Exercise #2 :: Voice

Different discourses.
The word “sustainability” has evolved into an umbrella term referring to any activity that, once created, maintains itself indefinitely. The Iroquois Confederacy mandated that chiefs consider the effects of their actions on their descendants through the future seven generations, which has inspired many of our contemporary concepts. An operational definition in use by our government (from the 1987 WCED Brundtland Report) states that sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

An economic system viable over time describes "Economic Sustainability". It pays off the initial capital investment and is able to produce income covering operating costs. However, these costs do not always take into consideration the “costs” of sea-level rise, habitat destruction, desertification, etc. and focuses only on monetary costs.

Environmentalists phrase sustainability in terms of repairing and sustaining our environmental world, often to the detriment of our manufactured world and without consideration for established economic systems. This is a general concern with the current semiotics and language of the environmental movement. The negative outlook towards humanity, technology, business, and the need for sacrifice turns the public off.

Social Sustainability focuses on meeting the necessities of people in a community. Things like food, shelter, equality, education, creating an engaging social environment, etc. A society that does not look after its own cannot be sustained, social resources cannot be squandered any more than physical ones.

For something to be truly sustainable it must fulfill all of these requirements (these are an example of just a few of the many area that must be considered). Any one without the others does not create a complete picture. (e.g. A business that focuses on providing green services without being able to pay rent will not be around long, and thus will not be able to perpetuate its ideals, not be able to prosper from the initial capital investments of labor, materials, start-up-cash, and thus not be “sustainable.” )

(see a visual representation of this idea here »)

Assignment text on micadesign.org