Sustain-ability Kickoff

I kicked off this blog -- a year ago this week -- with three areas I wanted to focus on:
  • Practical Magic Project Management (PMPM)
  • Black Swan divinations
  • Sustainable sorcery (with apologies to Jason and his wonderful "Strategic Sorcery")
The first two have gotten a ton of attention over the past year, but the third not so much. Until now. This week, I'm kicking off a new series, one designed to use the principles of sustainable systems design -- and a large dose of magic and divination -- to help you create a more sustainable life.

I wanted to start by reposting my original introduction to sustainability, which I posted on the Spring Equinox last year: 


Sustainable development isn't just about the environment...

An interesting example of a word with a broader meaning that's been, in recent years, co-opted exclusively for a single domain. Sustainable has come to be a synonym for environmental, that is "good for the environment," "green," or "ecological." Not that this is bad or incorrect, but it's a somewhat limited application of an extremely useful paradigm. According to our friends at Merriam Webster, sustainable is:

: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
: able to last or continue for a long time

While the second definition is specifically related to natural resources, the first and third aren't necessarily so. Let's take a couple of examples:

Rob has been burning the midnight oil. He's a full-time university student, who also works part-time at a local gas station and fixes computers on the side for cash. He needs to have a 3.8 average to keep a small scholarship. He's also trying to get through school with minimal debt and therefore has three roommates and eats a lot of ramen. This summer he will take off to Alaska to work in a fish cannery for extra cash. Despite working at a gas station and for a fishery, Rob isn't particularly anti-environmental. He's happy to recycle and doesn't even own a car. What Rob is doing isn't wrong or bad. In fact Rob is making a major investment in his future. But it is not sustainable for the long run. He can do it for a little while, but not forever. The pace would just use him up. It's a good idea while he's young, but soon, he knows he will graduate and begin drawing salary. Then, he hopes, he'll be able to get some regular sleep and eat a salad from time to time.

Charles and David Koch are worth about $34 billion a piece. They come from a well-known oil family and inherited their money from their father. In addition to their planet destroying oil business, the brothers seem intent on using their wealth for evil. But while the oil business is in no way sustainable, their wealth certainly is. Like many in the 1%, they use their power and money specifically in order to sustain and grow that wealth over time and for their family, contributing to income inequality in the US. Their family estate will certainly continue over time.

Notice in these examples, I'm not trying to apply a value judgement. Rob may be a good guy and I'm pretty sure the Koch brothers are archons walking around in human douche suits. But the point is that they are both making choices to either foster or ignore sustainable systems for their lives.

XKCD -- of course
Sustainability (of ecology, body, mind, and spirit) are important and relate closely to both risk mitigation (which I've written about a bit) and change management (a critical skill for our mercurial world). If your life is sustainable, that means it can continue indefinitely without getting used up or destroying itself.

Sustain-ability is the talent -- magical and mundane -- that allows us to create a life that sustains us and others and is sustainable. It sounds obvious, but it's actually really hard to do in modern Western Society (tm). After all, the opposite of sustain (to not use up) is consume (to use up). And the thing that is most likely to be consumed in our consumer society are the people in that society.

But we are not them, we are us: "We will not be consumed. We are too prickly to be eaten. We are poison to the system." We can use our skills and sorcery to create a life that does not consume itself or us as we live it. That's my goal. Won't you join me?


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