Some people consider learning sustainability to be “giving in,” to doom and gloom. On the contrary, it is taking a step toward control, rather than waiting for things to happen.  Recently in a meeting I attended the participants were bemoaning the possibility of losing their electricity. “I’m not going back to that,” was the basic sentiment.  Given the recent electric outages seen in India, I think people need to really look at what they really NEED electricity for.

Thankfully we do not have India’s climate, though it is warmer than it has been. We do not have India’s population, though cities are certainly may sometimes feel that way.  (Until you’ve visited and seen what it’s really like, I would think.)  But part of the reason that they “went down,” was because they had too much draw on the system, from rapid growth, high population and economic prosperity in certain areas.  I’m sure that not all of those areas that lost their electricity get to benefit from that prosperity, but they still suffered the inconvenience.

We are in a position now of having some “pre-cognition,” that we can restructure our electrical needs, sources and priorities, before we suffer such a tremendous loss. Whether our society makes those changes is not totally in our control, but how we deal with that issue, is very much up to us. Sustainability gives us choices in how we use that electricity, and how that energy is attained.

I look at reskilling and sustainability as enabling people to continue the quality of life that they choose to have. For some, that means making their own clothing, canning, and growing their own food. For others, it means they can find a source of healthy food, make informed choices about what clothing is well made, or what is well built, or allows them to find trained people to perform services that they cannot do for themselves.

Though the status of “peak oil,” is up for discussion, there is no question that air quality is improved when fewer drive, or people drive fewer miles.  For those of us who do not want to live in the city, having local businesses, stores, and a strong community allows us to protect our own healthy by walking to those services, or minimizing how much driving we do.  If we maintain local communities people have a greater sense of security and connectedness, and that growing sense of isolation that comes from technological advances will have a counterpoint.

I would also argue that sustainability also builds our democracy, as people feel more connected to their community, their families and their own responsibilities.   Where recent generations, including myself, figured we could drive or travel wherever we wanted to, that is no longer true. The cost of flying, both financial and ecologically, is going up again.  The reasonability of “going home,” for the weekend is fading too, so many people are choosing to stay in their home towns.  This means they are more invested in their local government, as well as their state and federal ones.  People want to be listened to, and if that can’t happen, they need to feel empowered in other ways. Sustainability makes that possible, by giving more personal power and more information to make political decisions. Our nation gets stronger with more confident citizens, and that happens by building empowerment, and sustainability is part of that.