What does it mean to be sustainable? | Letter

Your article, “Sustainable Bothell community compromises with developers,” (Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, Aug. 4) makes clear it is delusional.

One of the residents of the community identified what preceded the compromise by stating, “Overall, what has happened to Songaia has been pretty traumatic.”

What has happened to the life-providing ecosystems of this planet “has been pretty traumatic.” Throw in the pollution of our oceans and waterways and you define, if not tragedy for everyone today, tragedy at some likely imminent point.

But this resident then says, “This story is about adaptation. This is our attempt at positive adaptation and change.”

The article then states that the community worked out a “compromise” with the developer who apparently was intent on clearing out all that was natural in order to “save” some remnants.

This is essentially describing what is politically done nationally and internationally in order to maintain the assumption that unlimited “growth” (growth of money and power) is possible. It is declared by touting the oxymoron, “sustainable growth.” That means the growth at least gains the illusion of being sustainable because it is being incrementalized.

That is like fighting cancer by enabling it to achieve its ends but you don’t “solve” its growth, you incrementalize it.

This my friends is another example of our making the term sustainable absurd.

The only way to make that clear is to provide a functional definition of what real sustainability means.

Sustainability is: A sustainable population is one that can survive over the long term (thousands to tens of thousands of years) without either running out of resources or damaging its environmental niche (in our case, the planet) in the process.

This means that our numbers and level of activity must not generate more waste than natural processes can return to the biosphere — that the wastes we do generate do not harm the biosphere and that most of the resources we use are either renewable through natural processes or are entirely recycled if they are not renewable. In addition, a sustainable population must not grow past the point where those natural limits are breached. Using these criteria it is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable and incremental growth is a road to ultimate disaster.

Do we really want future generations to have available to it what enabled us not just to have some quality of life, but to have what enables life itself?

Richard Pelto,

Kenmore


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