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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 656)...

    I am troubled by your answer to question 637. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your intent, but as I read your answer you are denigrating the idea that "exploiting natural resources to human advantage" might be a good thing to do for the people that the Peace Corps volunteers are trying to help, that is people who live a marginal or even a sub-marginal existence. Even keeping in mind that "development" can be, and generally has been, very destructive, your answer seems to exclude any consideration of the possibility of "sustainable development" as a workable and useful concept.

    ...and the response:

    Perhaps it will help if you understand that I'm using the word "exploit" in the sense of "to use to the detriment of," as in "exploiting your friends" or "exploiting workers." In this sense, the people of our culture are exploiting the world's resources to their fullest capacity. "Sustainable development" may be a useful concept, but as far as I can see, it's more an ideal than a reality. The efforts in the direction of sustainable development are laudable, but I feel it would be more nearly the truth to speak of them as efforts in the direction of less UNsustainable development. For example, Ray Anderson's efforts with the Interface Corporation have certainly rendered its enterprise less unsustainable, but it's impossible to run any global business in a way that is literally sustainable. A sustainable practice is one that can be sustained INDEFINITELY--and to see some examples of those among humans, you have to look into our tribal past, in which people lived in a way that sustained them for more than three million years. If you can find an example of present-day "sustainable development" that would plausibly meet that standard, I'd be delighted to see it.

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