True sustainability has to be measured on such an unimaginable scale that I fear I may not be featured in a great deal of it, historically speaking.
Somewhere in time lived a man of meager means by today’s standards. But when his fellows took stock of his wealth they marveled at the inspiration seen there. They wondered if they too could, one day have more than one pair of sandals or a bed of their own to slide them under or a piece of silver to offer a daughter’s suitor with shaky hands. They imagined themselves sitting and contemplating while other faceless people, of the station these dreamers currently occupied, broke their own bodies to grind, stack, fasten, build and fill. They wanted to have his problems to solve. But since they could not know his problems, what they truly wanted was to be free of their own. They were not and he was not.
His problem was simple. He needed to help his people solve a riddle of survival. Their sprawl and usage therein had outgrown the imaginings of their forefathers. They faced an inconceivable foe. A slow flood that would drown them where they stand without ever noticing rising waters all around.
We can only guess at the outcome. Did he devise an answer that led to more answers and ultimately a solution. Driving them all into a utopian precursor of our modernity? Or did he eventually lose his connection with the fire in his belly and lay down to watch the inevitable pull apart what had taken his people generations to stitch together?
Either way his thousand years is one second in the thousand years that is our scope of history. At best his solution is a hiccup in time. His life’s work a barely readable pixelation in a 60″ flatscreen. A repair in the fabric of an eight foot wide spider’s web, invisible to the naked eye and irrelevant to the work of the future.
As we try to help and open ourselves up to self judgement. Sustainability is on our lips and hope is in our urgency. As we shriek it from the mountaintops we hear the empty echoes through the canyons of the past. Canyons cut by glaciers of underestimation. Echoes coming back in unrecognizable voices and indecipherable languages reporting acts of inconceivable change and belief. And in the end they don’t leave a trace.
Don’t be discouraged by that thought. Sustainability is, itself unsustainable but without it…. nothing changes and when things finally change, it puts us right back where we were… a utopian place when things are happening on such an enormous stage that it looks like the Sahara. And each of us is trying to fix one grain of sand so that we can have a better desert.