I belong to a web community called “Sustainable Traditions.” It is just getting off the ground, like a hand-built log house. It may be slow going, but the results should be beautiful and longlasting.
Which is a good analogy, if I may so so, for the model of sustainable traditions. We’ve been searching and pondering a good definition of “Sustainable Traditions.” “Sustainable” could mean that it can be self-supporting, self-regenerating, closed-loop. It can mean low-impact and no-impact effects on the ecology. It could mean that anyone could do it without a lot of education beforehand. It probably means all of the above.
“Tradition” means what we have received from our antecedents. It is the tried and true, the proven way. It is accepting that the wheel has, indeed, been invented. This is not to say that we don’t have to, sometimes, argue from first principles; it means that although we know those first principles, we know how others have argued them.
“Sustainable Traditions” are the self-supporting, self-regenerating methods and ways that our antecedents bequeathed us, whether those were from agriculture, religion, politics, architecture or philosophy. It isn’t necessarily the big stuff. It is often the littlest stuff – how to build an efficient fire, how to can food safely, how to deliver a breech lamb, how to compost. Doing the little things well will lead to doing the big things well, as our Lord tells us: If we can be trusted with the small, we can be trusted with the great.
There are things that are sustainable that are impossible for the average smallholder to build, practice or fulfill: power generating windmills, maybe, or tidal energy. And just how sustainable are they if they require huge investments of engineering design, high-tech materials, and computer-assisted management?
There are traditions that are not sustainable – slash and burn agriculture, monoculture forests, inbreeding of animals. Lack of proper sewage disposal – as traditional as dumping the chamberpot into the nearest stream, but not what you’d call a good ecological practice. Or burning bituminous coal scratched out of a surface seam; harmful but very traditional in many places.
“Sustainable Traditions” is a concept that requires thought, and research, and for it to be entirely successful, involving the Creator as well as Creation, prayer and more prayer. Are we ready? Can we wait any longer? Is it already too late?