Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Sharing the Sky: The Role of Family and Consumer Sciences in Sustainability

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Sharing the Sky: The Role of Family and Consumer Sciences in Sustainability

Article excerpt

Deep change is seen as the 'work' that must be undertaken to maintain the sky for this and future generations.

The folk tale on the opposite page, "Why Men Have to Work" (Peck, 1998), was originally told to explain why work is integral to life. This was fitting in its time, as was its gender-based language. Today it is descriptive of the finiteness and fragility of resources-non-human as well as human-and the dependency and responsibility that is integral to well-being. If used indiscriminately for the present, resources will soon be exhausted, wasted, or inaccessible. Whether one person takes more than his or her share or many take their shares of the "sky," resources are threatened, or as we frequently hear today-they are unsustainable.

Often a concept is introduced to the scientific and political sectors with extensive explanation and a breadth of viewpoints. The term or label for the concept is soon picked up by the media and becomes part of everyday language and conversation. Whether the concept becomes common knowledge or is well-understood is often questionable.

Sustainability may well be such a concept. How many people whether in their personal or professional lives have asked-What are the implications of Sustainability for:

* the family?

* consumer and producer activities?

* the community?

* the nation?

* the world?

What do we do each day that threatens or sustains the human and natural environments? Sustainability has been described as 'development to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations' opportunities to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Since this definition was introduced, the concept of social equity has been added. This serves as a reminder that actions to address the means and ends of sustainability should not disadvantage or exploit some for the advantage and gain of others, in either the current or subsequent generations. It also implies that every societal unit is part of the complex system needed to achieve sustainability. Therefore, actions in one household or community do have an impact on other households and communities as resources are used or misused, developed, or left dormant. The impact may be immediate or it may be in the future.

Proponents of sustainability may advocate for a single action such as recycling office paper, shopping at a local farmer's market, or educating women. Practicing these behaviors does contribute to the intent of sustainability, but they are only pieces in the much larger and more complex system that must be comprehended and addressed from a holistic perspective. The implication is that changes are needed in the use and development of resources.

A systems thinking approach has been proposed as the basis to "sustain deep change" (Senge, Seville, Lovins, & Lotspeich, 2000). Deep change is seen as the 'work' that must be undertaken to maintain the sky for this and future generations. Basic shifts in practices and actions are needed to attain the goal of long-term harmony among people, their systems and enterprises, and the natural systems. To achieve sustainability, Senge et al. propose shifts intended to alter how we 'take pieces of the sky'-use resources-to ensure that the pieces taken are used with little waste or inefficiency, that producers have responsibility for extending the productive life of resources, and that restoration and sustainability of the ecosystem become common practice. This is in contrast to what often happens now with massive corrective projects intended to remedy past misuse of resources (e.g., draining of wet-lands, improper disposal of hazardous waste, incarceration for criminal behavior).

In practice and through education and research, the family and consumer sciences profession has often addressed sustainability and resource development, both human and non-human (Atiles & Cude, 2002). …

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