Sustainability: an Exquisite Fabric

Sustainability is a concept I often mention to people I meet, often producing blank faces or a response like “What’s that?… Like environmental stuff?… So, are you a greenie/tree-hugger/environmental loon/hippie…?” Well for starters, I wouldn’t call myself any of those things, although I’ll admit I do have ‘greenish’ tendencies and I can be a loon sometimes. And I think sustainability is much more than just about ‘environmental stuff’.

It appears to me that sustainability is not a term that is well understood in the general public or one that people can easily relate to. People often associate ‘the environment’ with it. I get the sense that ‘the environment’ is often seen as something that is over there, something that the ‘greenies’ go on about. Even after studying sustainability for three years and working in the environmental industry for ten, I feel inept at describing what it is. In fact, the word is really starting to bug me! So, here’s my attempt to explain it in a simple way keeping in line with this blog’s theme of yarn and fabric.

Imagine that you are making some multi-coloured fabric composed of three different types of yarn. The three different yarns are called ‘environment’, ‘economy’ and ‘society’. To make a beautiful and durable piece of fabric that is appealing and useable, each of these three yarns needs to be woven or knitted together using a particular pattern. If the yarns are different thicknesses or strengths then the resulting fabric may be of a poor quality or it might break where the yarn is weak. In today’s world, the ‘economy’ yarn is often more dominant than the ‘environment’ or ‘society’ yarn, sometimes causing the ‘environment’ or ‘society’ yarns to break. The overall result is a fabric with holes in it.

Sustainability is achieved when the fabric is composed of yarns which complement and support each other weaving or knitting together in an intricate way so that none of the individual yarns are destroyed by the other. In this way, an exquisite fabric is produced. Sustainability is about realising that every fibre of these three yarns (‘environment’, ‘society’ and ‘economy’) which represent aspects of our world is connected: people and cultures, financial and political systems, air, water, soil and creatures large and small.

Ok, so how do we go about making this wonderful fabric? Easier said than done… some masterful weaving skills are needed I think! In future blog posts, I hope to explore ways of realising sustainability. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote from Chief Si’ahl (Seattle), a famous North American Indian chief of the Duwanimish Tribe, who aptly said in 1954:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

For more ideas on sustainability, check out these great quotes compiled by the Eco Warrior Princess.

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