Sustainability is Dead

30 Sep


adjective \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\

1: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

2: able to last or continue for a long time


Welcome to the idea of the last century. A critical focus for coffee and environmentalism everywhere – yes. But also yesterday’s news.

Images of steadiness come to mind. Calm waters. Smooth sailing. Maybe even some romantic notions of the word “forever.”

Sustainability, it seems, is about how well you can avoid doing damage to something. Make it last. Leave no trace. Get back to normal.

 On what planet is THAT realistic?!

Does any farmer or agronomist believe that after La Roya, coffee-growing will simply go “back to normal,” and threats to it’s sustainability and viability will be gone? (An overwhelming “NO” would be the correct answer here, people).

So why are we still focused on a goal of sustainability? On perpetuating a false belief, that most of us know better than to buy into anyway?

I think it’s time for a paradigm shift in how we think about our efforts to secure coffee’s future, and improve the lives of our farmers.

It’s time for a new focus for coffee-lovers, environmentalists, and humans everywhere.


noun \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\

1: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

2: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

Resilience, unlike sustainability, is about how well you can recover from damage that is done to something. It’s about “always be prepared.” Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Survive, adapt, and grow.

When I first stumbled into this idea of resilience over sustainability, it was on a snowy January day in the offices of local organization, Root Capital.

I was picking the brain of one of their best and brightest young minds about his perspectives on coffee.

“For so many years the coffee community has been focused on sustainability, but I think we need to change our mindset. We need to start thinking about resilience.”***

Ok, so that may not have been an exact quote, but that was the gist of what he was saying.

I was immediately intrigued.

“This is big,” I thought to myself.

I’ve been ruminating on that conversation for the last nine months, and it wasn’t until last week that I realized that others were thinking about this concept, too.

It’s completely genius. And I think they’re onto something.

My hope is to spread the idea as far and wide as possible. To get you, and other people, thinking about it to.

Because I think it applies to more than just coffee crops. I think it applies to you.

Replacing a focus on sustainability with a focus on resilience instead can translate into nearly everything we as humans do on a daily basis.

It’s about setting our sights on our own agility, our own resilience, our own ability to bounce back, in all areas of our lives.

If we focused on building work products that are more resilient instead of sustainable, what would they look like then? What would be different in how we work and what we produce, with resilience as our lens?

If we focused on cultivating resilience in our personal lives, how much more would we experience success, and personal growth? How much easier could we go with the flow and persevere, if we spend time cultivating our own skills in life resilience?

I think they’re interesting questions – ones that we’ve only begun to learn how to answer.

But with intention and focused action come results – and adding resilience to that equation makes for a future that is ever more bright.

Learn more about the movement from sustainability to resilience, and join in the conversation:

Resilience in Coffee:

Resilience in Cities:

Resilience in Global Issues:

Happy Growing.


***It’s worth reiterating that this blog is only reflective of my own views and opinions, and the above is a generalized excerpt of conversation, not an exact quote. All thoughts, perspectives, musings and ideas shared here are my own, and are not reflective of my employer, or of any organization and/or article referenced herein.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: