Monday, December 28, 2009

What Does Sustainability Mean?

I recently asked myself if I knew what the term sustainability meant. I had to be honest with myself, too. I have a pretty broad sense of the word, but I did not have a good handle on a definite definition. After all, if we are practicing sustainable homesteading, we should know what the term means, right?

So, I must believe that I am not the only one out there who has this broad definition stuck in his head. I tend to think that sustainability, like so many other words, has just become another buzz word. Unfortunately, we live in a culture in which words no longer carry certain, definite, connotations and meanings. Everything has become relative. Like the word truth, for example.

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning, I believe, one that has skewed the true meaning. One in which we would lump all things natural and organic into it and call it good. But, is it just organic and natural?

Sustainability has become a brad term including all facets of life on earth. From a local to a global scale, from grasslands to forests. I think it is safe that we can agree that mankind is living on this earth unsustainably. We no longer farm land, we strip mine it. The soil needs things put back and putting them back with unnatural, petroleum based, chemically created fertilizers is unsustainable.

The best way to define this word, sustainability, for humans is to say that it is the potential for long term maintenance of well being which, in turn, depends on the well being of the natural world and responsible use of natural resources.

Notice that I did not say that we should abstain from all use of natural resources. We just need to be responsible with them. This is what God meant by good stewardship, wouldn't you agree?

In the homesteading world, this means taking care of the land that takes care of you. In other words, animals eat grass to remain healthy. Grass need good soil to be healthy enough to provide health to that animal. If you neglect the soil, the grass will suffer. If the grass suffers, the chickens, goats, cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and myriad others will suffer. If all of them suffer, you, ultimately, will suffer.

Look at the health of America, as a whole, today. Look at the skin color of people. They are pale. The eyes are deep set and red. People are obese and lack energy. There are a ton of other ailments out there, too many to mention. Much of which can be traced back to the stripping of the soil. Cramming cattle into feed lots. Pumping more chickens into the grower houses. It goes on and on. These animals barely get sunlight, much less fresh, green grass. That is unsustainable. We are seeing the implosion beginning as more and more people get concerned about this.

As we think about sustainability, we need to be cognisant about what we do and how it affects the chain. It is about our well being and the maintenance thereof depending on the responsible use of the natural world. Now, go out there and be responsible.

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