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Sustainability: The Over Used Word And Unachievable Goal

1631 words - 7 pages

Nature is one of those words that lack a narrow definition. Raymond Williams wrote that “nature is perhaps the most complex word in the (English) language” (Williams 1983). One could argue that sustainability is a term that is just as intricate. Sustainability often gets twisted and misconstrued as political jargon and is more often than not misunderstood by the less educated public. The confusion over sustainability has a couple factors. It is comparatively a newly used word, and a popular word. The misinterpretation over the phrase will have disastrous effects on the reality of whether or not our society can be considered truly sustainable. As such, the looming question “is sustainability still possible?” has an answer that does not come with a positive outlook due to a few reasons along with its misunderstanding, such as population growth, economic systems and government around the globe.
Before answering how possible sustainability is, it must be defined. Sustainability, “meaning capable of being maintained in existence without interruption or diminution” (Engelman 2013). Technically speaking, it should be capable to do so forever. The word, as stated before is completely overused and can be heard from environmentalists, to politicians, to fossil fuel CEOs. As Robert Engelman said, “We live today in an age of sustainababble, a cacophonous profusion of used of the word sustainable to mean anything from environmentally better to cool” (Engelman 2013). It is an adjective that makes people feel better with whatever they are doing. Destiny USA mall calls itself “a leader in sustainability practice in the commercial, retail industry.” Yes, some of their energy sources could be considered sustainable, but when the citizens of Syracuse, or customers who drive 3 hours to shop there, they get the impression that they are taking part in the protection of Mother Nature. “Frequent and inappropriate use lulls us into dreamy belief that all of us – and everything we do, everything we buy, everything we use – are now able to go on forever…” (Engelman 2013).This makes zero sense, as malls are used for mass consumption by the public, which is not sustainable.
That is the trouble with the word sustainable. “Through overuse, the words sustainable and sustainability lose meaning and impact” (Engelman 2013). In Robert Engelman’s chapter ‘Beyond Sustainababble’ he includes a graph charting the increased use of the word sustainable. Following a linear pattern, the graph shows us that in 100 years, all sentences will be the word sustainable repeated over and over. The graph also demonstrates the proportional importance of achieving sustainability. However, if reaching a genuinely sustainable company is thus crucial, and the next step for humans around the Earth, and so we must apply this powerful word carefully, with a precise understanding of what it entails and how to achieve this goal.
For human civilization to be considered sustainable, it must be able to...

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