by Eric Santillan
Sustainability has become a byword in the world these days. Companies are talking about it. People like Al Gore popularized it with his series on Climate Change. With the mining debate raging all over Mindanao and personalities like Manny Pangilinan and Gina Lopez involved, it is at the forefront of media and our minds.
But what is Sustainability?
The UN Brundtland Commission on March 20, 1987 defines sustainability as development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” I think that’s still the best definition of sustainability around.
Sustainability has several aspects. There is the aspect of ENVIRONMENTAL management. There is a science behind taking care of the earth and ensuring that we as a species endure. Then there is the aspect of ECONOMICS, which looks at our consumption of limited resources. A third aspect is the SOCIAL impact of organizational and personal decisions we make. These three aspects or three pillars of sustainability is also known as the Triple Bottomline — in any endeavor, there is a need to reconcile economic demands (the Financial bottomline), social equity and the protection of the environment.
For me, sustainability is the intersection between society and spirituality. For one, sustainability is a perspective. It is a way of living that challenges the way other people live. The general view is one of selfishness–I will get as much from the earth as I can because I might find myself lacking. Sustainability, on the other hand, asks us to view the world with the Economics of Enough: to stop consuming in wanton abandon, to share, to make decisions because the future matters.
Sustainability also asks us to have the Spirituality of the Sabbath. To, as it were, have the courage to rest on the “seventh day” and wait for the world to catch up with us. It is also a call to social action–inserting itself in the political process. The Earth Charter speaks of “a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.” This is because a culture of peace ensures that we will endure to the future.
Perhaps we can learn from the Iroquois and how they see sustainability.
The Great Law of the Iroquois states: In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.
Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, writes: “We are looking ahead , as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. . . .” “What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”