A foundational aspect of sustainability is to think holistically. It seems, even for those of us who try to think that way, the human tendency is to compartmentalize life. We tend to separate and focus on either the physical, emotional, or spiritual dimension of life and neglect the others. Even among health practitioners that acknowledge body, mind, and spirit one mode of healing is often focused on without integration of others. It seems we are in a constant struggle for balance and, perhaps, it is balance that really is the solution to sustainability.
To be sustainable means the ability to endure. It is our capacity to continue day to day, month to month, year to year, generation to generation. It involves the needs of the individual, the family, the local community, and the the world as a whole. And it requires the balance of environmental, economic, and social concerns.
For the past forty years environmental sustainability has come more and more into focus. There is a growing concern about the sustainability of our energy sources and water supplies, our consumption of natural resources, the ability to process our waste, and other issues concerning our impact on the planet that sustains us.
Peak oil suggests that we are near the earths capacity for daily oil production – not to mention our dependency on foreign sources and the relations that involves. Along with peak oil, there is reasonable concern for our diminishing aquifers and the earths capacity for replenishing our water supply. Our consumption of resources has threatened ecosystems and species of life around the world, and our landfills are exhausted by the waste we produce.
Economic sustainability, also a growing concern for some time, has come into focus the past several years as personal investments have been lost and financial stability across the globe has been threatened. The concern of increased debt on a personal, corporate, and governmental level along with decreased employment and monetary value has suddenly shifted into awareness as the bubble we produced had suddenly burst. More and more people are considering their relationship with money – the debt they maintain, the business they support, and the luxury of enough.
Social sustainability, probably the key to sustainability in general, is the third leg to balance the sustainability stool. We are in vital need of support and collaboration with one another to find the solutions. We live in a time that demands that we once again learn to know our neighbors – this time in a deeper way that enables us to join hands in building a sustainable future for all.
I also want to add spirituality to the mix for pursuit of holistic sustainability. We must cultivate a worldview that sees our connection to all people and the environment we share. It is time to transcend our egos to embrace diverse opinions and perspectives. It is time to cultivate the understanding, wisdom, and compassion we need for balance and endurance.