Beyond Sustainability

February 15, 2009

“Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to maintain a certain process or state. It is now most frequently used in connection with biological and human systems. In an ecological context, sustainability can be defined as the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future.”
This is a definition of sustainability published by Wikipedia.

I read it today and it occurred to me suddenly: what if there is more? What if the opportunity is much greater than “maintaining process or state”, maintaining the status quo? Why stop at maintaining? Why not transform? Why not open to new opportunities that we have never dreamed of before?

It is wise, conscious and loving on the part of humans to repair the damage we have caused to nature, to Earth. It is a smart thing, a good thing, to reverse the way our life is organized, to change our destructive habits, to avoid further damage and to reinstate what has been broken or interrupted. It is a good thing to fix things.

But does nature really need fixing?

When I listen to the old oaks growing on the hill by my house, when a young cherry tree stops me as I pass by it to help me open to who I am exactly when I need help, when I feel the way slender and graceful eucalyptus trees shift and reorganize gently to open to sun or frost, it becomes clear to me that I am the student, they are the teachers.

Nature is present, aware, conscious as what it is, as who it is, effortlessly, naturally. Trees open and adjust to the reality around them. They are who they are only, fully, completely, holding space for everyone and everything else to open to their uniqueness. Gently, graciously, respectfully.

Whenever I open to their presence it becomes clear to me that I am the student, they are the teachers.

There are more ways to be than that of the mind. There are more ways to organize in relationship to this reality than the way of human society. What we are striving to achieve, what we are looking for, studying for, practicing for – love, harmony, balance, peace, enlightenment – is common in nature, it is normal in nature. It is normal for trees to be who they are, it is normal for humans to be who we are.

If we listen. If we open to the opportunity of nature being more than a fragile system that needs fixing and saving, if we accept nature as an ally, as a partner, as a peer, the opportunities of transformation and growth will become unlimited – because there are no limits in nature.

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