The Sustainability Revolution provides a broad portrait of a paradigm shift, as the sub title claims. Although I checked this out of the library, this is a book to own and refer to especially if you are interested in furthering sustainable best practices or even wondering what they are. Sustainability can be a challenge to get understanding and organized around and this book neatly categorizes it in 7 chapters and concludes with a substantial resource section; it is well referenced throughout for additional follow-up.
First we read about how sustainability's environmental roots were expanded to include consideration of the 3 E's, ecology, economy and equity; sustainability therefore looks at the interdependencies of the 3E's and engages a diversity of stakeholders when we broaden the undeniable scope of impact. Ecology is the environmental consideration in which we shift to a long term perspective, acknowledge and respond in turn to our dependence on our life support systems. Looking at economy we see a healthy environment and a healthy economy coexisting, not the opposition of these as is often still purported. The human well being requirement of the sustainability triangle is referred to herein as equity or equality as it acknowledges that the well being of the individual is dependant on the well being of the community and calls us toward a spirit of cooperation and ethics within the distribution of basic resources such as food, shelter and water and a greater emphasis on the value of education. The author then proceeds to describe sustainability principles in 5 basic categories, Community, Commerce, Natural Resources, Ecological Design, and the Biosphere with education as a key component of each as we weave our way into the sustainable path. Each of the respective principles are presented in a separate highlighted box within each chapter and then commented on by the author.
Sustainability and Community describes tools created by task forces and working groups to tackle the challenges of bringing the 3E's into balance by implementing long term systematic approaches at all levels, local, regional, national and international communities. These include the Ontario Roundtable on Environment and Economy (local initiative,) the Minnesota Planning Environmental Quality Board Principles of Sustainable Development for Minnesota (regional,) The Netherlands National Environmental Policy (national,) and the Earth Charter's Commission and ICLEI (international.) All told these community based principles integrate a diversity of perspectives and interests toward defining and working toward a shared vision for a sustainable future.
Sustainability and Commerce reveals how business practices and the long term health of our planet and all its life forms are advantaged when business mimics natural systems rather than destroys them. The precautionary principle is presented as an ethical standard wherein the company realizes that it must consider its investors and the community as a whole, igniting the conscience of business activity; if the best way for an individual to live is to do no harm, the same standard, already prevalent in other countries, must apply to the organization that has more power to do harm if precaution were not taken. The precautionary principle for example is about placing responsibility to avoid harm onto the manufacturer. It was implemented in 2003 in San Francisco at the municipal level. The Natural Step can be used by a company to assess its impact with respect to the laws of nature as it combines science and management best practices. The Houston principles links labor with environmental movements and offers the power of creative cooperation to bolster communities through jobs and healthy ecosystems. The CERES principles offer a voluntary approach to organizations that seek a conscience by providing a framework in which sustainability practices can be adopted in a supportive manner, and includes a risk reduction clause; in a sense the CERES principles leverage peer pressure and provide sharing of sustainable successes among its participants.
Sustainability and Natural Resources describes the challenge for industries directly benefiting from resource extraction, the fuel from the former industrial revolution, and our shared need for survival such that even the American Petroleum Institute calls for conservation and investment in renewables but continues to ignore equity in resource usage. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood is widely available and promotes sustainable forest usage while calling on each of us to consider where and how the products we consume are appropriated as does the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that requires sustainable fishery. The Asilomar Declaration for Sustainable Agriculture practices speaks to the need to make our food systems sustainable; our broken system is witnessed in recent outbreaks of food contamination and the cost of food rising with the cost of energy as we grow our food large distances from the eating populations. Sustainable agriculture requires ethics for land usage and animal treatment and calls for a shift toward local food production, a recognition for the value of rural and farming lifestyles, heightened awareness regarding the true cost of unsustainable methods for growing food and the need to reduce government subsides that allow the mega corporate farm to continue in a manner that most would find unconscionable when its impacts are understood.
Sustainability and Ecological Design shows that nature holds the key to how we can design the new way of producing, living and working in balance as it considers the interaction of architecture, people and nature. The Hannover Principles require that decisions are made within the context of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit; considering these essential elements reveals humans as being a part of and interdependent with nature and requires responsibility for the consequences of design. A waste free holistic life cycle approach to manufacturing is described in detail by the Hannover founders in "Cradle to Cradle Remaking The Way we Make Things." The Todds' Principles of Ecological Design place nature at the center of the design process and incorporate energy, architecture, food production and waste management with "bio-regional" approaches. The Sanborn Principles further include the needs of communities bringing beauty and practicality into our living environments in the form of parks, culture and healthy buildings. The USGBC promotes its LEED standards to create and assure healthy and energy effective buildings a rising major area of focus in building and renovation because of the magnitude of long term benefits with minimal increase in short term costs.
Sustainability and the Biosphere calls each of us to reconsider our relationship with nature and each other, the crux of sustainability. Deep Ecology requires self realization to connect all human and non human life forms with the force that pulses through all life and cites diversity as a key value characteristic to remind us that we must act in line with the inherent value that promoting the well being of all life brings. The Charter for Rights and Responsibilities for the Environment extends Deep Ecology to all species further emphasizing interdependence with the natural world. The Biomimicy Principles as described in detail by Janine Benyus' book Biomimicry, reveal the lessons we can learn from nature such as the fact that nature recycles everything, nature runs on sunlight and nature uses only the energy it needs. I especially like the principle that nature taps the power of limits because it looks at nature's ability to leverage limits to its advantage such as seasonality instead of the 20th century human response to dare these limits into submission while breeding sickness. Permaculture Principles expands Biomimicry toward the integration of sustainability within economic, social and even political systems as these systems interact and can be designed to work with nature.
The final chapter, Future Pathways charts and links all these principles herein that I took the time lay out in as sense to honor the importance of this body of work and the contributors to the sustainable revolution many included in the "advance praise" intro. These principles in total call for stewardship, an intergenerational perspective and offer nature as our teacher and require that we reach far beyond `green,' as we forge the sustainable path. Concluding with a robust Resource section further affirms that you can read this book to get started or to keep going. After reading this book you will be able to answer the question "If the industrial revolution is over what's next?" and be able to describe, explore and embrace the opportunities and challenges that "the sustainability revolution" offers.