Sustainability is a dream, a dream in which we never wake up and everything continues on indefinitely. It is a form of control, trying to grasp outward from our subjective lives into the enormity of reality with a conviction that what we do can last. Not only that what we do can last but that what we do should last.
Maybe it shouldn’t.
I mean, why would we want a plastic polymer bottle that holds “natural spring” water to last for 500 years? Most would agree that we don’t want this, that it isn’t a “sustainable” method of production and will ultimately have negative consequences on the environment and while it is something we can do maybe we shouldn’t.
Plastic bottles are tangible. It makes the dream of sustainability tangible, simplifying the abstract. If we take a plastic bottle out of the forest, then the forest will last longer. Disruption of the ecosystem is avoided as we place value and precedence in the ecosystem lasting over anything else. Which makes sense to some degree because we have to live in this ecosystem called Earth.
And yet I still don’t understand why this ecosystem or any other ecosystem should last. Why? What for? So we humans can continue to live on this planet? Why is it so damn important for humanity to continue? What have we done that is so remarkable that it should last forever? We aren’t the first invasive species that has gone into ecosystems and decimated them and we certainly aren’t going to be the last.
We seem to think we are better. That we can transcend the demands of Nature and overcome a propensity to exploit the ecosystem to our benefit. What is ironic in that to me is that so often our reasoning for wanting to be “sustainable” on a societal level is so that we as a human race can continue to exist. We want to continue to exist so we continue to exploit the ecosystem to our benefit. It is a cycle. A cycle that still does not answer the question of why humanity should last. For all of our bravado as humans we seemed terrified of the prospect that we should cease to exist and be forgotten. That fear and our subsequent drive to be “sustainable” says a lot about us as humans.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that maybe humans shouldn’t exist, that we should take it upon ourselves to eliminate our species. What I am trying to encourage is taking time to reflect critically on the question of why something should last. Be brave enough to consider the thought that maybe it shouldn’t. Because in my experience it is only then, only when I am able to engage with the value of something with nonattachment do I observe that thing for the first time as it truly is, not for all of the things I think it should be.