Tag Archive: sustainability


Sustainability quotes


“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing”
~ Arundhati Roy

“Sustainability is not a problem to be solved. It is a future to be created.”
~ Peter Senge

“The question of reaching sustainability is not about if we will have enough energy, enough food, other other tangible resources – those we have. The question is, will there be enough leaders in time?”
~Dr Karl-Henrick Robert

“Kennedy chose to go to the moon. Our generation must choose to remain on planet Earth.”
~ President Nasheed (Maldives)

“I am interested in the future because that is where I will live.”
~ Albert Einstein

No to multiple benefits?



Alex Steffen of World Changing has a written voice laden with clarity and insight. I’ve been reading incredible quotes from his latest fantastic article, Putting the Future Back in the Room, out loud to my housemates, so here are some extracts that are still ringing for me. I highly recommend a full read of the second half of his article, copied selectively here:


“The planetary crisis we face may be made up of machinery and market failures and sheer masses of humanity struggling to live, but I’m more and more convinced that it is not at its core really a material crisis at all. Rather, the planetary crisis is a crisis of vision; we see a growing and darkening void where our future ought to be. The average person, presented with accurate information about the state of the world, can see no way forward at all. The path we’re on appears to end in darkness and a swift, cataclysmic drop. Most folks, entirely understandably, choose not to look.”

We already have the ability to solve or at least address the planet’s most pressing problems. We don’t have every solution we’ll need, not yet. We do, though, have the technological capabilities, the design genius, the scientific ingenuity, the entrepreneurial zeal, the policy acumen, the community-building skill, and the educational and cultural wisdom. It is not that we are not capable of sustainable prosperity. We have never had more or better ability to build a better world. What we seem to lack is a belief that we can actually use those powers to change anything, and we lack that belief precisely because the future has been ripped out of our cultural debate.

That’s why if we care about the planet, the most important thing we can do is start showing how good a future we still can have. That’s why, right now, optimism is a political act, and a radical one at that.

I think, what we need today, is mass movement planetary futurism. I don’t mean futurism in the cheesy sense — the what-color-is-your-rocket-car sense — I mean futurism in the best sense: of people who understand that the future is not an alien world or a land-of-make-believe, it’s where we are right now, with a brief passage of time. Utah Phillips used to like to say that the past didn’t go anywhere. Well, the future’s already here. We’re making it, as we speak, and we make it better when we consider what the effects of our actions might be over a longer range of time.

Human beings make the future every day. Making the future — setting in motion future events — might almost be considered part of the definition of humanity. The problem is that today, when powerful men sit down and make decisions, they generally make those decisions as if the future didn’t exist, as if the consequences of their actions were beyond anticipation, as if they bore no responsibility for foresight. The future’s not welcome in the room.

We need millions of people ready to put the future back in the room. We need millions of people ready to demand that their governments, their companies, their communities and their cultural institutions confront the reality of the futures they make every day.”

Many, I believe, are secretly terrified of what they’d see if they looked ahead. The people most deeply traumatized of all in our society may be the older men who’ve devoted their entire lives, in grinding hard work and out of love for the people around them, to building companies and communities and systems they thought represented a pinnacle of human endeavor and free enterprise, but which instead — they would now find, if they could bring themselves to admit the possibility — have become components of what is quite possibly the most destructive way of life ever made by human beings. To have done right and well your whole life and yet find yourself ethically indicted in the end, to have your accomplishments turn to ash, to arrive late expecting security and respect, and find neither: I don’t think those of us who are younger can fully understand what a soul-wrenching experience that must be.

As the air goes out of the most destructive parts of our economy — as the oil runs out, as the sprawl financing dries up, as the world runs out of big trees to cut and big fish to catch — economic fear gets added to the mix as well. How will they survive? Even when they see a glimmer of a bright green economy, it looks full of jobs demanding different skills than the ones they’ve spent a lifetime honing. I think a lot of them refuse to see a bright green future — attack even the possibility of its existence, yell at those who even suggest its necessity — because they see no place for themselves in it, and hear a ringing condemnation of the legacies they’re preparing to leave woven into every fiber of the innovations we need.

I honestly have no idea how to reach out to these good people. We know, though, that they are the ones often at the table when the future is made, and though we will eventually prevail since time and numbers are on our side, spending another couple decades butting heads with these guys will at best slow our progress. Merely defeating them politically also wastes a huge creative resource: their talent and experience. Many of the people most angrily denying the future are those who understand how the systems we now need to retrofit, redesign, replace and adapt actually work — because they built them — and, if convinced that this new work needs to be done, they have oceans of insight and institutional knowledge to bring to bear on the problem. No one knows how to hack a system better than the person who’s been in charge of protecting it from change…if only we can win them over to the side of change.

Whether or not we can bring around the oldest generation, the fundamental need is clear: we need, now, to put the future back in the room.”

Alex Steffen, Putting the Future Back in the Room