Thursday, March 20, 2008

being pregnant and true sustainability

I wrote this in a notebook February7 before I knew for certain that I was about 4 weeks pregnant. Even though my life has changed in this short amount of time, I still think it holds true and so I'm putting this out there. Basically, if we all took as good care of each other and the planet as many of us care for ourselves, things would be better.

Deep breath. Here goes...

The more I think about being pregnant, the more I believe there is a direct analogy for understanding sustainability. Sustainability is, in business, the means/way by which you are able to produce your product/service/whatever without negatively impacting the environment, others environment, the welfare of the people who work for you, the welfare of those who buy from you, who supply you. Ideally, not creating any waste and still creating a financial -- if not also ecological and social -- profit. Yes, I believe this is the Triple Bottom Line.

Sustainability is NOT the same as simply environmentally-friendly, -responsible, eco-friendly, "green" or social responsibility. It is all of these things and more. It is the full life cycle. More sucinctly: "Sustainability is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition was created in 1987 at the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission).

So, let's just say that if you're in business and are sustainable, then you expect your business to sustain for 500 years in the future. You make plans and take actions to support that 500 year vision.

So how does this relate to pregnancy?

In a way it does. Whether intentionally or unintentionally pregnant -- and assuming the woman plans to take the pregnancy to full term (so no "planned" termination) -- her actions directly affect her life and the building life of another.

What she eats, drinks, does, breathes, consumes, puts on, etc. The vitamins she takes, creams she puts on, clothes she wears, garbage and waste she creates... it all affects the budding life's health and then afterwards.

Sometimes Nature steps in and the baby never arrives. But that wasn't planned. It was an uncontrollable effect. Similarly, sustainability in business, even the best intentions can be thwarted by Nature. However, in both cases direct action in an unsustainable way will guarantee long lasting negative effects. If not delayed negative effects in the case of plastic degrading in a landfill or, worse, in the oceans and re-entering the food supply as "food" for fish. For the pregnancy it will invariably result in the health of the baby that becomes a child and then adult. There is a consequence.

For example on the pregnancy argument, if a woman spends her entire pregnancy drinking beers and eating Twinkies or, say, doing some H -- as her main source of energy -- it is likely, although not guaranteed, her infant will be ill or have developmental problems. Now, given the plenitude of genes and natural development of a fetus, the same could happen to a woman who only eats healthily and exercises regularly. Like I wrote earlier, sometimes Nature intervenes in the development and the development stops.

Of course, this is where my analogy breaks down and I get close to insulting someone who has suffered a miscarriage or has opted for in vitro or other methods. But that's certainly not my point.

Comparing Nature, society, and finances to the natural process of pregnancy... well, there are genetic and business connections that I could make if I stretch this out really thinly. So I won't.

I guess what this comes down to is being a bit afraid and a lot aware of my daily choices now having a direct and visible affect on another person's existence. Where before, I believed this but I'll be able to see the effect on another person and before it was just measuring my "carbon footprint" and seeing how much trash I throw out.

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