Sustainability.  Man, that’s a boring word. As passionate as we are here at Live Green Bean about it, we’ve found ourselves struggling with how to bring it down to a relatable level. We want people to understand it beyond a definition, beyond what they see on pretty green and white eco-friendly sites. We want our people to care, because our survival depends on it.

So what’s our real problem with sustainability? The word itself.  By that, I mean it has no real meaning to us. It’s just an official-sounding term that we hear politicians, activists, and pundits spout when they want us to buy solar panels or stop driving our cars everywhere, but no one has really made it mean something to us, the regular people.

And as long as it doesn’t mean anything to us, we won’t be willing to make the necessary changes that we need to survive. This is a major problem that needs to be addressed now, especially in our urban areas.

So let’s break down the true meaning of this word “sustainability”, and not the textbook or dictionary definitions. That’s we’ve found ourselves disconnecting from. Instead, let’s focus on the nitty-gritty, stark truth about what sustainability means.

In so many wordssustainability means can you survive if the society we know and are used to living in shut down right now? If a natural disaster occurred that knocked out our electricity nationwide for longer than six months, could you make it? Here’s an even more important question: do you even know how to?

We’ve allowed ourselves to become dependent on an outside system to ensure our survival and as a result, we are now used to having everything provided for us . We have become dependent on a system that has proven to be unstable even in the best of times.

The End-of-the-World

Everyone has seen at least one “end of the world” or “post-apocalyptic” show/movie in their lifetime. Our media is too flooded with them for you to not have. Shows like “The Walking Dead” have become favorites among the masses, and many of us sit around with friends passionately talking about what we’d do if we were in those situations.

In our visions of grandeur, we usually emerge as heroes like the fake characters we see on TV, not realizing that Hollywood has a tendency to water down just how ugly, traumatic, and dark the end of the world really will be. (Let’s face it: in “The Walking Dead”, little baby Judith wouldn’t have survived long without a mom or lactating woman around to provide breast milk for her to drink. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s no such thing as a never-ending supply of baby formula.)

The reality is that we’re all just blowing smoke when we brag about how we’d expertly wield a sword like Michonne, or when we confidently proclaim, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I know I would make it if it was the end of the world…”

The reality is that we’re all just a bunch of dependent sheep. We’ve been conditioned to know absolutely nothing about real survival, how to live off of the land, or how to be in harmony with our planet. We have grown accustomed to the comforts that our government and corporate infrastructures have given us, so many of us don’t even know how to do basic things like grow our own food, or where find suitable drinking water.

So let’s say the end of the world was starting. Not one or two years in like we see in “The Walking Dead”, but the absolute start of it all, where waves of disasters are just beginning to rock the nation and the world… because you know everything isn’t going hit all at once. As one disaster after another occurs – economic, natural, or otherwise – you are going to find yourself without access to more and more things.

Your electricity and water will be out and there won’t be anything you can do about it. Calling an 800 number to complain or demand that it be turned back on won’t work because no one will be there. Your access to something as simple as gas for your car will be gone, because without power the pumps at the gas stations can’t run.

You’ll notice less and less food in the grocery stores because without gas, food can’t be delivered to your local grocery store. What will you do then? Especially since local governments in certain urban areas have been passing ordinances restricting urban gardens, and our federal government has laws in place that limit how much food you can store in the event a national emergency is declared.

Did you even know these things? Or is that you know and simply don’t care because you’re still able to go to the grocery store and get whatever you need? Maybe you feel like your freedoms as an American guarantee that you can store however much food you want… until you Google “hoarding laws under the Patriot Act” and find out the true reality of what we’d be dealing with if (when?) disaster actually strikes.

So when we talk about “sustainability” and making it mean something real to you, what we’re really talking about is survival. What we’re asking is this: “Will you be able to survive if civilization as you knew it shut down for a longer than expected?”

Take an honest look at your situation and ask yourself these questions. If any of your answers to these questions is “no”, then the stark reality is that you need to start making some adjustments now.

Question #1: If you water company shut off the water supply – not just to you, but to your entire region/state – for months on end, would you be able to provide fresh drinking water to your family? How would you do it?

Question #2: If the electric company shut out the power right now and it was out for months, how would you get light and heat for your house? Do you have the basic knowledge on how to even start a fire without a lighter or match? (Believe me – most of us don’t.)

Question #3: If the shelves of your local grocery store were empty and you were no longer able to depend on them to supply you with food, where would you get it from?

Think about the current situation down in Venezuela. It’s scary to think about, but it could honestly happen in any country, even ours. Though they are one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to oil and minerals, due to political shake ups their citizens are currently starving and grocery store shelves are empty. No food was being imported and supplied to grocers for weeks, and the food and water that was available got marked up to prices that only the wealthy could afford.

The idea of finding aisles of empty shelves in every grocery store you search is a frightening one. Famine isn’t like what we see in the movies or on TV, where pain and suffering is watered down by cutting away at the right time, glossed over with action scenes, and packaged with the pretty bow representing the triumph of survival at the end.

The truth is this: when there is no food, there is really no food. There is no everlasting supply of baby formula, despite what you see on “The Walking Dead”. There is no meat. There are no canned foods or bottles of water. There will be an endless supply of nothing during those times. What will you do?

This is why Live Green Bean exists. To prepare you step by step, little by little for those days and shift your consciousness towards sustainability. Not just for yourself, but for your community. If one person has while others don’t during times of extreme hardship, rest assured that the have-nots will do what they must in order to survive.

In order to prevent our society from descending into animalistic behavior, we must embrace the philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” How can any one person be happy with so much when so many others are miserable and suffering with nothing? Is that the post-apocalyptic world we want to live in?

We don’t want to overwhelm you, so we will touch on the minor, then major, changes you can make in your household to transition toward true sustainability – a.k.a. survival – in Part Two of this article.

This article is not intended to scare you or overwhelm you. Before we got into sharing more tips about how to become more eco-friendly and improve your level of sustainability, we wanted to open your eyes to the ugly truth of what the word “sustainability” really meant. That way we can stop brushing it off as something we don’t need to care about due to the ambiguity of the word.

Take the time to really imagine what your family would do in the event of a major emergency.  It doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as an EMT strike, or as shattering as an economic collapse. Hurricane Katrina, major wildfires,  and other natural disasters continue to bring cities, counties, and states to their knees to this day. People have been left without power and water for days, and history has shown us that a lack of access to those comforts brings out the animal in many.

Knowledge is power and we have the power to change such predictable reactions. The beauty is that we can start right now. The moves we make today are the seeds that will bear the fruits of our future humanity. Everyone can agree that we all want to bear good fruit, but the question is: are we going to choose to put in the work to sow those seeds today?