A few years ago my friend Tom shared with me an idea for an alternative to making New Years resolutions; those promises to ourselves that are often so hard to uphold. What he was trying instead was to choose a word that focussed in on what he most wanted to accomplish over the next 12 months. Brilliant in its simplicity, it’s a powerful idea for maintaining direction and motivation without the high risk of failure associated with making specific resolutions.
For a few years now I’ve been carefully choosing a word each year and using it to guide my energies and frame my choices. There were the years of resolution, of consolidation, and of discovery, and after much consideration 2012 has been deemed the year of sustainability.
So what does sustainability mean? It’s something of a buzzword at present, frequently thrown about by corporations and governments to generate a sense of “doing the right thing” by people and the planet, in a fuzzy, avoiding actually doing anything different sort of way. We hear about triple bottom line outcomes and business strategies and not all that much about what sustainability might mean on an individual and community level.
There are myriad ways to define sustainability, but to me it’s about balancing the needs of people with the needs of the environment over the long term. We humans are part of the complex ecosystems of our planet and are dependent on the continuing good functioning of these ecosystems for our survival. We also have an ethical responsibility to conserve other life on this planet and share the finite resources we all depend on. Responsible environmental management and resource use is an important aspect of living sustainably, but it’s only one part of the picture and needs to be balanced with the people component: building communities and societies that will allow us to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
My vision, then, of a sustainable life is one where people work together to build strong, supportive communities, care for the land and reduce their resource use. It’s about being aware of the impacts of the decisions we make and choosing options that provide good outcomes (or sometimes just least-worst) for the environment and humanity as well as meeting our own needs. It’s about connecting with the people and places around us to grow something bigger, beyond ourselves.
This year I’m focussing on making my life more sustainable: environmentally, financially and socially. Part of this is contributing to building the kind of world I want to live in, sharing my skills, experiences and mishaps and seeking yours so we might learn from each other.
I’m figuring out the shape of things to come and I’d like you to help build our future, together.