Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Sustainability" and more tortured metaphors.

So it was a couple of years ago I was walking down the dock and came upon a sinking boat. A crazed fellow was aboard with a 2 inch hole saw and was punching holes in the bottom.

"Dude! What the hell are you doing!" I shouted.

"What does it look like?" he snarks, "I'm washing the bilges. . ."

"You're nuts!" I cry "Can't you see your boat is sinking?!"

"Screw Al Gore and all that eco stuff. . ."

"What the hell does Al Gore have to do with any of this--just pull your head out and look, dammit!"

Begrudgingly and condescendingly he approaches the companionway. A moment of irritation is followed by a moment of recognition, which is followed by a moment of terror. . .

"God, MY BOAT IS SINKING!" He screams "Help! What do I do?" He begins to panic.

"First," I reply, "You've got to quit drilling 2 inch holes in the bottom of your boat."

"How will I wash my bilges then?"

"No problem!" I reply, "Technology to the rescue. Here's a 3/4 inch spade bit. I got a grant to study these and they're proven much superior to 2 inch hole saws. . ."

"That's STUPID!" a passerby exclaims, "Obviously his boat will still sink!"

"Don't be so negative," I retort. "Obviously it's a step in the right direction."

. . .

Well, sure.

Sustainability is a quantity, not an ideology. Ecosystems, cultures, economies, and lifestyles are either "sustainable" or they aren't. A small step in the wrong direction is only marginally better than a big step in the wrong direction. Let's not use the term "sustainable" loosely, and let's confine that term to strategies that are measurably "in the right direction" not mearly "less destructive."

Anyway, just had to say that. Come on, we can do better than that.

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