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Glimpses of Earth: Sustainability in the Crucible of Experience

Ally, Matthew C.

It is not enough just to 'love nature' or want to be 'in harmony with Gaia.' Our relation to the natural world takes place in a place, and it must be grounded in information and experience.—Gary Snyder

Since it first came into prominence in the early 1980s, the concept of sustainability has found its way into virtually all discussions of the future of Earth and its inhabitants. Though its meaning seems straightforward enough—i.e., that we must behave today in such a way as to preserve the prospects for future generations to flourish (cf. World Commission on Environment and Development 1987)—the range of specific inflections is notoriously broad. The term is used by free-market neoconservatives, by liberal welfare statists, and by anarcho-socialists. It is used by atheists, agnostics, and believers. It is used by advocates of hands-off back-to-nature lifestyles, by advocates of hands-on earth stewardship, and by advocates of heavy-handed programs for geoengineering. Some even speak of a "sustainability revolution," an emergent global paradigm shift that will rival the industrial revolution in historical significance; and others of a global commitment to sustainability-oriented social and environmental activism now in the hands of the largest movement the world has ever seen. Revolution or not, sustainability is for everyone, it seems. They cannot possibly all mean the same thing by the term.


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Also Published In

Union Seminary Quarterly Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
Published Here
September 10, 2015