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Thread: How much longer before 'sustainable' becomes a meaningless buzzword?

  1. #1

    How much longer before 'sustainable' becomes a meaningless buzzword?

    Sustainable design, sustainable energy, sustainable farming, it just sounds like everything today has to be sustainable. I get the same feeling from hearing 'sustainable' that I did from hearing eOnlineAnything.com in the late 90's. I predict we will get sustainable Coca-Cola and sustainable internet access within five years.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Marketing can make any word useless after a couple of years. How many times have you heard "mixed use development" to describe a strip mall and an unconnected subdivision of tract housing? I see it all the time but they say it's mixed use because they're building multiple uses at the same time even if there is no connection.

    So expect sustainable to be slapped on anything since there is nothing to stop the marketing and PR departments from doing it.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Just a thought. If these terms were defined in statute, like if in the zoning code there were a definition for "mixed use development" that specified things like mixed-use buildings, then couldn't they be prevented from using those terms in their advertising if their developments didn't adhere to the legal definition?

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    All that the word "sustainable" should really mean is something that can be utilized by every human being without exhausting a natural resource at a faster rate than it can be replaced by nature.

    Certainly, almost anything is unsustainable if used by all 6.5 billion people. That's how a quarter billion people in the U.S. have been able to consume oil like it's infinite. Except, now that the burgeoning billions of 3rd world countries are becoming gas guzzlers too, it's becoming all too obvious that Americans have built their country on a transportation paradigm that has no future.

    Their have been many cultures that have survived on a fish based diet, but as our population swells to 10 billion, an increasing number of activities that were once in balance with nature are becoming unsustainable on the present scale of civilization, as is true of commercial deep sea fishing.

    Wind and solar energy are replaced instantaneously; wood is replaced at the rate of decades to centuries; oil is replaced at the rate of hundreds of millions of years. Obviously then, wind and solar energy are by definition sustainable, meanwhile the fuel on which our current infrastructure is based is highly unsustainable. Still, the density of wind and solar is so much less than oil, that it is inconceivable that we will be able to afford to be as wasteful as we have been with energy no matter how many wind turbines and solar panels we build.

    If you really know what the word "sustainable" means, you ought to be able to discern where it's usage is meaningful and where it's usage is dubious. It's really a pretty simple concept. The Native American cultures knew it well. American culture is so so submerged in a sea of hyperconsumption that the notion of "sustainability" may seem like psycho-babble nonsense to many of us.
    "To me it makes good, good sense
    Rock and roll, ain't noise pollution." - AC/DC

    Quote of jordanb: "Just a thought. If these terms were defined in statute, like if in the zoning code there were a definition for "mixed use development" that specified things like mixed-use buildings, then couldn't they be prevented from using those terms in their advertising if their developments didn't adhere to the legal definition?"

    I wholeheartedly agree. There ought to be precise legal terms applicable to specific processes and products for each industry that clearly delineate what constitutes sustainable practices.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Just a thought. If these terms were defined in statute, like if in the zoning code there were a definition for "mixed use development" that specified things like mixed-use buildings, then couldn't they be prevented from using those terms in their advertising if their developments didn't adhere to the legal definition?
    The problem is that 'mixed use' is a horrible term to begin with. It can literally mean anything that has more than one use. A spork is mixed-use. A pickup truck is mixed-use. If you put legal restrictions on it, it will create a shitstorm of unimaginable proportions. Conservative talk radio hosts will burst into flames.

    Sometimes it's just better to invent a new word.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    at least, by the very fact that the word is 'popular' gives hope that the concept is important... even if the word is not used correctly, maybe eventually the meaning behind the word will also catch on.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  7. #7
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    IMHO, it's a meaningless buzzword already. That doesn't mean that it isn't a useful word though, it just needs more context and explanation. What I'm seeing now is that groups are attempting to define more carefully what it means in the context they use it in.

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNL
    IMHO, it's a meaningless buzzword already. That doesn't mean that it isn't a useful word though, it just needs more context and explanation. What I'm seeing now is that groups are attempting to define more carefully what it means in the context they use it in.
    I agree. I think the word was so misunderstood when it was first applied to land development that it has become nothing more than cliche. It seems like people slap a sustainable label on everything... now excuse me while I have my bowl of sustainable bran flakes.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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