Really, the comments are the best thing about this blog. Distracted as I am by the book project, I dash off an idle post in 15 minutes, suggesting we might consider substituting the word durable for sustainable, and I get a rich lode of comments that expands the thought in several directions, argues pro and con, adds Dutch, French and Spanish points of view, and even finds its way back to antiquity, per Mark:
It seems we haven't really improved upon the Romans in this, as I think the three legs of Vitruvius's stool of good architecture and urbanism: commodity (well fitted to human needs); firmness (durability and resilience); and delight (self explanatory) pretty much cover it. In our discussions on sustainability and resilience we hardly say anything about delight/beauty forgetting that we have to love places to want to preserve them.
... and -- in the same spirit of nothing having changed -- ends (for now) with a fine evocation of apocalypse from frequent commenter Wad.
The world we live in wasn't designed to be sustainable. Biological cells die and regenerate, soil becomes less fertile, land erodes, water evaporates, metals oxidize and species go extinct.
In the human-built realm, nations break away or are swallowed by conquest, empires fade away, languages appear and disappear and communities are settled and abandoned.
Stasis would be a wonderful alternative to the bleakness of chaos. Yet it has its own perils.
Agricultural societies that produced monocultures of a specialized crop suffered famine when some force disrupted growth cycles.
Supply regions specialize in the extraction of a good, but are blindsided when resources are exhausted. Industrial societies aren't immune, either. Economic policy in the Upper Midwest starts and ends around reactivating factories and producing more stuff again.
Sustainability itself is unsustainable.
But as with any satisfying apocalypse, you've got to care about what came before it. So browse the whole comment thread! More book snippets soon.