The scope of sustainability.

There are two kinds of games – games that end and games that don’t. The rules are fixed and rigid in the first game. In the second, the rules change whenever necessary to keep the game going. James Carse called these finite and infinite games. We play finite games to compete and win. They always have losers and are called business, banking, CEO, war, NBA, president, Wall Street, politics. We play infinite games to play; they have no losers because the object of the game is to keep playing. Infinite games pay it forward and fill future coffers. They are called potlatch, samba, prayer, culture, tree planting, storytelling, and gospel singing.

Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on earth, is an infinite game, the endless undertaking of generosity on behalf of all. Any action that threatens sustainability can end the game, which is why groups dedicated to keeping the game going address any harmful policy, law, or endeavor. …They want to keep the fish game going, so they go after polluters of rivers. They want to keep the culture game going, so they confront oil exploration in Ecuador. They want to keep the hope game alive in the world, so they go after the roots of poverty…

…Some people think the movement is defined by what it is against, but the language of the movement is about keeping the conversation going, because ideas that inform it never end: growth without inequality, wealth without plunder, work without exploitation, a future without fear.

-Paul Hawking, The Ecologist

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Social Theatre

Yesterday I went to tour a conservation group’s headquarters with my sustainable management class.

On the way out of the building, we were commenting on all the litter tangled in the landscaping in front of a neighboring building.

“Well, you know, [our state] is one of the top five worst states in terms of littering,” one of my classmates said. “It’s terrible. I mean, look at all that garbage.”

Everyone agreed that littering was gross and heinous and needed to be fixed and people who littered were unbelievably irresponsible.

Fast forward to five minutes later. We’re piling back into the car,  and the driver happens to glance over into the passenger foot well.

“Oh, EW,” she says, “a cigarette. Ugh. My boyfriend is such a slob. Can you throw that out?”

One of the passengers snatched up the cigarette, tossed it out onto the sidewalk, and slammed the door closed. We drove away.

No one said a word.