by Jennifer Gooden
I sat down to write a post about social justice and sustainability in an attempt to tie together my experiences working to alleviate homelessness and volunteering for a sustainability organization. I expected that I could draw the two together fairly easily, given that 1) sustainability purports its three pillars to be economy, environment, and social justice, each carrying equal weight, and 2) I spend a lot of time thinking about them both.
Disappointingly, I wasn’t able to tie together social justice and sustainability, at least with the time and resources I had available on a Sunday afternoon. I found I couldn’t make an argument that withstood scrutiny.
Here’s the crux of the problem. To sustain something means, essentially, to keep it going. If something is unsustainable, then it can’t be kept going. To say that social injustice can’t be sustained is, well, false. Sadly, social injustice has been sustained for centuries, likely millennia.
I should clarify that the question of whether social justice and sustainability are connected is a separate question from whether either of them is right or wrong. I think it’s widely accepted in our culture that both social justice and sustainability are concepts that are virtuous. But we cannot fall into the trap of assuming “sustainable” and “right” are synonymous.
Since I was not able to answer my own question, I would like to throw it out to our Fresh Greens readers:
• Why do you think social justice is described as a necessary and required component of sustainability?
• We know that social injustice is wrong, but is it fair to assume that social injustice is unsustainable?
I look forward to hearing your answers. In the meantime, if I come across any convincing arguments, I’ll post a response to share the good news.