In “Sustainability” from the series: Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen by Emily Yates-Doerr, Maria Garcia Maldonado, and Rosario Garcia Meza, Doerr and co. talk about the importance of a reference frame when addressing global topics, in this case the way in which sustainability is presented globally, and particularly the way in which the United States and the western world in general approach sustainability. While the western world has progressed rapidly in terms of technology and mass production, it tends to assume that it has many if not all solutions. When addressing the concept of sustainability, it goes to follow that the western development of this practice will be the ideal manifestation of sustainability, an example that should be used as a model for the rest of the world. Like science, religion, and philosophy, the western world now seems to be pushing it’s approach to sustainability on the rest of the world.
While Doerr and co. spend some time pointing out the ways in which western world’s approaches to sustainability do not apply ideally to the entire world, what I feel this article is really getting at is that each culture, each natural environment, each society has a form of sustainability that suits them best. There is no end all be all approach. Something that shows this well is the variation in dialect surrounding the concept of sustainability. While we have our terms, other cultures and languages have words which fit their styles of life, their approach to land use, their resources in ways that describe the practices which they employ. Sustainability is not a universal end all be all concept, it is an approach to the world around us which varies in practice from place to place. That said, it may not be our place, as the western world, to implement our views of sustainability onto other cultures and countries.
Our approach is shaped by large communities, big businesses, big agriculture, national and international commerce. It is far removed from the small scale practice of sustainability; ideas such as horticulture, local resource reliance, community gardens, and other small scale practices that we have historically dismissed, discouraged, and now no longer what shape our view of sustainability (for example look at the alteration of Hawaiian culture through the destruction of it’s local and sustainable practices during the time before the United States decided to invade). Our concept of sustainability is created to continue our way of life, and given the impact of our capitalist and consumerist mind state, it might be time that we think about learning from less developed countries for once.