Beyond Sustainable

Like a great green sleeping dragon, the sustainable world has woken up after a long sleep, tickled awake, no doubt, by new growth in the economy.  The continuing drought and recurring hurricanes have helped roust the dragon, because they hurt.

A new poll from Yale reports that a stunning 88% of Americans think ‘the US should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs’.  This is evidenced by the fact that major educational institutions in Saint Louis are on the move, and connecting around a constellation of green conferences settling into place in early November.

Non-profits are often the first movers, and Trailnet leads the way with the “Livable Saint Louis Conference” each year.  This year’s keynote speaker, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, spoke compellingly about turning a tired city into a regional magnet for young talent.  He talked at length about building cultural and athletic attractions, creating pedestrian and bike access, incorporating streetcars, reclaiming waterways, and enriching quality of life.  I noticed he didn’t mention the word ‘sustainable’ even once.

Webster and SLU recently teamed up to sponsor speakers and a student competition based on global ‘One Planet’ living principles. Washington University has jumped into the game with significant muscle and big name speakers in their first “Sustainable Cities” Conference, in partnership with the City of Saint Louis.  Grade schools have lots of gravitational pull, and are often the last to move, but have been conferencing for a while now under the “Green Ribbon Schools” initiative.

As the sustainable field unfolds, it’s worth watching vocabulary evolve, because language reveals collective understanding. The world ‘resilient’ has long been bandied about in both the sustainable and educational fields, and is now being picked up like candy by mass media in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  It’s a good word for thinking about how to move forward, along with words like locavore, biomimicry, solving for pattern, and plentitude.  The word ‘restorative’ is bubbling up strongly now, and on the very cutting edge of the movement, watch for the word ‘generative’ to pop up.

The great green dragon is a modern elephant, and we are the blind men. Whether we call it local food, social justice, climate reality, quality of life, healthy living, systems thinking, or just plain green, what we are doing is really quite simple: We are simply waking up and re-making our world into a more beautiful place for all.

Bring on the Green Dragon!

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About @jzikah

Founder of Green Spiral Tours, providing adventure maps and field trips. Explore your place on the planet!
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