Sustainability Lives!

The key challenge of our time is to create sustainable communities. If we don't attain sustainability by the year 2030, according to the Worldwatch Institute, then we are not going to survive as a human race. So this is very serious.

How do we do that? I see three important areas: education, business, and politics, not necessarily in that order. At the Center for Eco-Literacy, we've been surprised at the acceptance of ecological literacy among educators. We're working with the California Department of Education on a book that will go to all the state's public schools to show K-12 teachers how to teach ecology. I think the book is going to have a tremendous impact.

In business, I talked to managers about systemic approaches to management 10 or 15 years ago, and they were very interested in it. But they didn't want to hear about ecology because they associated ecology with Greenpeace and EarthFirst and radicals. Now this has changed dramatically. When I talk about ecology now, I no longer need to persuade the managers. Sustainability is now very widely accepted as a legitimate issue.

In the area of politics, I've just come back from Europe where a number of countries have already started implementing ecological tax reform, which is a shift of the tax burden from income tax to a tax on energy and raw materials. I believe that once this is put in place in Europe, then Japan will follow very quickly, and then the US will have to follow, too. Once this happens, it will change the whole business climate.

I also have great hopes for Al Gore because he's going to run for President in 2000, and I cannot imagine any other platform but an environmental platform in the year 2000. I think we'll see more emphasis on the environment in the next four years as Al Gore works out in detail what sustainability means in politics.

Fritjof Capra is a physicist, the author of The Tao of Physics, The Turning Point and, more recently, The Web of Life. He is co-director of the Center for Eco-Literacy in Berkeley.
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