Sustainability is not just ensuring energy security
and combating global warming, it is a much wider concept. While this approach is
useful for tackling today's pressing issues, sustainability requires a more
holistic approach. Let's go back to the beginning of what it means to be
sustainable, and remember that its historic sense may be more appealing to some
than its more contemporary environmental connotation. The call for environmental
awareness and conservation has dominated politics, the media, and, more
recently, social media in the last few decades. The term ‘sustainability’ has
become synonymous with the concept of a greener future.
Throughout contemporary history, sustainability has been a major challenge for humankind, spanning
the century-long worry of securing a sustainable energy supply and the hunt for sustainable
transportation. Horse excrement was a big issue for city people in the late nineteenth century. With
100,000 to 200,000 horses working as
transportation in New York City, the city's streets began to see increasing piles of horse dung (up to 60 feet), bringing negative health and environmental repercussions for the city's residents. Not only did the horses generate waste faster than the city could clean it up, but they also cost the city enormously in terms of revenue.
Technology, of course, came to the rescue in the end. Public-produced automobiles quickly displaced mass defecation, protecting the city from serious environmental health risks. Automobiles were thought to be the answer to the horse-dung problem. Nonetheless, it's interesting to draw a comparison between the environmental and economic consequences of transportation a century ago and the consequences that automobiles, the ‘solution,’ have now. Our quick-and-easy-solution way of life appears to suggest that we haven't changed much since the days of horse manure: we're still expecting and hoping for a magical technology to fix our issues. However, we do have the technology to save the day, in a sense. Sustainable purifying facilities, efficient electric cars, renewable energy, and recycling materials are all technologies that already exist. The underlying issue is that we have largely remained silent while the consequences of our decisions have disrupted the environment. As a result, as much as it is about the actual decisions we make, sustainability is about having the ability to reflect on and assess our consequences.