Overused words, Part 1

Posted by Ken Campbell January 7, 2014 0 Comment 1290 views

sus·tain·a·ble
[suh-stey-nuh-buh  l] adjective
1. pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse.
2. able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process.

If this one isn’t on your list of words that has been neutered by overuse, then you haven’t been paying attention. Sustainable has become one of the new century’s quintessential buzzwords of industry, politics and other questionable pursuits. By putting this simple word in the title, it seems that anything can be justified. Sustainable nuclear power, sustainable fracking, sustainable fisheries in the Ross Sea… anything. It is a word that has lost its currency because it has been whored around by those who want to use its original intent to supply their own legitimacy.

The thing is, it does mean something, or it should. It is probably the key concept that we as a species need to understand if we’re planning on being on this planet for the long term. With the technology that we already have in sectors like energy and transportation, agriculture and construction, we do not need to resign ourselves to our perennial boom-and-bust existence. There is, however, always a catch.

The 800-pound gorilla is that we have procreated to the point that we ourselves are unsustainable. With 7 billion of us and counting, any whitewashing we do about the idea of sustainability is just that, a desperate effort to claim what is not true, to put off the reckoning by any means possible. We cut down the trees, pull the oil out of the ground and turn the oceans into a toxic soup, all the while pretending that if we just recycle a little bit more, maybe ride our bike to work once in a while, we can bring back Eden. That is not likely to be the case.

The next time you see the word sustainable – especially if it’s in an advertisement or used in a political context – take a look for what is going on behind the scenes. Who is paying for this word to be used, why was it chosen and what is it that the people who are using it really want you to believe? We got into the environmental situation we are in today because we accepted too much, and we wanted to believe things that we should have known were not true.

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