Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spirituality of Sustainability

This is a start:

The Spirituality of Sustainability or the sustainable Spirit

Sustainability has been defined many different ways, so for the purposes of this paper I will define it as the ability of any organization of nature (humans are part of nature) to be able to sustain itself in a way that promotes the existence and continuation of the environment including the organization in question for future generations (no time limit implied or specified, assumed infinite).

This is the dictionary definition:

1: capable of being sustained

2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

Another set of definitions have been proposed as working or planning or implementation definitions for real like situations and they follow:

                  "Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles" (Rosenbaum, 1993).

                  Sustainability "identifies a concept and attitude in development that looks at a site's natural land, water, and energy resources as integral aspects of the development" (Vieira,1993)

"Sustainability integrates natural systems with human patterns and celebrates continuity, uniqueness and placemaking" (Early, 1993)


Using my definition I believe opens the discussion of sustainability to the realm of spirituality. We need to define spirituality which in some ways is even more difficult than sustainability. The dictionary definition:

1. The state, quality, manner, or fact of being spiritual.

2. The clergy.

3. Something, such as property or revenue, that belongs to the church or to a cleric. Often used in the plural.

Some other definitions:

                              a sense of purpose

                              a sense of ‘connectedness’ – to self, others, nature, ‘God’ or Other

                              a quest for wholeness

                              a search for hope or harmony

                              a belief in a higher being or beings

                              some level of transcendence, or

                              the sense that there is more to life than the material or practical, and

                        those activities that give meaning and value to people’s lives.

            Spirituality is stories.

            Spirituality can be defined as a search for the sacred, a process through which people seek to discourse, hold onto and, when necessary, transform whatever they hold sacred in their lives [the sacred includes the concept of God, divinity, transcendence, and ultimate reality].


As we can see in the definitions above, any discussion of the spirit assumes an unknowing of ‘things’ including any time limit or any other limits we define in our ‘real’ world at present. We now can say humbly that we do not know anything about the limits of sustainability, what it can or cannot do or what value to place on it in comparison to other standards of society or nature. Or can we? Humans have given value to spirituality since the beginning of our existence and it has no limits.

As society has developed we have focused and placed our attention on the ‘value’ of things or labor. This has become part of how we communicate to one another.

I have made several statements that are broad and diverse and many might not see any connection with the spirituality of sustainability. I have tried to lay a foundation of the context of my relationship to sustainability. I believe each persons individual understanding of sustainability can be different but is connected by the spirituality of sustainability. 

There is much more on this subject with many links of other people who have written about this that I will put on this blog in the near future.

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