This morning a coworker linked me to a description of a new PhD to be offered by RIT.
Sadly, the topic and title for this new PhD is “Sustainability.” Linguists and Philosophers involved in the field of ecologically conscious design at all levels understand the problem with using the word sustainable to define solutions. The traditional, and literal, meaning of the word sustainable is: something capable of continuing in a constant state without maintenance.
Unfortunately, in the recent rush of Americans to define their Gore movement, the population and pundits have seized on the one word “sustainable” rather than other words better modified with items such as “conscious” or “aware” or “respectful” etc.
Sustainable is not the first word to be sacrificed to the Gore movement and it will not be the last.
So, let me introduce you to the new, mutable and ill-defined, meaning of sustainable.
The new definition of sustainable, for use in the 21st century, is “that which is capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment” … odd that the definition for sustainable must include a word that better suits the Gore movement … “environment.”
In the world of design, energy, and the environment there simply is no such reality that fits the traditional meaning of sustainable. And, truthfully, there is no such reality that fits the new meaning. Because, EVERYTHING that humans interact with via creation or destruction results in a long-term effect on our environment…and these long-term effects subsequently result in MAJOR changes to the environment.
Take a moment to close your eyes and picture a world without human intervention. There ya go, do you see all those insects? How about all those plants we call weeds?
Since man first walked and utilized fire, we have been DRASTICALLY impacting the world around us. Our changes are always for the long-term and never for the short-term. Basically friends, there simply is NO SUCH THING as “that which is capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.”
Nature came first, and nature will come last. Science can do nothing to negate this truth.
So, Rochester Institute of Technology, I wish you all the best with your new and state approved Doctoral Degree. May some good eventually come out of its science.