Not all things that are called sustainable today can be proven to be so. It is man-kinds’ nature to be near sighted and to not see the long term effects that they have on the earth. Whole civilizations have disappeared repeatedly throughout history and I believe it is due to a lack of awareness. In order to create things that are truly sustainable we must be willing to look further into the future and be able to understand and learn from the past.
The term “Sustainability,” literally means the ability to be sustained, upheld, or defended. It means to keep things moving at a particular rate, to support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; to encourage. More precisely in the headlines of today’s news we see the term sustainability linked to environmental issues. There are definitions that include environmental meanings. For example: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources, and: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. The term is frequently used to explain the continuing of something, but the meaning of sustainability implies that there is something worth sustaining to begin with.
The clean energy, and sustainability movement has been made possible only because of our ignorance and carelessness with the earth’s resources. We as humankind have been far too frivolous with what we have been given on this planet, and now we find ourselves backpedaling around the world and calling it sustainability. If we would have been conscience of the impact we were making on the earth fifty or even a hundred years ago we wouldn’t be in this predicament now. We wouldn’t have to ask ourselves why the lives we lead are so self-destructive.
I would like to take an example personal to me, the company Monsanto. I had never heard of the international farming corporation before coming to Hawaii, and when I was first introduced to them it was in a positive light. My husband was looking for a job and a friend of mine said her husband worked there and could probably get my husband on as well. I knew nothing of the history or rapport that Monsanto had here in the Islands and had no reason to be suspicious. If you look at the Monsanto website in particular you see listed the way that they define themselves as being a sustainable company. They list producing more, conserving more and improving lives as bullet links to their detailed contributions to sustainability. Not only that but they had decent wages and benefits, and I thought that my husband should look into it.
You see, Monsanto comes across as honest in their approach and lets the public know that they are using Breeding, Biotechnology, Integrated Farming Systems, Chemistry, and Agricultural Biologicals. If you look at their website they portray themselves as being an upfront company. They claim advanced technologically in producing mass amounts of food in quick resourceful ways and therefore they claim to be a sustainable future for growing food. Promising double sized crops and cutting edge science, they boast of pest resistant corn, and pesticides that can’t be washed off.
My husband’s response when I asked him if he would like to apply was “Monsanto is the devil!” and “What was I thinking!”
“Huh?” I was confused.
He explained to me briefly that the battle for land and the right to “use” or “misuse” it had been for a long time a highly emotional, even volatile argument here in Hawaii. That “the seeds that they are planting here are engineered and who knows what’s being changed to the evolution of the plant, the pesticides that they use are not being regulated, and they can spray whatever poison whenever they want.” He said that local farmers were seeing the effects on their own land and could grow nothing anymore. After such a vehement response I went digging a little.
Come to find out Monsanto has a long history of being unwanted here in the islands. The reality of their farming is that they do use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and pest resistant seeds. Sugar-cane and pineapple used to be Hawaii’s major export crops, but today Monsanto is replacing them with corn. But how the crops are being grown here, are the center for concern. The repercussions implied, are that Hawaii is being polluted with unknown, untested viabilities by using GMO and pesticides and that Hawaii’s residents and small local farmers are going to be the ones who suffer at the hands of the larger corporation.
If you pan back through the history you can see that it is a very passionate fight of local people vs. a very large no-faced corporation. The people of Hawaii are engaged in a fight to keep their idea of sustainability alive. They believe that only by keeping the earth clean can it truly be sustained.
The very argument that Monsanto is destroying the land, the crops and the way of farming here in Hawaii, is an argument of how to define sustainability. How can local farmers farm next to Monsanto who are using undisclosed pesticides and poisoning the earth from that point forth? What about the run off and smaller farms that sit lower than Monsanto’s farms? Those farms are left to fend for themselves. How is that sustainable? When the ground won’t allow things to grow because of poison, isn’t that they opposite of what the initial purpose was? It seems just a temporary solution, parading as one thing but in actuality adding to a global problem.
So I suggest that the next time you hear about something that is being marketed as sustainable that you take the time to really look into it. Do not be fooled by fancy words and false trusts, rely on your instincts and research anything that you have questions about. It's important.