Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Inaugural post

After having written about sustainability at Workday's Green Team blog for many years, I am now starting a fresh outlet for my thoughts and observations about how we can move towards a more sustainable yet livable future. 

The name of the new blog is Sustain3. No, Sustain1 and 2 weren't already taken. The 3 stands for "three generations". Sustainability is a concept that is hard to grasp for many people, myself included at times. In many circumstances it means not to do something now so that others have a better world later on. Or not to do something now so that others have a fair share of planetary resources now. The mechanisms of deferred gratification and fair sharing are not psychologically or emotionally anchored in our human hardware. We need to work on it to do the right thing. This often leads people to consider sustainability as something that limits their options today, some form of behavioral tax that is 'the right thing to do' (similar to exercising regularly, eating healthy, etc.) and will yield rewards later.

In case of sustainability, however, our choices are not affecting just our own lives, but we are determining the future state of our planet and how livable it is for coming generations. The much cited goal of the Iroquois seven generation sustainability is, as idealistic as it sounds, almost unattainable in today's world. Our time horizon is getting increasingly shorter, our attention span reduced to a multitude of small stimuli arriving all day long. How can we think through decisions with enough depths to consider future outcomes? My personal experience is that it is easier for me to consider things that are emotionally directly relevant for me than included abstract concepts of morality and future good. This lead me to put the question of sustainability in the most emotional terms I can think of: What life will my children and grand children have? I can hopefully experience those 3 generations directly and intensively. Can I make decisions today that lead to a better future for them? My hope is that taking this personal view to sustainability can motivate more people to make choices towards a future worthwhile for coming generations. So this is the origin of the title Sustain3 - do your best to sustain our planetary live for the next 3 generations, experience the outcome of your choices through the lives of our own loved ones.

I realize this is a subjective and personal view on the topic. But I deliberately select this vantage point since I believe most people should be able to relate to it. The abstract definition of sustainability as a general good simply does not capture enough people to make a difference. The few enlightened ones that live their lives with zero footprint are serving as good examples and showing us the way, but most people will not be willing to sacrifice their standard of living.

In short, I believe we need to make sustainability a personal, emotional and actionable undertaking that allows everyone to contribute their share to a worthwhile future. At least for the next three generations to start with...

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