While I think about the word 'sustainability' a lot, many people deeply wish the whole subject would go away; it has, maybe, become tiresome. And it must seem really pointless to talk about aviation and sustainability in the same breath: First, if there is an area of human activity where the sustainability challenge seems huge, to the point of seeming ludicrous, it's aviation--the emblematically carbon-intensive thing we do; second, maybe if you are not involved in the industry, you'd think, "How does this involve me?" Here, and in the book that led to this blogspot, I make the case that sustainability is not only a very current and worthwhile notion, but is at the heart of so much of what preoccupies us in the daily news. Commercial flight presents a perfect case study in how to look at sustainability, how to address it, as well as an easy avenue into the larger task of making everything that we do sustainable.
And, virtually everyone—no matter where in the world they live—who enjoys some substantial level of disposable income, is very much 'involved' in aviation. If your company has a sustainability or CSR officer, all of the air transportation that the company buys for shipping product or moving employees to meetings is a significant part of your company's sustainability profile. Whether you consider only yourself or your job, your actions embody everything that you draw upon. For that reason, the conversation that we have here, and other places, about sustainability is of critical importance to everyone.
Where should we start? Mostly, people want to talk about what is actually being done to address the problem. But it's hard to know what to do or whether the things that we are doing are useful if we don't know or agree on the terms of the discussion. So, part and parcel of the conversation is to reach a common understanding of ‘sustainability’: if we are all involved and if every thing in the economy is assessed on the basis of everything that went into it, we should have an accepted way of thinking about all this. So, be prepared for the fact that a large part of the discussion concerns the word itself.
As an individual, you decide whether (and how much) you need to know about sustainability (or flying or anything else.) Is this a subject you want to know more about? Do you want to read the book, ‘Will Sustainability Fly?’, this blog, or other things? I would say, yes. You would never (I hope!) go to a restaurant if you knew that the chef had stolen the ingredients for your meal; you would feel complicit. The question of the sustainability of just about anything involves just about everyone.
The book, and this blog, will cover a large number of factors and an enormous amount of information. But, a little bit at a time is the only way to go, so engagement is eminently feasible. My only caution is this: While every effort was made to write the book in a way that allowed a logical flow of consideration of a very complex subject, this blog site cannot function that way. Here, we will touch on things that are current, topical, and therefore (necessarily) out of context for some people who are interested but only beginning to explore. Not to worry. Think about dance lessons: You may want to study the steps in a logical, organized way but you learn a lot about the general goals of your project by just watching people do it. Likewise, jumping right in and seeing particulars about what has been happening will be a helpful way of learning about the general shape of the task and where all of the more organized information about steps is designed to take you.