: Mike Whitworth is writing a book on the laws of sustainability.  Please check back at http://www.docspress from time to time for the publication announcement.



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