How can we conceptualize what it means to be sustainable? To start, we can go by a definition: “pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques and resources that allow for continual reuse.” We can really ingest the words in this statement, understanding that to be sustainable means to live for the future, but it’s truly bewildering to consider how we can be conscious of each moment in the present in order to allow our future to exist. The glorified crux of sustainability has been a very difficult reality to achieve — perhaps even an unrealistic effort at this point. But I believe it’s equally as monumental to ask ourselves how we can each improve our own lifestyles in order to arrive that much closer to what has been widely perceived as impossible to reach.

Adopting a sustainable lifestyle has likely been one of the most radical phenomena to be theorized over the past few decades. We have been driven to live a modernized life by abiding to the constructs that were formed with the birth of industrialization in the 18th century. For our entire lives, we have eaten and thrown away our meals, used and thrown away clothes that have been too worn out, bought new vehicles and gotten rid of them once they were replaceable or irreparable and wore our bodies out with a scattered lifestyle until death. What we have failed to realize today is that those constructs can be now changed in a less radical way when their alternatives are less stigmatized by money and by the popular clique that is our society. We can eat natural meals that avoid manufacturing and processing, use clothes with more durable and less lavish material, use vehicles that prioritize efficiency rather than convenience and maintain ourselves in coexistence with other organisms for an enduring life.

We haven’t realized this need to change various aspects of our lifestyle because we’ve been able to survive and seemingly thrive for this long without considering our future. Like any survival measures, our lifestyle is not meant for permanence. We only use temporary techniques to keep ourselves going until we are able to find some stable resolve. The problem is that we fail to consider the future as we survive, yet we have to now more than ever so that it even exists.

Our politicians have recently not demonstrated a sustainable mindset, as they merely rely on technology and engineered methods to solve the issues that call for radical change. For one, I want to defend that conducting shooter drills or arming public places with guards is not how we should approach reducing civilian deaths by gun violence. Promoting the use of portable air filters as a substitute to clean air when the areas in which we live become engulfed in smoke from towering wildfires is not how we should approach improving the overall air quality of our populated areas. We should be taking direct action at the cause of these issues, being proactive rather than reactive so that we can create an enduring way of life for ourselves.

Many will follow up this argument with skepticism towards the feasibility of a sustainable society, claiming that it’s impossible to plan and implement a sustainable lifestyle that works everywhere. But what I believe is more important than asking how we will conquer this massive ordeal is asking when we will take it upon ourselves to even try. People are discouraged by the fact that no one can say exactly how we can all adopt a more sustainable lifestyle for ourselves now, for humankind in the future, but there is no possibility of even inching closer to that world if we don’t make an effort to advance towards it through understanding and collaboration. While we remain unsure if the plans we propose will completely follow through despite our progressive intentions, it’s necessary that we sincerely begin this process to overcome the contest we face from a stagnant government and society.

The young people of this generation who have begun to display their concern haven’t completely figured out how to execute our intentions yet, but we have at the very least begun to demand the answers to the big questions that some of our key politicians are failing to address regarding the sustainability issue. As stated by young activist Jeremy Ornstein in a rally for the “Green New Deal” towards the likely next speaker of the House of Representatives, “Speaker Pelosi, Democratic leadership, we are asking you to grow up. When will you come up with a plan to stop the climate crisis and defend the homes of millions of would-be climate refugees? When will you embrace a Green New Deal? You know, please, Speaker Pelosi, come of age with us. But if you can’t, if you’re too scared to try, if you’re too corrupt or cowardly, then get out of the way.” 

The truth is that we can’t conceptualize what it means to be sustainable yet. We are merely at the beginning of a new era during which we will discover a multitude of techniques to adopt so that we can lead a lifestyle that will maintain humankind for ages to come. As of now, I urge you to contribute to the creation of the era of sustainability by educating yourself on the facts of climate change like various university professors have done with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate report. Support policies that demonstrate a potential drastic enough to uproot our society’s current constructs like the Green New Deal, and demand that our leaders work to make sustainable lifestyles, such as veganism, more accessible to people of every background and economic disposition. By taking action against the status quo with a brute force strong enough to deconstruct it, an act as heroic as saving the future of our world will become that much more normalized and that much more possible.

Kianna Marquez can be reached at


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