The Sustainabilitist Framework

A 10,000-foot overview of the sustainabilitist philosophy, along with its principles, concepts, applications and methods.

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In this world, we engage in many practices to satisfy a wide range of aspirations and needs.

However, not all of them are very well thought out, which means that they have the tendency of bringing us down.

And that's where the sustainabilitist framework, and the sustainabilitist philosophy in general, can come in handy. 

Part 1

Introduction

Sustainabilitist philosophy summarized

Icon of signpost pointing to two opposite directions

In a nutshell, the sustainabilitist philosophy is simply the belief that:

Human activities, across various levels and disciplines, should be carried out in a way that addresses our needs in a sustainable way.

Here, "sustainable" simply means "able to be maintained or continued", which means that a sustainabilitist is simply a person who engages in the management of well-being — through a long-term, omni-directional perspective.

In practice, this means that they are committed to getting their needs met without destabilizing their surrounding. This is done by subjecting their practices within the "hard limits" imposed by the system — instead of the other way around.

On the surface, this seems like a very basic thing to do, not to mention that the word "sustainable" is really kind of weak. After all, no one wants to get by at a merely baseline, "sustainable" level.

However, since sustainability automatically implies long-term, omni-directional viability, being sustainable is actually generally difficult. If anything, being sustainable usually implies an ideal way of fulfilling our needs.

Because of that, sustainability doesn't need to be replaced by other "stronger" notions such as regeneration or abundance. If anything, these notions are more likely to lead us to very different paths and consequences.

So the point here is that "sustainable" is actually a very, very strong word. And since many aspects of our life are far from ideal, this leaves the sustainabilitists with an interesting role to play in this world.

Part 2

Sustainabilitist Principles

The 6 foundational criteria of sustainable practices

Icon of globe and surrounding points

The world we create for ourselves is highly complex, and not all of our practices are sustainable. 

Because of that, some criteria are needed to ensure that we don't destabilize the system again and again. These criteria form the basis of the so-called sustainabilitist principles, and they are:

Minimalism

Sustainable practices are minimal in terms of structure and cost. This can help reduce the amount of potential points of failure, thereby preventing catastrophes from occurring as a result of over-leverage.

Example: Adoption of minimally-processed food

Efficiency

Sustainable practices have very little bottlenecks and are efficient at getting the job done. They are often the hallmark of an elegant design.

Example: Running as a way of maintaining health

Durability

Sustainable practices can last a long time, sometimes even up to perpetuity without collapsing.

Example: Use of 100% ceramic cookware

Resilience

Sustainable practices are resistant against impacts and unforeseen events, and are good at absorbing the damages caused by them.

Example: Talking daily 10-hour fast

Holism

Sustainable practices are holistic in nature, and exhibit minimal side effects to other areas of endeavor. As a result, the progress gained by them is often omni-directional.

Example: Developing ideal human characters

Self-Sufficiency

Sustainable practices function with very little reliance on external sources, which makes them more autonomous and less prone to inefficiencies.

Example: Daily routine of introspection

By evaluating our different practices along these six dimensions, we can compare and contrast their relative sustainability levels — and hopefully avoid costly mistakes many years down the road.

Part 3

Applications

Scope of sustainabilitism, from large to small

Icon of atom with protons and electrons

Usually, when people talk about sustainability, they are referring to the higher-level, system-related topics such as:

Environment

Deforestation, air pollution, biodiversity, soil degradation, water quality

Energy

Coal and oil extraction, nuclear proliferation, solar energy, hydroelectricity

Economy

Urban development, circular economy, inflation, sovereign debt management

Society

Ethical consumerism, public education, poverty, affordable housing

Policy

Direct democracy, resource redistribution, social services, population control

Waste Management

Zero-waste movement, biodegradable plastic, composting, landfill management

However, we can also apply the sustainabilitist philosophy to other more practical, relatable areas of human endeavors such as:

Habits

Procrastination, self-destructive habits, effective planning, habit formation

Relationship

Attractive character, authentic vulnerability, relationship management, toxicity avoidance

Lifestyle

Artificial stimulation, human domestication, music therapy, sustainable home

Business

Sustainable marketing, offer crafting, fair trade, culture building

In other words, while the sustainabilitist philosophy might sound relatively obscure, its applications are not:

  • Sustainability applied to distribution of capital becomes sustainable capitalism
  • Sustainability applied to physical survival becomes survivalism
  • Sustainability applied to food/land management becomes permaculture
  • Sustainability applied to learning becomes learning optimization
  • Sustainability applied to exploitation of resources become sustainable development
  • Sustainability applied to personal finance becomes financial independence
  • Sustainability applied to environment becomes environmentalism
  • Sustainability applied to stress becomes stress optimization

If anything, sustainabilitism can be thought of as an extension of many existing philosophies and topics, without necessarily adhering to any particular ideology.

