Definitions Vs Reality



The fact that we find ‘sustainability’ difficult to define (and many academics spend a lot of time trying to do so) makes no difference whatsoever to the real-life issues that the term has come to represent.   

This point was made very clearly at an international conference Sustainability and Heritage: How Can the Past Contribute to a Sustainable Future? held at the University of Highlands and Islands in Orkney 29 – 31 May 2012. At this conference John Mussington, a marine biologist and inhabitant of the low-lying Caribbean island of Barbuda (which is increasingly ravaged by the effects of climate change), stated:

“For us, sustainability is not an academic discussion but a matter of life and death”

It is important to realise that whilst we in northern Europe and other parts of the Western world have benefitted from the exploitation of global resources, we are, as yet, are largely unaffected by the consequences of our actions – these are currently being felt most keenly by communities in other parts of the world, such as Barbuda.

As campaigner George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian weekly, (10 February 2000): ‘Every time someone in the West switches on a kettle, he or she is helping to flood Bangladesh’.