On Sustainability

Kirby Fry 72530.1353 at compuserve.com
Sat Nov 18 08:45:10 EST 1995

Dear Friends,

The following article was written by Inger Myhre for the Cross Timbers
Permaculture Institute's winter newsletter.  If you would like a copy of
the entire newsletter please e-mail me your snail-mail address, and/or
browse through our web page at http://csf.colorado.edu/perma/ for more


The term "sustainability" is valuable to us when used to measure our
actions because it encourages us to look indefinitely into the future at
the consequences of what we do.  It is critical that we nurture such a
viewpoint now because of the increasing rate at which we consume resources
and degrade the Ecosystem.  However, the word "sustainability" is used so
often, and under so many different definitions, that it is losing much of
its impact.

For instance, some land managers may use the phrase "sustainable yield" to
justify maintaining a juvenile monoculture of yellow pine in east Texas
where there should be a climax bottom-land forest ecology.  Instead of
sustaining their ecosystem they are sustaining their yield.  Agricultural
groups will describe themselves as "sustainable," and although they have
stopped the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they still support
centralized, large-scale production.  So what is sustainability?

"Sustainability" is the ability to fill our needs without jeopardizing the
ability of future generations to meet theirs.  Since this definition is
written in terms of human needs, it is important to remember that we are
an integral part of the one Ecosystem, and any damage to the Ecosystem is
not sustainable.

We were happy to encounter The Sustainability Project, which uses the
above definition and went further and compiled a list of guideposts for a
sustainable future.

Activities ARE sustainable when they:

1) use materials in continuous cycles, 2) use continuously reliable
sources of energy, 3) come mainly from the qualities of being human (i.e.
creativity, communication, coordination, appreciation, spiritual &
intellectual development.

Activities ARE NOT sustainable when they:

1) require continual inputs of non-renewable resources, 2) use renewable
resources faster than their rate of renewal, 3) cause cumulative
degradation of the environment, 4) require resources in quantities that
could never be available for people everywhere, 5) lead to the extinction
of other life forms.

For further information please contact:

Sustainability Project, Guideposts for a Sustainable Future; PO Box 374;
Merrickville, Ontario, Canada, KOG 1N0.  Phone: 613-269-3500.

        KIRBY [@ Cross Timbers Permaculture Inst. 817-897-9402]

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