I don’t want to be sustainable. ~ Joshua Scott Onysko

Via elephant journal
on Jun 1, 2010
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Joshua Onysko, Pangea Organics founder:

Are we truly evolving, or are we just surviving?

It’s interesting to think back over the evolution of man. Reality is, at a basic level, not much has changed.

I remember learning about evolution in school right before I dropped out, how we humans are considered to be the most evolved species. We have a highly developed brain, are capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection and problem solving.

But what problems have we truly solved? It seems that in the quest to be all knowing, we have forgotten so much.

Take reasoning, for example. Technically, reasoning is the cognitive process of looking for reasons, beliefs, conclusions, actions or feelings. What have we created in our culture that inhibits us from truly processing any of these actions?

All of them are constantly being challenged by the collective self righteousness of our culture. We have become so comfortable with our way of life that the basic processes that separate us from the life that surrounds us, have been threatened.

Why isn’t the earth itself regarded as the highest form of life?

Doesn’t it need us to thrive? Or is that too hippie for you? How about a weed that grows up through a crack in the sidewalk, constantly stepped on, with almost no oxygen for the roots, no water…yet it thrives?

What do we perceive that we need? Big houses, cars better than your friends, clothes that you pay six times what they are actually worth from a designer label, even though that designer’s been dead for 30 years?

It seems as though every concept or idea that is populated from this culture is challenged by one question:

“How will this effect “my” (seldom “our” and almost never “his,” or “her”) way of life?”

We want change, so we try and elect it; we want a more ecologically sound life…so we try and buy it; we want freedom so we fight for it.

When will this process end? If you follow this social algorithm, it ends in one place: extinction. It’s simple.

“There is no difference between us and that which we create…or destroy”

We feel all powerful, at the top of the food chain, but what good is being at the top of chemically laced pile of garbage with no nutritional value, that was created from our lack of care or interest for the lives that were sacrificed in vain, from an earth that was raped to feed our wants…not our needs? This is a throne I don’t wish to sit in.

So my question is: are we really just creating solutions for problems that we are perpetuating? If so, are we truly evolving, or are we just surviving?

Which brings me to the title of this article: that word, sustainable.

I’m not quite sure how we adopted this word to describe what it is this movement is trying to accomplish…I’m not interested in simply sustaining, I want to thrive. I don’t want to use this word lightly, when I say thrive I mean to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances. I want to wake up in the morning and feel that the world in which I live is on our own path towards common goal…to thrive, not at the expense of another or themselves or the future but as an asset to all three, my success should add to your quest to thrive, your path should be aiding to the ability for future generations to thrive and so on.

So what is the action plan? What are the tools we need thrive? Let’s look at the current social climate: everything in media, politics and in the corporate sector is about community. We are wanting to get back to our roots…we just forgot we had them. If you look at the path and growth of social media and how the construct is forming, it’s fascinating…we have created a platform to reconnect—not just when we need something, which is the old way of doing things, phone, fax, email etc. etc.—but when we want to truly share our life experiences.

It’s almost like we have created a virtual Senoi Tribe, which was a Malaysian hunting and gathering tribe that had used lucid dreaming to ensure the overall happiness of their tribe. They would all gather in the morning to discuss and process their dreams, simply amazing.

It’s all starting to happen on social media sites like Facebook, twitter and Elephant Journal. As a culture that wishes to thrive we must learn to use these new tools to share what is truly meaningful to us as well as engage in our new found tribe.

Of course this is just one of many action plans to thriving, I also believe in the Buddhist teachings of the eight fold path, Right: view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.

More to come on these in the next article.

In the meantime, tell us what you do…to thrive.

Joshua Onysko
is the founder and CEO of Pangea Organics.


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2 Responses to “I don’t want to be sustainable. ~ Joshua Scott Onysko”

  1. Hi Joshua,

    I enjoyed your post! And, of course I have to respond since, as you know, I’ve spent the past few years building a little company called Sustainable Life Media which is focused on trying to help transform business for a healthy future.

    We struggled long and hard with the name of the company, and of our primary community centerpiece, the Sustainable Brands Conference. We initially named the company back in 2004, before even the Green movement had hit its current din, when I was working with the good folks who put out the magazine Green at Work — a great early chronicle of the current green/sustainable business movement. We named it thus realizing, of course that green was just a feature of a much bigger tectonic shift in business (and in life) that was at hand.

    Marketers of course know it’s death to pitch product features vs. benefits, and I have been fond of arguing against a focus on green for years, since once can argue that green is a feature, whereas sustainability is the benefit of this paradigm shift taking place in which we are beginning to understand the system that business is part of, and how it impacts, and is impacted by that bigger environmental and cultural construct in which it operates.’

    The debate about the use of the word sustainable (nevermind green!) for me started in 2005 when I pulled together the first International Conference on Cradle to Cradle Design in Practice with Michael Braungart, Bill McDonough and Peter Senge. In the process of working on that event, Michael and I dug in to it. Of course your “who wants to be just sustainable” point is a central part of the McDonough/Braungart argument — and of course I agree! In fact we established our company’s tag line in 2004 as “Solutions for an Abundant Future” to help provide us a bridge to the beyond sustainable future.

    At the time, though, Michael went so far as to say he’d never be associated with anything called ‘sustainable’ — and as far as I know, he never has, although I keep telling myself I need to check in with him again to see if I might change his mind and get him to one of our events 🙂

    That said, what has driven me always is the desire to serve as a bridge between where people are, and where they need to go. And one of the biggest take aways I left school with was from “Persuasion and Attitude Change 101”. The learning? If you have an audience who holds point A to be true, and you want to get them to point E, you have to get them first to B, then C, then D.

    Messaging is a tricky thing, and our goal is to continue to pull people forward little by little to see the opportunity for a better way downstream. Today our mission is to “Be a Bridge to Better Brands”. Today, we hope to get people beyond thinking just green, to understand that paradigm shift in practice by learning to think “sustainable” in the economic, social and environmental sense. From there, we hope to make the connection between that system focus, and the better brands of the future.

    To your point, ultimately, we hope to help eradicate the zero sum, win/lose mentality we’ve carried with us as a species for so long, and retool our imagination to look toward the Power of AND — for the opportunity to create systems and constructs wherein we all might thrive.

    It is a pleasure to be on the journey with you and so many others who are working to create conditions for this shift in vision that more of us, I feel, are seeing and understanding better in practice as time unfolds. We’re hoping next week’s http://www.sustainablebrands10.com in Monterey will have some impact in moving the dial a bit closer. Would love to have you there to participate!

    all very best in our shared pursuit of an abundant future for us all,


  2. Diane says:


    Thank you for the article. I must say, I love your products and use them regularly. I agree 100% with your goal of compassionate actions to relieve suffering.

    However, I am not so sure about the wave of social networking via computer/internet. Is it so wonderful to be lured away from the present into a cyber/fantasy world? It does have its uses, yes. But, human communication is much more than being connected online, isn’t it? To see a person’s reaction, to be there- to engage in non-verbal communication- is a skill that is very necessary in developing awareness in how your message is being sent/received. To engage, in compassion, with another person- or sentient being- is to be present, grounded in the reality of now- with all of our senses engaged.

    Hopefully, internet and cell phone will become a small slice of how how we interact, not the bulk of the experience.

    Live well. Peace to all.