As the USA celebrates 241 years of independence, we can also celebrate over 200 years of sustainability! Despite many set-backs and seemingly insurmountable problems, the USA has steadily made progress to improve our environment, society and governance (ESG).
Sustainability is largely credited as a new phenomenon, a child of the late 20th century, heralded by the 1987 publication of “Our Common Future” by the United Nations.
As for the USA, cities may have been smelly in 1776 but within 25 years, by the early 1800s there were water delivery systems in urban centers shortly followed by sanitation systems. These made significant headway against cholera and other water born illness. Now that concerns focus on fresh water use, CSE clients such as Coca-Cola and Heineken are making significant sustainability investments in water conservation.
Yellowstone Park was established and protected in perpetuity, starting in 1872. Within another 50 years, the National Parks Service was established in 1916, not to mention over 10,000 state parks to date! Even developed lands are getting the green treatment as with CSE founder Nikos Avlonas’ work with the NAR Green Designation.
Another fifty-year jump gets us to Rachel Carson’s pivotal work Silent Spring published in 1962. The ground was already set and needed the social outcry to establish the US EPA in 1970.
Not even 50 years later, we have NASA’s Next Generation Solar Energy Center, building on the hundreds of technologies developed by NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth started in 1986, led by astronaut Sally Ride. The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) is proud to be part of this effort, having provided sustainability training for NASA employees.
Yes, let’s celebrate our history of successes. Let’s also acknowledge that we have a long way to go. CSE is only 15 years old. Our Sustainability Academy is only 2 years old. Still we hope to be a strong part of the next 50 years in US sustainability – training the practitioners of the future who will help celebrate USA’s independence, not only from tyranny but from the devastations of resource depletion, social injustice and corporate mistakes.