A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about “beyond sustainability”—decrying (or at least bemoaning) the flabbiness and vectorlessness of the term (as Braungart, Ehrenfeld, McDonough and others have been wont to do), the erosion of its essential and once provocative value. Perhaps it’s a kind of linguistic inflation, rendering each word worth less even as it become more popular. Or perhaps it’s something about the very concept the word entrains, of a world of stasis, without evolution, innovation or delight.

So I pledged to go cold turkey, to eschew “sustainability”—at least the word—for a week or a month, I forget how long. It doesn’t matter, really, since I failed utterly.

It was a failure born partly out of failure of discipline; I got lazy, as I reached for better words, more compelling turns of phrase, and reverted to habit when I didn’t find them quickly. And it was partly born out of the challenge of landing something meaningful with conversation partners who have learned, over past decade or so of successes, to listen for the S word.

What do I prefer? Well, I like regenerative. A lot. (A bow to Bucky and Bob Rodale.) I like its subtle invocation of life force, creativity and possibility. Restorative is ok, but seems to face backwards. Flourishing (thank you, John Ehrenfeld) is potent, and fecund, but seems to take a lot of explaining. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Tell me: How do you speak about this world we’re trying to bring into being?


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