Sustainability Unravelled

A facebook friend just turned me on to this article in Scientific American, entitled, Top 10 Myths about Sustainability. It is a great piece in which the author demonstrates the incredible importance of the concept of sustainability and outlines the common misconceptions of the word. I found Myth 5 to be especially true:

Myth 5: Sustainability is too expensive.
If there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room of sustainability, this myth is it. That’s because, as Gabriel observes, “there’s a grain of truth to it.” But only a grain. “It’s only true in the short term in certain circumstances,” Cortese says, “but certainly not in the long term.” The truth lies in the fact that if you already have an unsustainable system in place—a factory or a transportation system, for example, or a furnace in your house, an incandescent lightbulb in your lamp or a Hummer in your driveway—you have to spend some money up front to switch to a more sustainable technology.

However, all the myths are well debunked in this article and it is well worth a read. The author ends by pointing to the complexity in determining whether an action is sustainable. He writes:

You cannot really declare any practice “sustainable” until you have done a complete life-cycle analysis of its environmental costs. Even then, technology and public policy keep evolving, and that evolution can lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences. The admirable goal of living sustainably requires plenty of thought on an ongoing basis.

I believe this ongoing thought is too often overlooked by those trying to live sustainable.

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