Sustainability is a Mirage


I was listening to Moira Gunn interview Mary O'Hara-Devereaux about her book Navigating the Badlands : Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation. The "badlands" are, in O'Hara-Devereaux's analogy, the rough times of transition in the world's history. She makes a case that we're going through the badlands now.

I was struck, however, by what seemed to me a glaring incongruity in some of the things she said. She said (I'm paraphrasing) "strategy disintegrates in the badlands. You need to be flexible and agile." This resonates with my experience. But, through some disconnect, the next topic was sustainable energy.

So I was left to wonder, how can you create a plan for sustainability in the face of uncertainty? Whenever you hear someone talk of sustainability, you get the feeling that the lack of sustainable energy sources is a recent problem. Its not, of course--burning forests for wood wasn't sustainable. So, we found something else (coal in that case) and stopped doing it.

Don't get me wrong, sustainable energy would be nice, but sustainability makes the problem much more difficult. Rather than looking for the next stone to step onto, we've got to somehow find the answer for all time. We don't. There's no doubt that we have to find something other than petrochemicals to serve as an energy source, but finding the next stone will be hard enough without looking for Nirvana. Personally, I think nuclear energy has a lot going for it.