Recently, I was asked why sustainability wasn’t about sustaining the jobs at the coal plant.  It’s common for people to think sustainability is about sustaining a particular thing.  But sustainability is not about business as usual and maintaining the status quo. It is characterized by having sufficient foresight and flexible agility to remain balanced and resilient within a dynamic, ever shifting system of life on Earth. Sustainability is also about community because it recognizes the vast interconnectedness of this life support system. That’s why the prime values of stewardship and justice are necessary to guide our choices. If we value anything beyond our own narrow lives, we have to consider the harms we do to others, now and in the future.

For decades, politicians and corporate interests have claimed that actions that make profit now are justified even if they do harm to others because we’re making such a better world for future generations. But of course that is less and less likely as those negative harvests pile up upon each other, smothering the hopes of billions of humans and extinguishing massive numbers of other species.

Earth has an ancient slogan: Adapt or Die. Sustainability is about adapting in a way that allows everyone in our human community the same opportunity to thrive within the guidelines of stewardship and justice. That means keeping all the parts of Earth’s system in healthy balance. It’s not about clinging to the past and ways of living that harm our collective chances for the future. It’s about finding new, less harmful ways to meet our needs and taking responsibility for our choices.  — Gay Nicholson, President