A Google search of the web on ‘sustain
definition’ links to 4,420,000 pages. It seems that the sustain symbol
means all things to all people now as we argue that our lifestyles are
defensible. The truth of this depends on the criteria we use to measure
our actions – the norms of our friends or society or all humanity;
survival of oneself or our own children or generations for millennia;
our use of symbols such as social, economic and environment;
or the principles of physics, chemistry and biology.
It is generally agreed that if an action is
sustainable it supports, maintains or holds up the flows and balances
that sustain human life on Earth. These enabling flows and balances
continue to endure. Things remain whole. Our actions are wholesome.
The various, often contradictory, definitions stem
from the fact that human beings have an incredible capacity for
self-deceit. Thus it is possible that many of the criteria by which we
evaluate our sustainability are determined by our tendency to deny
stewardship/change. In order to conserve the potential of the sustain
symbol we need to be able to transcend our ego and embrace
stewardship/change as fully as possible.
We have great guides in the principles of
chemistry, biology and physics where these have been born of compassion
and its consequent state of being – science. In particular there is
wisdom in the Conservation Principle of Energy. This principle has been
subject to unparalleled, enduring, critical scrutiny for millennia and
has never been faulted. It suggests, for instance, that the universe(s)
is continual transformation – all is change – and we are mortal
beings amidst the flux. Thus the meaning of the sustain symbol
continually alters.. What we consider sustainable in one moment may well
be considered unsustainable in the next moment. A requisite of a sustainable
life is a spirit of continual honest inquiry and humility.
Conserve the sustain symbol by employing it
with compassion. In this state of being science flourishes and we are
better embrace our roles as stewards amidst change. Thus our children
will inherit all the possibilities we inherited.
Perhaps the most
insightful and wise graphic symbol
ever generated in recorded history
Etymology sustainable, sustain
"bearable," from sustain = able. Attested from 1845 in the
sense "defensible;" from 1965 with the meaning "capable
of being continued at a certain level." Sustainable
growth is recorded from 1965. Related: Sustainability
Sustain: late 13c., from
O.Fr. sustenir "hold up, endure,"
from L. sustinere "hold up, support,
endure," from sub "up from
below" + tenere "to hold"
the rewards of being a conservator of the potential of our greatest
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