What is sustainability?

What is sustainability? Mike and I started this radio show because we realized that we were taking a lot for granted or assuming things that we didn't know we were assuming when we used the word "sustainability." People mean different things when they use it and depending on what they are talking about. It's loaded.

That's why we always ask our guests the question, "How do you define sustainability?" And you'll notice as a listener that people mean different things by it. Some think it doesn't really matter that much. Don Brown has called it "an orienting concept." Others have used quite specific references to reducing suffering, to providing for present and future generations of humans and others, or to bring about "the possibility that humans and other life can flourish on Earth forever." The iterations seem endless.

And we aren't the only ones who have decided to explore this issue. At Orion magazine, Eric Zencey has engaged the same line of thinking, noting 18 iterations of sustainability as word, concept, line of action and more.

For example:
[3] AN ACT, PROCESS, OR STATE of affairs can be said to be economically sustainable, ecologically sustainable, or socially sustainable. To these three some would add a fourth: culturally sustainable.
Read on at the link above. What do you think?

The energy crisis is here

A few weeks ago we hosted Katherine Watt on the show to talk about localism and the Transition Towns initiatives in central Pennsylvania. As we collectively face the reality of peak oil will we face the challenge intelligently?

Katherine wrote a piece for the Centre Daily Times reflecting on the peak oil problem and the urgent need for us to move to regional and local economies of scale.

Wednesday’s Sustainable Centre County page is all about energy, with columns on how to build a regional energy system around the sun, food and biodiesel crops. Bustling as it seems, I think the Marcellus methane-energy boom will fizzle out soon. Investing time and money to release colossal Earth farts is a luxury, and we’re not a rich society anymore.

Growth won’t restart because oil prices will keep rising. As we revisit the Dow milestones of the past few decades — heading back down — physical and biological imperatives will be far more pressing than the political and economic calculations underpinning the gas boom. Complex institutions will break apart, replaced by simpler regional cooperatives now rising from grass roots.

We’ll stop digging up dead things to sell and burn, and return to the most basic elements of human life: taking care of each other by working with surrounding life-support systems that provide water, food and shelter.

Read on here.


National Wildlife Federation's "Extreme Heat in Summer 2010"

This in from the National Wildlife Federation:

The National Wildlife Federation has released “Extreme Heat in Summer 2010.” This summer is the hottest on record so far and a sign of more to come. The Eastern and Southern United States are especially suffering, with many states having one of their hottest summer months on record. A new analysis from National Wildlife Federation finds that summers like the current one could become the norm by 2050 unless steps are taken to curb global warming. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are on a list of those cities most vulnerable to heat wave effects as the planet warms. Approximately half of the residents in both cities have relatively high levels of vulnerable populations and low rates of air conditioning.

The analysis comes a few weeks after the U.S. Senate shelved action on comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

The State College community is better equipped than most to deal with extreme heat because most residents have air conditioning. However, many communities are not so fortunate. Our failure to take action on global warming will affect those who can least afford to deal with extreme temperatures. It is the poor, elderly, and those with health problems who will bear the brunt of the expected extreme heat events.

When: August 25, 2010, 10:30am

Where: Schlow Memorial Library, Community Room

Who: Dr. Michael Mann, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University
Prof. Sylvia Neely, Creation Care Coalition, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.
Arno Vosk, MD, Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians
Peter Buckland, President of Environment - Ecology - Education, Penn State University and co-host of Sustainability Now Radio

Contacts: Ed Perry, National Wildlife Federation, Phone - 814-880-9593