Defining sustainability

Greetings, readers! Let’s talk about the term “sustainability.” I’ve touched upon it before as the phrase is ubiquitous in the field, but today, we deep-dive!

The U.N. defines sustainability as, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” www.un.org/en/academic-impact/sustainability. These needs refer to our ability to feed, water, clothe, and shelter ourselves, all of which are contingent upon the resources and ecosystem services that are provided by our natural habitats.

Now, what precisely do I mean by “ecosystem services”? Well, think back to the Salmon and Grizzly glaciers. Those flowing rivers of ice gave us FREE water storage and allowed water to slowly melt throughout the summertime, feeding our creeks and rivers. Now we have no glaciers remaining in the Alps, and will likely not receive enough snow in the future to rebuild them in our lifetimes. Another example is wetlands, whose hydrophytic plants are able to filter and clean our water. Thanks, Nature! We couldn’t live here without you!

Simply put, we are consuming materials (i.e. clean water and fertile soil) faster than they can be regenerated by nature, and we are polluting and defiling our water, air, and soil with noxious chemicals (fossil fuels, pesticides, cleaners, microfibers, etc.) faster than nature can filter and dilute them. A new phrase has popped up with respect to this overconsumption and pollution: Earth Overshoot Day, which refers to when humanity has exhausted Earth’s budget of resources and services (www.footprintnetwork.org/our-work/earth-overshoot-day/). In 2021, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29, meaning that in just 7 months, we consumed all the water, soil, nutrients, and energy Earth was able to generate and then moved into the red, racking up a huge ecological deficit while pumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

It is worth mentioning, yet again, that nearly all of the lifeforms presently living on Earth are adapted to live within a very narrow range of temperatures, humans included. Hyperthermia (overheating, heat exhaustion, heat stroke) is a very real threat today and will become an increasingly common problem in the future. Remember the heat dome in June last year? A billion sea creatures died off the coast of Vancouver (www.scientificamerican.com/article/pacific-northwest-heat-wave-killed-more-than-1-billion-sea-creatures/). In my personal opinion, 106 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for comfortable human habitation. South Asia has already had temperatures soar past 120 degrees Fahrenheit this year! (www.carbonbrief.org/media-reaction-south-asias-2022-heatwave-and-the-role-of-climate-change). It breaks my heart that we are roasting our planet and ourselves. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to heat.

I’ve not written this column for even a year yet, but the backlash has been persistent, dogged, devoid of facts and figures, instead replaced with personal insults, targeted public threats of violence, and attempts to get me fired at my job. Yep, three separate men tried to cancel me this past year! They were unsuccessful, but I was still shaken.

Sometimes I fear for my safety. Writing this column honestly might not be sustainable. Human civilization is tumultuous and chaotic. People have been shot for far less than challenging those who maintain the status quo, who hold power and choose to enable dangerous actions and actors. Verbally striking back at those who threaten and commit violence can get one killed.

I’ve been accused of hating America and nothing could be further from the truth. I believe we have many problems to solve, but generally my days are peaceful. I love America so much that I want us to heal, thrive and flourish forever. I want future generations to have enough clean water, air, and nourishing food to meet their needs. More than anything, I love the First Amendment freedom of speech, knowing that we will destroy ourselves if lies, threats, and abuse remain unchallenged.

If you’re reading this and you’re angrier at ME than at our collective lack of care for all we presently have, I implore you to readjust your moral compass and priorities.

Protect our children and grandchildren, our planet, and our future.

Please.

We should all be on the same team: Team Life on Earth.

(2) comments

Truth First

We are actively “roasting our planet and ourselves!?!” lol Right. Then go talk to China. They're the true culprits, not us.

How hilarious that those with the sharpest tongues, and an eagerness to use them, are always the first and loudest to claim victimhood. It's called projecting. And it's craven.

If these writings ever become “unsustainable”, it will be for no other reason than that she ran through all the cult's talking points in short order. Turns out that script is a rather thin one, huh? Cuz science-fiction is a lost art.

Trinity Bob

There are those (thankfully, only a few) among us who refuse to recognize the reality of climate change no matter how intelligently it is explained. I suggest we do not waste our time trying to convince them or even listening to their braying and self-important bravado. What good could it possibly do? They don't offer any ideas whatsoever---just the same old babble-babble of criticism and denial. We are facing a bleak future, but we still have a sliver of time to ward off the worst consequences, but only if we act now.

All the climate deniers want to do is suck up our energy and distract us from the important task at hand.

Severe fires and drought should be enough evidence to get any sentient being's attention, but, alas, it's insufficient for some.

The rest of us, however, are grateful to Ms. Auryn for explaining, clearly and simply, what's actually going on around us and what we can do about it.

Thank you, Callie. Please keep telling it like it really is.

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