Sustainability. No word more concisely encompasses the challenges that face our times, and yet it can mean different things to different people. Its various aspects are, depending on situational context, given different emphasis. Its meaning may shift entirely depending on whether we are discussing inflation or homeostasis, construction or minimalism, reproduction or consolidation.
Despite this versatility, it’s meaning is almost always positive. A sustainable plan is a good plan. Sustainable behaviour is that which considers the effect of current activities on future circumstances. The “sustainable” label, applied to business, agriculture, or tourism, implies consideration of environmental impact. When we hear of a person, business, or organization focusing on sustainability, we expect this to imply a forward-thinking and inclusive approach, one that has carefully considered the ramifications of every action and has taken every reasonable step towards minimizing negative effects, whether on the environment, climate, culture, plant and animal life, and so on.
Almost always, that is, for shrewd contrivances such as greenwashing–that predatory practice by big business of which the unaware eco-conscious consumer needs to be ever vigilant–are becoming more and more commonplace. “Sustainable” and “Growth” are frequently seen together, as if in combination they do not form an inherent contradiction. The word ‘sustainability’ itself becomes hijacked, utilitized in marketing campaigns designed to bolster the public image of companies who, despite minor adjustments to their ways of doing business, have nonetheless done, or continue to do, more harm than good in the world. They continue to pollute while planting token trees. They continue to survey for oil while investing in green energy. They source sustainable raw materials while, knowingly or not, utilizing child labour in their manufacturing process. Even at the opposing end of the spectrum, where eco-friendly companies bask in a most favourable light, can any business that produces anything that ends up in landfill truly be considered “sustainable”? It’s open for debate.
To the meaning behind our title, then, for if sustainability is indeed becoming a murky concept, surely unsustainability, at least for now, retains most of its original sanctity. When I say that monoculture is unsustainable, you know I’m criticizing the questionable practice that has been a cornerstone of conventional farming and a significant factor in several major food security crises. When I say that the rate of our population increase is unsustainable, you know I’m questioning how we will house, let alone feed, another 2 billion people by 2050, when by all measures we have already stressed the earth beyond its limits. When I say that our habits, en masse, of producing and purchasing, consuming and disposing, felling and clearing, paving and driving, drilling and burning, are all in their own way unsustainable, the points I am making are clear with no need of further explanation.
And yet, what are we to do? If you’re like me, you make an effort in your own life to be more eco-conscious in everything you do, even though these efforts feel paltry, feeble, and utterly impotent in the face of the impending climatic doom that rises up before us. You take steps to mitigate your own unavoidable effect on the environment, and even to undo some of the harm done by your progenitors, even though these efforts feel shallow and empty in view of the vast landscape of destruction our species has left in its wake. World leaders, who we should be able to look to in addressing these concerns, are, for the most part, either aggravatingly dismissive or wilfully ignorant of the problem. They seem obsessed with petty considerations—their own future ambitions, or the accumulation of private wealth and power—and with placating rather than challenging the businesses in those industries—oil refining not least among them—which are themselves the driving force of our very imminent demise.
This magazine will by no means seek to challenge the status quo, much as I might like it to. It will, rather, be an open exploration into the challenges faced by our species, our environment, and our planet, and some of the ways in which these challenges are being addressed. This first issue will barely scratch the surface, offering the briefest glimpse at the tip of an iceberg that reaches down to depressingly dark depths, depths that represent the worst of human atrocities, against our fellow creatures and against the ecosystems that sustain us, depths to which this publication must, given enough time, necessarily go.
I have been incredibly fortunate to find the writers from whom you are about to hear. They have generously donated their time and energy to assist in making this issue possible. If this publication succeeds into the future, it will be due in no small part to their contributions, and it will be due in no small part to you, the reader.
All I ask of you is to read the stories that follow, reflect on them, and share them with anyone and everyone you think may appreciate them or learn something from them. Subscribe. You will never see advertising in your inbox, only a notification when a new issue is available online.
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