Sustainable Living (SL) is a new approach to solving complex environmental problems through solutions that integrate ecological health, social justice, and economic well-being. It is also refreshingly positive, realistic, cooperative, and inspirational.
Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without diminishing the ability of future generations to do the same. But there is more to it than that. Sustainability is more fully defined as life in a thriving world in which we lead rich, celebratory, productive, and spiritually fulfilling lives without depleting each other, the other creatures that inhabit the earth with us, and the present and future environment that we all depend on.
Taken together, the core precepts of Sustainable Living represent a new way of thinking about humanity’s presence on the earth and its place in the universe. This new paradigm is rapidly replacing the old paradigm that created the industrial age, neoclassical economics, and a mechanistic worldview.
The current world depletes the environment, exploits people and relies on finite stocks of fossil fuel and other non-renewable resources. The most prominent outputs of modern industrial economies are a linear stream of wasted energy, wasted materials, and weakened communities. This system largely ignores the operating principles of nature; it depends on compound growth through a linear input of materials and energy. On a finite planet, and at the current level of human awareness, this is simply not sustainable.
Some members of earlier movements, such as conservationism and environmentalism, focused mainly on problems, working to mitigate the harmful effects of human action in the context of a world defined by a failed and limited/outdated economic and social world view. This was, and continues to be, important work. However, many environmentalists’ angle of engagement has been seen as “gloom-and-doom,” confrontational, and guilt-inducing. In contrast, the Sustainability movement focuses more on cooperative, holistic solutions to local and global problems in ways that encourage the health of the natural environment as well as the development of human potential.