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Aug 30th
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What Does Sustainable Actually Mean?

earth_handsSustainable. Wikipedia describes it as “the capacity to endure.” While the definition is convenient, clean and nice, how it translates into reality is highly subjective. What you think of sustainable living might be quite different from what I think. Furthermore, I find it a common capitalistic affliction to know what sustainable living is and consciously not live that way.

All the submarine and terrestrial volcanoes in the world produce roughly 200 million tons of CO2 annually and humans, through the burning of fossil fuels, production of cement and gas flaring produce 30 billion tons annually. According to the United States Geological Survey, it's equivalent to adding 8,000 medium-sized active volcanoes like Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii, to the planet. As a marine and environmental scientist, I see daily how the natural world is viewed and used as an infinitely forgiving resource or a place where you can dump or trash. I have to work in my own life to develop myself out of old habits and into more ‘sustainable’ ones. From a global perspective, I have a very high carbon footprint and from a national perspective, it’s low. It’s easy to get lost in the computations of carbon footprints and to justify consuming with responses like, “I try to be a locavore,” “I buy organic,” or “I conserve,” but we are still left with the questions: is it sustainable? And, am I doing enough?

Mostly my answer is, “Hell no—it’s not enough.” We need to keep raising the bar every day. We need to take our love of this planet and each other to the next level. I can easily get wrapped up in the cynical drama of “we are screwed”— no one wants to conserve, Americans barely recycle 30 percent of their waste and folks still refuse to see that our carbonaholic lifestyle is transforming our biosphere.

But then I let go of the cynicism. I channel my despair into action. I channel the sadness into love for humanity and the other animals that share this planet.

What’s great about being a Californian is that we grant ourselves permission to live, love and play without boundaries, arguably more than any other culture. A small group of us took on ‘greening’ Santa Cruz LGBT Pride this year and it was a treat! Connecting with the community and enrolling their support, we introduced composting for the first time, solar power, got most of the vendors to use compostable materials instead of plastics, dressed up the bins with eucalyptus garland and flowers and educated the public about what’s waste and what’s actually useful as compost or recyclable material. We dressed up for fun and we turned trash into treasure.

Sustainability to me not only means shifting from consumer to conserver, but also shifting from resignation and despair to a playful community making a difference. We don’t have to look far to see that there is a lot of work to do; there is a lot of work to do. We have great passion and great vision for what’s needed and wanted in these times. If we source ourselves from this passion and use that to connect with the larger community, we transform life. As Santa Cruzans we can draw on each other and lead the way to a brilliant new reality. We’ve cultivated a rich culture grounded in nature. Now it’s time to empower our visions and take them to the streets, to our workplace, to our festivals. When we dressed for fun, connected with others and decorated those compost bins, I found that the community was nourished and delighted—and for me, this is what sustainable means.

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Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

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