Seeking Sustainability

By Missy Nystrom

Science Instructor and Environmental Sustainability Club Advisor

The word “sustainability” continually appears in many aspects of today’s society—from resource conservation to land use practices, environmental management to green technology (and that’s just the environmental side).  It’s the new buzzword.   But what does it really mean? Following the Native American proverb that “The frog does not drink up the pond for which he lives,” ecologically speaking, sustainability is the maintenance of balanced, yet productive, healthy, and biodiverse ecosystems.   And shouldn’t that be the goal of any living system?  The obvious answer is yes, yet how is this accomplished?—especially when we are moving further and further from “balance?”  The complexity of this idea stems from its embodiment in so many realms—science, policy, socioeconomics, culture, and the environment.  It is complicated and may feel beyond our true grasp of everyday understanding. 
So how do we incorporate this overwhelming concept of sustainability into our own lives? Start simply. Sustainability, I believe, is rooted in a holistic concept of understanding the connections in the world around us—of our own unique and individual place in the world.  Yet each one of us, each tiny strand in the web of life, can have profound impact.  As much as we as humans hold ourselves separate from the natural world, we are absolutely dependent upon it—from the ocean currents  creating weather patterns, to the bees pollinating our food and blooming flowers, to the bacteria living symbiotically in our bodies digesting our nutrients.  And we are dependent upon each other.  So how do you “live sustainably?” With small steps.  Have a reverence for life—wonder for the world around you—appreciation for the intricacy and the grandeur.  And then ask yourself, “What can I do to make a difference?”  Recycle, walk more, support local farmers, eat lower on the food chain, compost, shop with reusable bags, drink from your own coffee mug and water bottle, educate yourself and others, and make connections.  Great actions are preceded by small steps. 
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls.” – Robert F. Kennedy
We are each ripples.
And if you want to take another step and continue making ripples, the Redwood Campus Environmental Sustainability Club invites and encourages your participation Tuesdays at 2:30 in the Back Room Café!  Please contact Missy Nystrom at, Katarina Kobor at or Melanie Jessee at

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