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A lesson in unsustainability

May 28 2009 | Fish, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

When I think of the United States right now I think of unsustainability.

I think of Governor Schwarzenegger telling his constituency you can either have this bucket of pain or this other one, but they are both going to hurt. They are both going to include massive hits to education (shorter school years just when we need longer), cuts to fire programs (as wildfires are on the increase), etc. I think of Chrysler and GM sending the equivalent of pink slips to their dealers. These are dealers that signed up years ago to be the distribution channel for those vehicles and are now being told "bye." I think of Social Security and Medicare which has been a slow-motion train-wreck for decades with generation after generation passing through Washington DC and not willing to label it as such.

Of course this is a generalization but when I think of Americans I think of people that hear these kinds new updates and get mad. We think "how can we possibly cut a school day?" or "how can GM shut my dealership?"... ""How dare you cut my medical benefit?" We tend not to think that the very lifestyles that we've all been practicing... are not sustainable.

When I think of New Zealand I think of sustainability. I've traveled both islands a few times and it is a stunningly gorgeous country. I recently read an article on the positive examples of Marine Protected Areas and they pointed to New Zealand, one of the few places on the globe that isn't third world and still has a vibrant fish population. I wasn't surprised at all. My sense is that the Kiwi's pushed back initially at the idea of Marine Protected Areas but then, due to their very nature... understood the positive, long-term benefits of keeping a fishery vibrant. My sense is that they understand their history better (and maybe due to their positioning on the planet also understand the need to grow what they eat).

For the past few years the very word "sustainability" was met with skepticism.

It seemed like people, the core majority of Americans, couldn't understand what it meant so they jettisoned it as some kind of environmental single-minded campaign to wrestle the keys to their Suburban away from them.

That disconnect always stopped me in my tracks... I didn't understand it. Now I do.

If the rest of the world lives the same way we do, we'll need five planet Earths to sustain us. That's not going to happen.

The way we live... isn't sustainable. It's unsustainable. That is what we're feeling... and we're going to feel it more and more in the decades to come.

That's what GM found out. That's what Schwarzenegger is telling Californians. That's what fishery populations all over the world are telling us.

That's what the planet is telling us.

The sea of red on Wall Street is a metaphor for this point. If the "American Dream" is for everyone to own a house... that's an ill-rooted dream. We know that now, it's not a dream... it's a nightmare. Sure we can easily point to this financial titan or that person taking more than their share... but the larger truth is that it's all of us taking more than our share... some of us are just more grotesque about flaunting it than others.

I'm no different. I'm not immune to this rampant consumerism. No one is. Green rock stars have their private jets, soccer moms have their cases of Fiji water in the back of their van and I have my larger-than-it-should-be quiver of surfboards.

Change can be hard.

Change can be freeing.

One thing is for sure, change is upon us all.

So what does this have to do with Surfrider Foundation? What does this have to do with the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches? Everything.

We know the oceans cover 70+% of the earth. We know that sea level rise us upon us. We know that fisheries are collapsing. We know that beach access is being lost all over the world. We know that waves are being lost. We know that development on the beach is a stupid idea. We know that ALL energy choices have ramifications on the environment.

We know so much.

Surfrider exists to be a conduit for that knowledge. If coastal water shortages concern you, there is a place to plug in. If the out-of-control, horrific volumes of single-use plastics concern you, we need people to work on that issue. If it's fisheries or waves, yep. Come on in.

I don't want to suggest Surfrider is THE answer to these larger problems as it's not. But it is ONE of the answers.

As you hear about layoffs, issues with banks or credit institutions, pressure on public institutions... before you start complaining about how these will impact your lifestyle, look at your lifestyle.
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