PROJECT: Promoting sustainability is complicated by the fact that the benefits of sustainable behaviors are enjoyed by future generations, not the person who enacted them.

Sustainable development and design emerged in the 1960s, many decades after the preservation and conservation movements were established. It signaled growing alarm regarding news stories reporting the destructive capacity of atomic weaponry, chemical pesticides like DDT, mono-agriculture, the diversion of watercourses, the extraction of minerals, the emission of heat and noxious gases into the atmosphere, commercial forestry, to name a few. But it wasn’t until 1987 that the political application of sustainability was defined and popularized. That is when a report entitled “Our Common Future” was issued by the World Commission on Environment and Development, a United Nations organization. Better known as the Brundtland Commission, the report defined the concept of ‘sustainable’ as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”24 It contained two key concepts: to give priority to the needs of the world’s poor, and to impose limitations upon technology and social organization if that is the only way to achieve sustainability. In essence, the report signaled a radical shift of government away from short-term development for humans, toward long-term and need-oriented goals for all species.

Sustainists are dedicated to assuring that future generations receive natural resource inheritances and biological diversity bequests. Securing such ecosystem legacies requires adjusting the behaviors and consumptions patterns of current human populations. Some artists in this section pursue sustainability in the manner of preachers whose sermons convey the consequences of sinful behavior. The unsustainable behaviors and practices these artists indict include industrial and bioengineered agriculture (Critical Art Ensemble); polluting municipal sewage treatment (Haacke); disruptive hydroelectric dams (Ji); squandered energy (Starling).

Other artists in this section resemble preachers who promote virtuous behaviors. The sustainable practices  they uphold include developing pastoral agriculture (Dory); foraging and wilding (Fournier); deriving energy from water (Franceschini); reforming food production (Harrisons, Sherk); preserving watersheds (Harrisons); redesigning urban infrastructure (Hundertwasser, Potrc); innovating biotic waste water treatment (Ngo); producing sustainable meat and leather (Tissue Culture & Art); providing sustainable skills (Yeh). 

READ TO LIFE! Any three chapters above.

PROJECT: Promoting sustainability is complicated by the fact that the benefits of sustainable behaviors are enjoyed by future generations, not the person who enacted them. These behaviors may even entail effort such as composting, recycling, and restricting energy consumption, and self-sacrifice such as minimizing travel and refraining from purchasing trucked commodities if local alternatives are available. As a result, advocates of sustainability cannot promise immediate gratification. Instead, they must appeal to morality.

Convince your classmates to resist an available and affordable luxury by writing a sermon, or composing an advertisement, or producing a poster, or designing an ap, or creating a billboard.  You might emphasize that this behavior is benevolent and righteous. Or you might look for a way to make it sexy, or stylish, or pleasurable. Or you might adopt an approach used by Dory, Fournier, Franceshini, Sherk, Hundertwasser, Potrc, or Yeh.

RESEARCH / DISCUSSION: The term “sustain” has three meanings. Two meanings identify its goals: “to keep in existence” and “to supply with necessities.” The third meaning reveals how this goal can be achieved: “to support from below.” Supporting from below suggests that sustainable environmental interactions tend to be small and local. Provide evidence to either prove or disprove the assertion that interactions on an intimate scale are more likely to be sustainable.