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Sustainability Essentials: 8 Takes & 1 Screen-shot

Papers · January 25th, 2012

I once vainly believed I could capture the essence of Sustainability in just a few pages of text, if not a single page. It ought to be possible, I thought. Someone might ask me about it at a cocktail party, or I might have to make the much sought-after “elevator pitch” for it. Judging by the Sustainability Concepts Paper I eventually wrote, I suspect my fellow elevator traveler would have got out, well before I’d gone into Earth orbit and back, still pitching all the way.

It is hugely difficult to grasp the essence of Sustainability. Towards the end of my sixth re-draft of the Concepts Paper my exasperation was encapsulated in the thought that what I was really about was writing a “Manual of Practice for the Whole of Life”.

Here is another attempt to express then the essence of this thing called Sustainability: my “takes” on the matter. I am planning eight or so of them, posting them at a rate of roughly one a week.

I am somehow reminded in this of the title of the Woody Allen film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex — But Were Afraid to Ask. Substitute “Sustainability” for “Sex” and transpose “Ask” to “Hope to Answer”, and you might sense some of my trepidation in venturing to suppose my eight takes will be half-way adequate.

Take 1 The Fall — and Rise — of the Engineer in the “Great Sustainability Debate”
Take 2 Plurality, Plurality Everywhere: the Social Dimension of Sustainability
Take 3 The Lofty Heights of The Economic Feasibility of Sustainability
Take 4 Appetite, Metabolism, and Pulse of the City
Take 5 Smart and Deft: The City as a Force for Good in its Environment
Take 6 Road Without End: Adaptive Community Learning
Take 7 Leading to Learn: Topping the Triple Bottom Line
Screen-shot Taking Stock: The 1-15 Template
Take 8 Everything You Always Wanted Done for Sustainability

Contributed by M. B. Beck

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