Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God ; you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or the traveler who stays in your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth , the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, Exodus 20:8-11.
A sustainable society is that one in which persons produce more than we consume. The arts, the sciences, politics, defense: all depend on the production of an agricultural surplus. Historically, cities arise when farmers first start to grow more than they need for subsistence. Cultures disappear when the farmer cannot produce more than enough, whether the destructive cause is war or disease or drought.
Totalitarianism went the way of the divine right of monarchs. Marxist-Leninism (called variously socialism or communism or collectivism) can be found in shards of the Berlin Wall, kept in collections like moon rocks, as though from another planet altogether, done and gone. Recently, unregulated capitalism shook to its roots, the global economy swamped by a fracture of its tectonic plates, movements far below the surface, resulting in a tsunami that buried the economic beach dwellers.
What is sustainable? Apparently, no political system maintains itself, no economic system offers perpetual succor. What is sustainable?
The greatest concentration of private wealth in history amalgamated in the American middle class between the end of WWII and the mid-1970's. Outside forces began to chip away that wealth in the mid-70's and down to today but for about twenty years, persons who started with little or nothing were given the advantage of government funded education, home ownership and agricultural surpluses.
Have your eyes glazed over yet? Stay a moment more, the history lesson is nearly done.
These people, this generation of which I write lived in an era of plenty with a mindset of want. They had survived the last Great Depression and World Wide Violence Redux. The survivors reentered society with the firm knowledge it could all go away, just now, and stay gone for a long time.
They knew John Kenneth Galbraith's maxim, to wit, "The market can remain incoherent far longer than you can remain solvent."
The post-war, conformist, survivor generation, lived in an era of great prosperity with a mindset of great want. Naturally, they wanted a sustainable social order.
This is a matter of godliness. God, too, wants a sustainable social order.
In fact, so we would not constantly demand more, God showed us what God did in six days and said, "Learn to say, enough."
In fact, God set out a day of rest and hedged it around with so many guards, you could not much move without getting busted. No proxies, no hired guns, no putting the beasts to work. Sit and think. Work hard six days, fine, but the seventh day, sit and think.
Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Holy, that is, set apart for deeper pursuits, the Day of the Soul.
More is not sustainable. There is that point where utility begins to diminish, first at the margin, then, where the margin erodes to the very center. More is not sustainable, nor is it necessarily holy.
Effort is sustainable.
Family is sustainable.
Hospitality is sustainable.
Enough is sustainable. You just have to decide what is enough. To live in peace and good order, to live in dignity and help others live in dignity, to walk in peace with God and peaceably with one's fellows; these things are sustainable.