Sustainability: Embodying an Ecological Worldview
Today the word “sustainability” can be heard on the lips of economists, environmentalists, politicians, and industrialists alike. Does “sustainability” mean the sam e thing to all of them? When economists talk about sustainable growth they are usually referring to the continued and steady growth of country econom ies; environmentalists refer to keeping within the ability of nature’s resources to replenish them selves; politicians are concerned ab out the management of resources and the long-term protection of the expansion of their economies; industrialists worry about the viability of their enterprise in the face of dwindling resources. These notions do not necessarily reflect an ecological worldview that is consistent with the communal reality that is life on earth. In these views, sustainability is a function of human enterprise, rather th an a relational way of being in the world.
In an ecological worldview, sustainability needs to be concerned for the long-term viability of the “other.” Sustainability calls us to use only what we need for life and to leave space for the other. It is a call to live justly on a fragile and limited planet. In the Global North, it m eans de-growth, not growth. It means that we must die to ourselves so that others might live. In the Global South, it means that the marginalized get fed first. It means that human enterprise respects the right for all other specie s to flourish and to sustain themselves. Sustainability as a way of life means that limits to economic growth act as a challenge to humanity’s capacity for egocentrism . In this light it is a spiritual exercise and a theological principle that underpins Jesus’ call to reconciliation and healing with and among all who dwell on this earth.