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.
updated: 17 Oct 2003