|A field of flowers near Big Spring, Great Trinity Forest - Z Pemberton|
When we last parted, I was discussing the pursuit of sustainability in growth and development. Development does not have to be all negative. More and more builders are recognizing our global impact on the planet - beginning in our own communities - but growth can only be truly "sustainable" if its practitioners have given some measure of attention to the non-profitable aspects (all things of 'no economic value') of the development matrix. I enjoy working with people who understand this and live it. The sustainable development concept usually practiced in America does not achieve a balance, but it at least should account for it in theory. The unfortunate aspect is that most of the players (builders, developers, contractors, citizens) who try to tie into this concept from the outside don't quite grasp the idea that sustainable growth does not necessarily maximize profit, but it, by definition, incorporates profit with people and places.
We discussed the question if sustainability was still possible after all of these years of the environmental movement being in pursuit of it. So far, the only equalizer for the land resources has been a crashed economy (created by other people seeking unsustainable profit by the way) which essentially shot growth in the leg and caused it to hold up a bit. Nobody wants that. There are small places of progressivism where the laws have caught up with the ideal. The renewable energy front is a much more resilient process that is moving forward across the country, and internationally, and is where the concept of resilience (in energy and construction) is catching on. Unfortunately, 'sustainable development' that requires massive land acquisition (which means it isn't truly either sustainable or resilient) hasn't let up.
Sustainability 'by happy accident' is not a plan to protect, but is simply a pause from further unmitigated expansion due to economics. We've been at this "sustainable" idea for a time now and always fighting the hungry ogre of human consumption and expansion. Sprawling development thrives on fast food lunches of raw land. It can find the cheapest land (tends to be undeveloped with loads of wildlife and forest, topography and water courses) and expands to the maximum level of growth to meet a financial sweet spot for some lucky investors. As for renewable energies and "green" construction, we are a bit more advanced on the ideas of resiliency. But after reading a new commentary by Carol Pierson Holding on resiliency and renewable energy, I immediately started wondering if I'm even in the pursuit of the right ideas on sustainability and if we should change our ideas about discussing the concept.
Holding put it out there that new terminology like the word 'resilience' is a much more positive image than what 'sustainability' gives us today. Overall, I see that the continual struggle with language sets back movements so you have to continually reinvent yourself to shed negatives. Politicians live by this idea. Some people may not quite understand the term of 'sustainability' as anything but some Marxist, United Nations, plot (or conspiracy, if you prefer) to overthrow American ideals (which historically is itself subject to a deep moral debate), so these skeptics become resistant to intelligent debate and fall in for rumor; the land where the politicos dwell. Whereas, if we change to more positive approach, the "new hot pitch" in real estate is now 'resilience.' As Holding puts it, "language creates our reality." Where "sustainability" can tend to permeate with negative tones like "dark optimism", the word "resiliency is filled with light and hope, signifying a rebounding or springing back."
"Language creates our reality."
A few towns are now requiring all new houses to get solar panels. For a vocal few, that's just sure-fire 'socialism.' For other people, it's common sense and thinking for the future, and getting us closer to living off the grid and fossil fuels. People making a living off those fossil fuels don't like that so they spend loads of cash to buy them more time to create new legislation or build loopholes, but sell the rest of us down the river. Renewable energies show that we are resilient enough to take our challenges head on and to develop for the good of ourselves and for all generations to come. It's sustainable and resilient, but just not to the guy fronting the construction.
Merriam-Webster defines "resilience" as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." The land suffers great misfortunes and change in certain hands. Real estate is about location, location, location. That also so happens to be the death knell for forests and wildlife.
The concept for sustainability in land acquisition for development is supposed to mean that we can grow in balance to limit our impact on the world. This must occur at the local levels in our community, even perhaps to the point of the micro-level of your own front yard. Given that most of us are not prone to living this concept of community to its fullest, the idea of the land being resilient enough to tolerate human conquest seems a bit more honest. Living with humans is a matter of survival, not sustainability. If you want to decimate the planet (or a corner of it) for profit, at least give it the proper name and don't hide behind empty platitudes.
Nature is much more resilient than we are and it'll wait for us to go away and then reclaim our petty efforts for self-grandeur. The sustainability movement is a tool that asks us to grade ourselves to attain something our centers of power and wealth are not usually ready to concede. Holding to the action of resiliency begins with neighborhoods, and the people, standing up for their future. This requires education and action. If you are not willing to force sustainability concepts, and grow as a civilization with resiliency, then all that remains are empty words and vague law terms, with fanciful speeches, and with no meaning for their practitioners.
We like words because they're cheap and make us feel good. We don't afford action because that's hard. Resiliency is as good a word as any - but ultimately decide if it has meaning. Think real hard.