Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sustainism as a cultural direction

Thinking about sustainability can take many different forms. I mostly approach it as a purely scientific or technological exercise and try to find ways how existing processes can be transitioned into a more efficient and sustainable state. We can also view this as a moral or philosophical, even spiritual topic to ponder.  In a recent post I pointed out Rifkin's thoughts towards an empathic society.

But another angle is the how sustainability is represented in arts and our cultural interactions. In an interesting art publication Schwarz and Elffers have coined the term Sustainism as a sequitur to modernism in order to bring together the various elements. Sustainism is both global and local. It is also digital, connected, networked. It is community minded, transparent, equitable and diverse. It is both high tech and low tech. It realizes that things are interconnected and interdependent.  It is cyclical, seasonal, low-energy, minimal-resource, long-term. Do more with less, as Bucky Fuller would say. Sustainism transcends and includes modernism. Sustainist are participants in all aspects of sustainism.

While we can argue about the immediate value of such an approach of cultural framing, I often feel the context of Sustain-"ability" is to narrow in a sense that it mainly aims to minimize the consequences of today's economic models. It is also not forward looking enough. We need a new cultural paradigm, not just a small infusion of adjusted values into the existing modernist machine. Sustainism tries to establish that new paradigm. I would consider myself a sustainist for sure.

Music also tackles sustainability. Often in a less positive, yet not unsubstantiated way. Take a look at Muse's "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable". Awesome!

"The 2nd Law: Unsustainable"

All natural and technological
Processes proceed in such
a way that the availability of the
remaining energy decreases

In all energy exchanges, if no energy
enters or leaves an isolated system
the entropy of that system increases

Energy continuously flows from being
concentrated to becoming dispersed
spread out, wasted and useless

New energy cannot be
created and high-grade
energy is being destroyed

An economy based on endless
growth is unsustainable


The fundamental laws of
thermodynamics will place fixed
limits on technological innovation
and human advancement

In an isolated system, the entropy
can only increase
A species set on endless
growth is unsustainable


Logo taken from Michiel Schwarz & Joost Elffers, Sustainism Is the New Modernism, 2010 /

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