Sustainability in a nutshell


1: capable of being sustained

: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
Sustainability isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s not just about quality of life, recycling, or green space. It is an all-encompassing issue that is affecting not only the environment, but also our economy, our policies, and our daily lives. Big changes are not just necessary but imperative to the longevity of life for all. As our global population has now exceeded 7 billion, we are coping with even more complex affairs; it has become a juggling act between a large population, food supply, and a healthy environment. We can’t keep all three.
Climate Change science is not all doom and gloom, however the media may portray it. I think the problem of sustainability, and the cause of such societal stagnation is the absence of the individual. You’re right, no single person can stop climate change, no one person can save the polar bears, or the forests, or the millions of starving people around the globe. There are, however, significant and viable solutions on the individual level. The importance lies not in corporations but in communities. While one person may not be able to make a tremendous difference the world, a whole movement of individuals can make a world of difference.
I hope that in the future, more emphasis is put on realistic, pragmatic, individual solutions. The primary step is awareness. The facts of climate change alter from day to day, and developments are fast approaching.
Of course there are the current Durban Climate Change Talks.
And there are numerous other ways to stay educated about contemporary environmental issues. The Guardian Environmental page has numerous blog posts and articles daily covering the science and the politics of sustainability. You can read about sustainable architecture and design on, or
I posted earlier in the semester about some sustainable development programs I experienced first-hand in Benoni, South Africa this summer. You can follow the progress of the farm at the Hadassah Centre for Women, and the John Wesley Community Centre in Etwatwa.
Sustainability is a global effort, and we should all feel a sense of social responsibility for keeping our world green. Whether recycling, composting, executing green design, or using alternative modes of transportation we can each make a significant impact on the health of our planet.

A Mandela Point of View

The Climate Change talks opened in Durban, South Africa this morning, as Jacob Zuma of South Africa offered a wise word of advice: “Change and solutions are always possible. In these talks, states, parties, will need to look behind their national interests to find a solution for the common good and human benefit.”

Zuma has high hopes for the conference and the potential changes that can take place once these talks close. One debate topic of the Climate Change Conference this year is the Kyoto Protocol that I touched on briefly yesterday.

The United Nations defines the Kyoto Protocol as such…

“The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

The major distinction between the Protocol and the Convention is that while the Convention encouraged industrialised countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so.”
(You can find all the information from the United Nations right here.)

If the biggest two emitters (the US and China) don’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it may be a lost cause. It seems a little unjust since the emissions caused by the most developed countries are causing floods and droughts in developing countries across the globe. As the talks continue, it is my hope that leaders like Zuma take a strong stand for the Protocol and that all the nations involved will reassess the importance of renewing national emissions goals. Like Zuma said, it will be impossible to effect change globally if all nations do not work together for the good of every single one of the 7 billion.

We’ve got two weeks of Climate Change talks to change the world. Here we go.

In the words of great South African activist Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”