February 2004: "Beyond Sustainability: From Scarcity to Abundance"

Author: David Schaller (Sustainable Development Coordinator) 

David provides an antidote to the belief that sustainability is tied to notions of scarcity and austerity, where our valiant efforts at best only slow the rate of decline. Our tendency to focus on specific pieces of the larger puzzle forces us to develop sub-optimal solutions. Our economic models encourage us to compartmentalize, leading to a belief that all transactions must be 'zero-sum' (your success must be at my expense). In contrast, David proposes that we look towards the sheer abundance and diversity of Nature for inspiration. Scarcity of trees used as firewood can become an abundance of uses, from cooking oils to powerful medicines. Natural systems have evolved not only to eliminate 'waste', but to turn waste into valuable resources. Nature has much to teach us in the separation of complex materials, such that our industrial systems no longer demand ever increasing amounts of resources, and then burn or bury the end-of-life products.

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