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A sustainable act is one you can repeat forever in the same way. That’s it. For all the attention sustainability gets nowadays, the concept itself is so simple, it’s amazing the practice eludes even our most educated politicians and world leaders.
Sustainability is literally the act of lending oneself to infinity.
Every microbe, bacteria, atom, and animal on earth has this system down pat. Every animal, that is, except for one.
Think of every system you participate in on a daily basis: from waking up to your alarm clock that's plugged into the wall, brushing your teeth and showering with water from a treatment plant that goes down the drain into sewers, showering with chemical-riddled soaps peppered with dyes and perfumes and additives. Think of the clothes you dress yourself in and the manner in which they were created, shipped, packaged, and sold to you. Think of the processed food you eat for breakfast and where your coffee beans came from. Consider your morning commute. Don't stop there. Consider the way homes, neighborhoods, states, and countries are run. Think of big business, industry, oil, and gas. Think of your churches and synagogues, and the energy they use to run their lights, their heating, their central air. The truth is, very few—if any—actions undertaken by any one of us in a day are truly sustainable. Which is to say, the way we act and live is linear instead of circular. We start with consumption and end with a pile of toxic, non-decomposing garbage, dirty unlivable water, and unbreathable air.
The way we eat isn’t sustainable. The way we handle our waste isn’t sustainable. The way we get to and from work, build our homes, make our jewelry, wash our bodies, and even the rate at which we reproduce are all done unsustainably. What does this mean? It means the stuff we eat, the fuels we use, the clean air we breathe, the fresh water we drink... will eventually run out. There are just too many of us using, eating, breathing, and taking out of the system without putting enough back in for the relationship to go any other way. I don’t know how long things can continue. A year? A hundred years? A thousand? But there is no question we will run out of the basic resources required to support a population of our size, in the way we consume now. It will end.
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