“I don’t want to be sustainable. It’s not who I am. It’s not what this little farm is about.”
I paused and looked at the faces in front of me. Some still had the look of bright anticipation but the rest were turning into various levels of a ‘stunned mullet’. I had been asked to speak to a group about Sustainability and Dairy Farming. They were here on a field trip to see the Mudfish and Waterbird Sanctuary and I was the lunchtime entertainment. A couple at the back who had settled down into their seats after a very enjoyable shared BBQ woke up and leaned forward … so I continued.
“Sustainability, to me, implies a measurement. It puts a value onto something … but what? What are we measuring from? What are we measuring to? Is it what was in the past, or what it is now, or what someone thinks it ought to be in the future?
I look at my little dairy farm and ‘sustainable’ is not a word I want to use here. It’s not a word that describes what I need to do … and I can’t think of a word to describe what I have to do here.
Is it ‘balanced’? No, I don’t think so. The word ‘balanced’ doesn’t give me a picture either. Does it mean that at one end we have an agricultural utopia operating amongst the natural flora and fauna? Or, at the other end, does it just mean a bunch of people taking a bit more care of the living organisms they have within their domain? I don’t know.
But what I do know, is that if a woman has been raped and abused, no amount of care, or counselling, or support will ever return her to the woman she was before the rape and abuse. For the rest of her life she will be different. The difference will depend on several factors – her personal makeup, the type and level and intensity of the abuse, how long she suffered etc. On the surface she may seem to have recovered but underneath she hasn’t … and she never will.
Mother Nature is the same and, when I look at this little farm, ‘sustainability’ is not the answer. It is not enough. There is a ‘sustainability’ debt of at least fifty years here. But at least, with the creation of the Mudfish and Waterbird Sanctuary, I have made a start and the Sanctuary is now gathering a community of people who will become the care group and who will provide the counselling and support needed to continue this process. In the meantime, I need to be more than sustainable … and I just can’t think of the word I need to be”.
I took a slurp of my now cold coffee and sat down. The group paused, clapped and then started the debate amongst themselves … what do we need to be? What is the word or term to describe what we need to do?