For many years now, I’ve been reviewing the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World annuals in Natural Life Magazine, because they are cogent reports on how environmental, social, and economic factors are impacting each other and our Earth. This year’s report is particularly interesting, I think. State of the World 2013 asks Is Sustainability Still Possible? – i.e. can we get there, and what happens if we fall short?
The word “sustainable” has become practically meaningless and is used mostly as a marketing term. Most “sustainable” products are just less bad than conventional alternatives. Because of the power of what the Worldwatch Institute calls “sustainababble,” the world has largely ignored the rich spectrum of political, cultural, and technological changes that would set us on the path to a truly sustainable future. Although the science of sustainability is clearer than ever, we still face the question of whether transforming our society into one guided by sustainability is even possible – i.e. have we passed the tipping point and if not, is there the will to do what is necessary?
This year’s book features contributions from Worldwatch Institute staff as well as from environmental thought leader David Orr; freshwater expert Sandra Postel, ecological economics pioneer Herman Daly, The Story of Stuff author Annie Leonard, science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, and others. And, in doing so, it joins a growing chorus of voices suggesting that we do activism differently.
“Environmentalism, first and foremost, continues to be a game of defense – working to reduce overall carbon emissions, chemical releases, and forest loss – rather than a battle to transform the dominant growth-centric economic and cultural paradigm into an ecocentric one that respects planetary boundaries,” says Worldwatch Senior Fellow and State of the World 2013 co-director, Erik Assadourian. “The environmental movement will require a dramatic reboot if it is going to reverse Earth’s rapid transformation and help create a truly sustainable future.” This book points us in that direction.