Sustainability is a Placebo Concept19 Jun 2016 1 min read (300 words)
I have come across examples of people who don’t understand the meaning an implications of the word sustainability. One particular conversation that I came across on reddit is where a user claimed that animal factories should not be abolished but on the other hand, become more “sustainable”. While animal factories can be a separate moral topic of discussion, it is not the focus of this writing. The point is the way people use the word “sustainable” as a label to describe things that are fundamentally unsustainable.
The misunderstanding that arise from the notion of factory farms, where factory is the center of the problem. By concept and definition, “factory” implies on production for the sake of consumption. It is not denied that there are many businesses and factories claim to take sustainability very seriously, but do not seem to grasp in concept. These factories choose a wide range of techniques such a re-usable biological waste, recycling materials, converting excess heat into electricity, etc.
Imagine 10 factories that dump all their toxic waste into one river at a rate of 50 tons per day. One of these made some modifications to its production process, and decreased this amount to 30 tons per day. The executive who represents the factory then goes claiming that the production process of his factory has become %40 more sustainable. This illustrates the problem, where a decrease in toxic waste has nothing to do with an increase in sustainability. This example illustrates the problem very evidently, but public relations staff can easily outsmart their clients into believing that they are indeed a “sustainable” factory.
Sustainability also seems to put an ideology with a positive agenda that wishfully seeks to keep the world’s plentitude constant over time. This principle is abstract and ill-defined which can be viewed as another selling point for consumerism. The example with the individual having a very abstract concept about sustainability, exactly illustrates how people blindly use the word sustainability while understanding its core concept in very abstracted and contradictory ways.