To Live Relevantly: My Story of Defining Sustainability

I will author a life that causes as little harm as possible, and provides as much usefulness to humanity as I can. This involves using my skills (as a filmmaker), but it also involves using my unskilled self: I must be willing to learn how to implement many practices from different sources, and be willing to take risks with my body and emotions.

I am a 21-year old white female film student who just graduated from college in Pittsburgh, PA. This is my sustainability.

Sustainability is trying to figure out whether the ecosystem that brought me into existence can sustain my existence indefinitely. This statement is entirely reflective of how I live my life. The issue relates principally to how much unsupported waste I generate by being alive. Therefore, the biggest elements of sustainability today are: reusing materials, limiting consumption and growing a knowledge base.

Sustainability is open-ended. It is creative. And when it is happening right now, it is called radical.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/mCPEBM5ol0Q" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I am not qualified to tell the story of how applied technology will redeem us from environmental disaster. I seriously doubt many of the other mainstream perspectives about how to achieve sustainability. I do not support the popular ideology that we should “wait” for change, that “someone else” in government or science will figure it out for us.

The question about whether we should switch to sustainable lifestyles has already been answered. We have caused irreversible damage to our ecosystem, and we only perpetuate it daily.

I believe supporting new technologies and establishing new social systems must be balanced with reducing one’s impact right now. With the Sust Enable webseries, I will educate to the best of my abilities about what I learn while trying to live 100% sustainably on no money for three months. Most importantly:

I believe any adult person can live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle without a serious reduction in quality of life.

Some have called my invitation to live 100% sustainably right now “extreme.” I think my lifestyle is far less extreme than people imagine–also, it is far less extreme than the environmental situation we face. Since the reality of today was authored collectively by human decision-making, I can take personal responsibility for my contribution, in the web of all human activity, right now. And I should. If I work at a job that I know to be unsustainably operated, I should quit. If I live in a house or building that I know to be unsustainable, and I have no capacity to change it, then I should leave. It’s that simple. Attack environmental degradation with everything in your arsenal: your dollar, your voice, yourself. Humans are far more adaptable than we often give ourselves credit for.

But to live sustainably today requires that you leave behind certain standard cultural behavior. I think most people fear this aspect: despite how deeply someone might feel about improving our environmental morass, they are more immediately threatened by the idea of social alienation. There are only seedlings of support systems in place for folks like me, who want to create revised social systems based on sustainability. For right now, while I bike past thousands of people in my community driving cars, I have to go it alone. That doesn’t mean that living sustainably isn’t possible, nor isn’t worth it. And while limited, there are communities that welcome me.

So the question to me becomes:

Why not live sustainably, when each one of us can?

Written by carolinesavery

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