The Phases of Sustainability

I realized that I have not written a post in awhile, other than to promote my newest endeavor, the YouTube channel I am co-hosting with my friend Lauren Staniec. On that site we are having conversations. Fun, enlightening, silly, knowledgeable, exploring conversations that are informing us about sustainability while they are teaching us about so many other things. It is revealing, even to Lauren and I who kind of expected it, that everything is impacted by and can therefore inform sustainability.

Check out Subject2Change – Sustainability.

My speciality is thinking while walking or biking, which some of you may already know. Today I walked close to 7.5 miles throughout downtown Albany, and I had a couple of hours of think time. So I’m going to delve into some developmental psychology, tied to thoughts on sustainability.

Qualifier – I have zero training in psychology. In fact, I can’t even keep the differences between psychology and psychiatry straight  *(and will now look these up).

Okay, glad I did that. The differences are listed as a footnote.

Let’s visit some developmental phases of a human animal. Let’s call this human Sidney, and Sid uses she/her pronouns.

Sid as a young child is intensely curious, and often needs to be schooled by her parents to be careful. She doesn’t know what’s safe and what’s not. Sid runs around and doesn’t take into account other people and where they are, because she is learning about her impact, literal and figurative, on others. Her playtime noises know no volume control, she puts things into her mouth to find out what they taste like, she is amazed when a butterfly unfolds and takes off. She is reaching out to explore everything around her, and is very much not understanding the parameters of her own physical self or the limits to her mind, or spirit. The world is amazing and new. So much of her energy is looking out, and initiating awareness.

Three words about this phase – curiosity, wonder, filterless.

As Sid becomes a teenager and then a young adult, the focus of her intentions, experiences, and responses change. This is the phase of a life when people start to define their own capabilities, and they seek to break off from their protectors so they can ascertain and strengthen their own powers. There is a lot of seemingly selfish behavior that takes place here, but I suggest it is not malicious, just inwardly focused. This is a time of camping, driving, getting a job, testing limits in relationships of an intimate nature as well as of friends and family. Sid will be messing things up regarding sleep, junk food, and things her parents or society have said are off limits…It is a solidification of self and her power to control what affects her, so she is growing these connections, but growing them in a one-way response, as in “This affects me and I need to respond”. It is reactionary, and often unthoughtful. 

The three words I would choose for this phase – defining, control, and pride.

Now think about Sidney as an adult. As an adult, she will hopefully retain the wonder and curiosity of childhood and use those instincts in combination with the control and pride of youth. It is in this way a person can move into a most impactful phase of life, where an understanding, respect, and amplification of reciprocity can occur. Sid can now see what is impacting her, and thoughtfully choose to respond in a way that not only protects her own person, but helps the situation as a whole. She can engage in actions and interactions grounded in her own abilities, with respect for the wonder of life, to build the connections and the interdependence of those connections in a two-way, layered existence.

The words here include – respect, vision, pragmatism.

I just realized I have left off the age category that I will eventually enter into. This phase does not fit into my plan for this blog post, but, as usual, my writing has led me deeper into my thoughts, and even showed me a new route to take, if not a completely new destination. We might call this next phase the age of wisdom and experience, yet this is a time of life that is often undervalued, especially in the USA. This phase, perhaps (and without my yet experiencing it) could move Sid toward enlightenment, as she learns to accept the lessons of each previous phase of life and build upon them. Perhaps there is knowledge beyond the interdependence that I value so much. Maybe there is a thing beyond reciprocity I have not yet fathomed and therefore not yet labelled. Maybe it includes a level of reflective acceptance of Nature’s path? I do not know.

If I were to guess at words for this phase – trust, peace, and humility. Let’s add a fourth. Love.

My intent with describing these phases of life is to help us all to understand the phases of our engagement with sustainability.

  • At the start we are curious and unfettered. We know nothing about what sustainability is or why it matters. We can be fascinated. We can make bad choices, and we are learning. Hopefully learning with joy in the process.
  • Then we start to realize our own abilities, the knowledge and power we have to change ourselves and to actualize results. Our thoughts are limited, however, to solutions, and “silver bullet” remedies. Like pills for the symptoms instead of improving total health. We think our technological solutions can change the world for the better, just by plugging them in. And they can do a lot to improve things, however, they tend to cost $$, and they don’t address the systems of equity, health, or community, let alone our relationship to Nature. 
  • It is only in our adulthood that we realize tech is only a small part of what we need. We can now see that it is a relationship issue that needs to be fixed, that the process is key, and we need to see and address the burdens and benefits to all the connected systems. This is interdependence. It’s not solely about how we respond to a situation, but how we relate to an existing system in a way that supports that system so it can support us…and forward and back again.

And then to my surprise I found a fourth phase, brought about by my act of writing. To be frank, I am a little unnerved. What does it mean to exist in trust, peace, and humility…and above all, love? I think this will take some more living, lots of yoga, and many more conversations…and I hope you will join me in the process.


Jodi (she/her)

* From

Psychiatrists practice as medical doctors and use their clinical experience to treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders using medication and psychotherapy. Psychology, a discipline with origins in philosophy, concerns the mind and human behaviors. Training differs. Psychology students study cognition and human behavior, whereas psychiatry students focus on biology and medicine.

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