The environmental movement is in love with the word ‘sustainable’. Admittedly, it’s a wonderful word in the purest sense, meaning; 1. capable of being sustained, 2. capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.
Who doesn’t want those capabilities? Yet, ‘sustainability’, like everything else good and pure, has seemingly been hijacked by the ruling oligarchs as a way to impose more top-down control of society. Passionate environmentalists are beginning to realize that the only way to affect real change is by becoming sustainable individuals through self-sufficiency. This focus on individual empowerment will naturally lead to increased liberty, as it minimizes the tactics used by mega-cartels and government to control our core needs of food, electricity, or medicine. Living in an environmentally and socially sustainable world should be an obvious goal, but it won’t work if imposed at the barrel of a gun.
Removing individual liberties through restrictive legislation can never amount to sustainability, since much of the proposed legislation doesn’t even ‘minimize the long-term effect on the environment.’ Banning incandescent light bulbs, for example, in favor of more energy-efficient but chemically-poisoning CFLs, demonstrates that our leaders have no genuine desire for the environment, but only wish to control consumer choice. It’s similar to favoring nuclear power because it seems cleaner today, yet when the reactors meltdown, or waste needs to be disposed of, it irrevocably ruins Mother Nature. Legislating something as petty as what type of light bulbs we are allowed to purchase only indicates the tyrannical level of micromanagement intended for their view of a sustainable society.
Those who are trying to force lifestyle modifications on the public, while they jet-set and limo around the world, have forever stained the authenticity of the ‘sustainability movement’. However, if we, as environmentally-concerned individuals, focus on becoming self-reliant, we will not only break our dependency on many of the establishment’s control mechanisms, we’ll also limit our impact on the environment and gain the ability to ‘be sustained’ — the two core definitions of sustainable. That’s the real triple bottom line for environmental activists: sustainable self, sustainable environment, and genuine independence.
If the current oil spike continues, the industrial food and big box store machine will grind to a halt, or at least make non-local food impossibly expensive. Perhaps then the masses will discover how much power this system has over them. We’re already seeing the makings of a global food crisis. By producing some of your own food and buying the shortfall from your local organic cooperative, you can come close to food self-reliance. This type of food production/consumption is healthier for us, it reduces the impact on the environment in countless ways, and it breaks our dependence on factory food.
Furthermore, when we apply some level of alternative energy, we not only stand in defiance of the corporate energy state and the endless resource wars, we commit to cleaner energy technology. When we can harvest our own fresh water, we can survive without chemically-altered “public” services. When we become a producer instead of a consumer, we inch closer to breaking free from the rat-race economy while limiting our rubbish. And when we learn to make and apply natural health remedies, we discover a level of freedom from the toxins of Big Pharma.
By the very nature of becoming more self-sufficient, we’ll limit our individual footprint on nature by maximizing the use of all resources. Instead of being ‘sustainable’ by taking things to the recycling center, anything useful is re-used. Mason jars are used for canning, shampoo bottles are refilled with homemade or castile soap, empty milk jugs are used to start seedlings in, and so on. In short, very little waste is produced when we are committed to becoming independent from the consumer culture.
Because the only genuine path to sustainability in any broad sense is through one person and community at a time, the environmental movement must shift its focus to personal self-sufficiency. And because sustainability cannot be achieved through forced coercion, gently educate your peers when they express interest. On a broader scale, propose ideas to make your neighborhood or town less dependent on outside influences and seek like-minded volunteers to assist in projects.
Ultimately, in order for environmentalists to affect real change we must do as Gandhi said and “be the change you want to see in the world.” This doesn’t mean preaching, picketing, or protesting. It means living the change. And the most effective way to live a more sustainable existence is to dedicate ourselves to breaking free from the poisonous system itself.