Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I love the way the words 'sustainable' and 'sustainability'
keep morphing into exciting new meanings. The big shift
of course can be seen in the way that 'sustainability'—
which originally meant, and still should mean, 'a state or
situation capable of being sustained indefinitely'—has
come to mean unlimited growth by another name. From
a green point of view, a sustainable economy is one that
stays in a steady state, taking out of the world's resources
no more, or even less, than it puts back. Thanks, however,
to the dark art of greenwash, whereby resource-depleters
seek to put a green sheen on everything they do, creepingly
(and creepily) 'sustainability' in the mouths of big business
means being able to go on doing exactly as you've always
done, whatever the damage. Neat.

But wait, there's more. A few weeks ago I noticed somebody
saying that Christine Rankin's appointment to the Families
Commission might not be 'sustainable,' which excited in me
thoughts of Rankin being recycled or even organically
reconstituted. Now, just today, we have Finance Minister
Bill English saying that taking advantage of the housing
allowance paid to him is 'not a sustainable position.' Oh,
that's good. By giving some of the money back, English not
only does the ethical thing, he does the green thing as well.
Heroically, while saving his ass, he saves the planet too. An
inconvenient truth is recycled into an expedient act. Is this
man New Zealand's Al Gore or what?

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