If we want something we love to last we need to look after it. If we want our dog to live a long, happy life we feed it well, give it a drink and bring it in on cold nights. We walk it, toss it the odd bone, take it to the vet for a regular checkup and give it a cuddle during a thunderstorm. We take care of it. We all understand how we need to look after our dog. Why do we find it so difficult to take the same care of our natural world – our life support system?
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is a pretty long word that’s tricky to spell. It describes the ability for something to keep going at the same rate and in just as good condition as before. It is tempting for humans to think that we should be able to do anything we want. Unfortunately nature does not work like this – our planet has limits. Every living system can only take so much use before it starts to weaken and decline. When this decline reaches a tipping point the living system slows down and can never reclaim its former glory.
Where is sustainability?
Sustainability is everywhere. Mostly we all live within our financial budgets because we have to. When the money’s gone, your pocket money has dried – that’s it. We can spend no more. Most of us avoid this situation because we want money to spend. We know that we have to spend sustainably (within our limits) if we want to spend in the future. So we don’t go broke. What would happen if you had a limitless supply of money? What would you do? What do the richest corporations in the world do with their money?
What is living sustainably?
We’re pushing nature to the limits. In Australia we are living like we’ve got four planets. We don’t have another planet (or four) to help us out. Not even a neighbourly planet to lend us a cup of sugar, a new forest or a fresh river. Our use of our Earth’s resources has risen from half in 1961 to almost one and a half today. We are taking more than our Earth can make. We are taking out much more than we put (deposit) into natures bank account. We recently asked a banker about this. He said, ‘If Earth was a customer we wouldn’t give it a loan.’ Is being sustainable worth the effort? Would it really help us? Who would it help?
Is Australia doing a good job at creating a sustainable future?
Being sustainable is something that we have just started to think about. Some of us haven’t started to think about it. Unless we all decide that living sustainably is important it will be very tricky to convince anyone else. We are often too busy, playing sport, eating lollies, doing our homework and upgrading our gadgets. When was the last time you talked to your family and friends about living sustainably? To stop and pause to look at the whole world. How do we get ourselves to pay attention to and act selfishly for our greater good and see beyond our own lives?
What can we do?
We are all in this together. Can we afford to keep going as we are? The sooner we start the easier it will be later. When we borrow something we know we should return it just as we found it. This might be a good place to start when thinking how we can change. How can you get your school to head towards sustainability? Is your family interested in living sustainably at home? How can you get other people to listen to you and start to live sustainably? How do we get people to start thinking differently and take action? What will it take?