However, since topics related to the sustainability of individuals tend to be rarely explored, these will be the topics we'll be mostly focusing on: stuffs that actually concern you; stuffs that you can act upon.

Part 4

Foundational Concepts

Recurring concepts critical to an accurate understanding of sustainability issues

Icon of concept map

When discussing sustainability, certain key concepts often recur in a wide variety of contexts. These concepts include, among others:

Sustainability Awareness

Sustainability often starts with the awareness that the current state is unsustainable or suboptimal. This awareness is what makes improvements possible.

Example: Realisation of being stuck in a codependent relationship

Pseudo-problems

Non-problems that appear like problems, primarily due one's lack of holistic understanding or long-term perspective.

Example: Failure to satisfy populational energy demand

Pseudo-solution

An ill-thought-out solution which appears to solve an issue by masking the symptom — leaving the cause of the issue unsolved.

Example: The use of blue-light blocking glasses

False Dilemma

The false illusion that only two extreme choices are possible, when in fact many intermediate alternatives are available.

Example: Vegetarianism vs carnivorism

Snowball Effect

An effect where the level of impact goes from negligible to unavoidable as a result of aggregation or compounding. When it is good, it results in virtuous circle. When it is bad, it results in vicious cycle.

Example: Cross-pollination of genetically modified seed

Ripple Effect

An effect in a highly interconnected system where tiny change in one source can have lasting effect on many others. It can manifest as either side benefits or unintended externalities.

Example: Consumption of refined carbohydrates on cognitive health

Omni-directional Sufficiency

The idea of merely bypassing the thresholds in all designated dimensions, as opposed to maximizing a single measure or metric.

Example: The concept of freedom (vs. the concept of abundance)

Hormesis

The phenomenon that things that are damaging in large quantities can be actually beneficial — when administered in small quantities in a controlled setting.

Example: High-intensity interval training exercises

Duality

The phenomenon of possessing qualities of both opposing extremes. It is a necessary component of a sustainable system, where minor perturbations allow the system to self-improve and evolve.

Example: How violence leads to the reduction of violence over time

Although some of these concepts can seem a bit abstract or counter-intuitive, their understanding are often crucial in getting an accurate assessment of the state of the matter.

Part 5

Bottom-Up Approach

Sustainability at a micro, individual scale

Icon depicting a grass-root, bottom-up approach

Sustainabilitists are obsessed about sustainabilisations. For that, they can either focus on the macro, systemic-level, or the micro, individual-level.

Here at The Sustainabilitist, we just so happen to focus on the second approach. This is sometimes referred to as micro-sustainability, or the bottom-up, grassroot approach to sustainability.

After all, the basis of sustainability ultimately comes down to us, the individuals, and without a solid grounding on sustainability awareness and practices, changes on the higher-up structures can be temporary and futile.

The good news is, on the daily level, this approach to sustainability is actually surprisingly simple, and can be summarized in 4 steps as follows:

1

Take a look around your life and surrounding

2

Identity aspects where your practices are unsustainable (or of suboptimal sustainability level)

3

Devise plans to improve upon their sustainability level

4

Act on the plan and make pivots accordingly

In fact, you can even start the process right now, by taking a look around your health, finance, relationship and hobbies. You don't have to be unsustainable to be a sustainabilitist — just a will to optimize the states of matter will do.

After all, our time and resources are running whichever we do, so we might just as well make an intentional choice and dedicate our life to long-term freedom and harmony.

At the end of the day, it simply won't cut it if we just say "we don't know what we want as a whole, and where we're going." That's why we're still here practicing our craft — so that we can continue to sustainabilize and improve.

Better health, better finance, better community, better world

Start with our Introduction Series to see how the sustainabilitist approach can do for your life and your surrounding.