A New Era of Sustainability

Welcome to the new CISC blog, the version that will change your life (hopefully–that is, if we do our jobs right.) But really, we have a new look, new contributors and a dedicated commitment to re-think the oft thrown around words and concepts around and behind sustainability. We will share stories of everyday people (folks, if you will) who are living sustainability. No, that was not a typo. It absolutely, positively, was not meant to read living sustainably.  That adjective, at its best, seems to confuse people who are not necessarily self-identified as in that camp. And at its worst, can be used to applaud green-washing efforts and promote practices that are moving us further from where we want to be. So, what we are trying to do here is put people back into the equation of sustainability itself and show it as a living term.

via huffington post.

We know that sustainability as a concept has remained nebulous. Save for the idea that it implies an equitable distribution and consumption of resources, that will not compromise future generations use of said resources, we have little else to agree on about what sustainability looks like in action, in day to day existence.

I recently read an essay in Grist, Environmentalism’ can never address climate change, written by David Robert, who literally opens his piece by saying, I’m not an environmentalist and these aren’t environmental challenges.” It made me think about what exactly the challenge is then. What kind of challenge is the climate change (and related sustainability) challenge then?  The idea that framing matters is not new; communication scholars have long been studying the fallout—both positive and negative—from the way in which we talk about certain issues.  Somehow though, we in the climate movement seem to have thought we were exempt from this phenomenon for far too long; that somehow data would speak for itself.  Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of people thinking about how to talk about this stuff before; artists, scientists, policy makers, students, but to make an impact, to have a critical mass, we all need to have a shared vocabulary and clear vision about what we want, when we want it, how we get there and most importantly how we talk about it.

I see the new blog as an opportunity to showcase and discuss living proof of sustainability, of people working towards a clear vision, and not always through novel technology (although, yes, sometimes we will discuss this), but more importantly, a reading between the lines of where we are and where we want to be. In Robert’s essay, he argues that if we succeed at the sustainability challenge (a big if, he points out), it will be a groundbreaking, revolutionary new model. “…it will be a tidal shift in human history on par with the agriculture, industrialization, or democracy itself.”

The difference is, those that lived through these histories only had a slight understanding of the massive impact they were about to have on the physical and social operating systems of the planet. We, on the other hand, with our science and blogs (and science blogs), living in the data explosion era, know better, maybe.  So, let’s get to it. We have a lot of re-making to do.

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