Spinning Earth

Economic Aspects of Sustainability


To understand the actual work of sustainability, please consider this quote from Wendell Berry, a poet-farmer from Kentucky:

The real work of planet-saving will be small, humble, and humbling, and (insofar as it involves love) pleasing and rewarding. Its jobs will be too many to count, too many to report, too many to be publicly noticed or rewarded, too small to make anyone rich and famous.
Wendell Berry

Berry speaks to the common sense and ubiquity of the job of sustainability. Please keep this spirit alive as we survey economic aspects of sustainability. The accessibility, satisfaction, and ease of the work of sustainability may surprise you. Cast as such, sustainability contrasts with obtuse and abstract economic models that mystify more than elucidate and that entangle us in an ideological bind that contrasts both with their actual consequences, rarely examined, and with the inversion reguired for the practice of sustainability. We run the risk of self-incapacitation, denying ourselves the capability and authority to sustain. We are rendered de-authorized.

Sustainability speaks with a soft voice. It does not scream. We must therefore listen carefully and let sustainability speak to us. We may overlook sustainability, miss it when staring right through it. We filter sustainability out, when our attention has been diverted by habits of thinking, paradigms, that obfuscate rather than elucidate. Pay close attention.

Thus, sustainability requires envisioning, an act of imagination that will come spontaneously and will most likely be consistent with your discovering that you remain an ethical, even spirtiual, being. Consider the words of Hermann Hesse from his classic, Siddharta:

Knowledge can be communicated, but wisdom cannot. A man can find it, he can live it, he can be filled and sustained by it, but he cannot utter or teach it.

The choice of discovering your own wisdom in how you lead your life is all yours. Put another way, do not seek sustainability, find it:

'When someone is seeking,' said Siddhartha, 'it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.'

Keep in mind that forover half of the earth's population, living on and off the land has been a instinctive way of life. These people, and the millions living who have been displaced from the land, find sustainability, like subsistence itself, natural and pleasing. There are literally billions of sustainers. For us, we must learn to see, listen, discover, and envision. We are saying that it is quite effortless and pracical.

Wayne Hayes, Ph.D. | Initialized: 2/14/2007 | Last Update: 02/05/2011 | V. 1.3 Build #5