Wednesday, October 2, 2013


One of the tenets of geology is that "The present is the key to the past."  This concept, uniformitarianism, was developed by Charles Lyell and others in the 19th century as evidence grew in the scientific community that a
Uniformitarianism tells us that the processes we see acting
on our planet today have been acting on our planet in the
past.  This allows us to conceptualize past geologic
number of earth processes acting at the time (and now) are largely responsible for the wide array of geological features we see on the earth.  Thus, if we see glacial deposits in one area we know that glaciers one time, just like the ones we see today, were active in the area in the past.

I have been struggling with words to use to describe the kind of geological conditions we now live in.  Geologists of course have coined the term Anthropocene to describe the time period of significant human alteration that we now live in on our planet.  But, we don't have terms like uniformitarianism to conceptually describe the way we have to think forward to the impact of our actions on our planet.  The new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has framed what will likely be a very warm future for us in the coming centuries and others have looked forward to what will occur if population growth continues or if we continue to deplete the oceans.

Sustainabilitarianism tells us that scientific evidence
provides us with a range of scenarios that allows us
 to conceptualize the future.  For example, this location on
Long Island will be underwater in a few decades if climate
predictions prove to be true.  It is a recovery zone in
 Long Beach.
I've decided to name this forward thinking way of devising of a range of scenarios for how the world will unfold due to human impacts on natural systems based on scientific evidence "sustainabilitarianism."  I like the term because it is somewhat equated to uniformitarianism in that we are using scientific evidence to look forward on natural systems, not backwards.

This joins my other favorite created term, "Sustainabilly."  A sustainabilly is someone from the suburbs or city who moves to a rural environment to try to live a simpler life.  Or someone from Manhattan who opens up an artisanal pickle or whiskey factory in Brooklyn (the New Yorkers will get this joke).

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