Wednesday, January 26, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sustainable Seattle -- Growth And Development Are Key Parts Of Human Nature

The Jan. 10 op-ed article, "Sustaining the health and vitality of Seattle," by Nea Carroll raised a question for me: What is she talking about? Apparently, she and her group, Sustainable Seattle, don't know either; from the article: " `Sustainability' has become the catch-word of the '90s. . . . We're all using the `S' word now, and we are all searching for what it means." Um, is this satire?

Later its meaning becomes clearer: "Cities and nations around the world are struggling with a rising awareness that we have been on a growth and development path this century that may leave future generations bankrupt." I'm struggling with a rising awareness that ill-informed new-age would-be social planners are gaining credibility among lawmakers, which may leave the present generation bankrupt.

This century's growth and development will enrich future generations, not bankrupt them. Each generation inherits the capital of the previous generation, both physical capital (money, buildings) and intellectual capital (knowledge, technology). Otherwise, we would constantly be re-discovering fire.

Growth and development is the nature of man. Humans are not gazelles on the veldt. We can no more remain static for thousands of years than gazelles can engage in agriculture. And, unlike other species, we create new resources when old ones run out. Yes, future generations may be bankrupt of petroleum and wood, just as our generation is bankrupt of whale oil and parchment. Perhaps there should have been a group called Sustainable Plymouth in 1600 to ensure that future generations would have an ample supply of pemmican and oakum. Trying to predict what will be valued or necessary in the future is the highest form of folly.

Because Sustainable Seattle is still searching for what "sustainable" means, let me take a stab at it: at best, it means stagnation; at worst, socialism lite. It is gallingly pretentious to presume that we here now, the current occupants of earth, have reached a point beyond which we should not go.

I don't mind if these sustainability folks want to freeze their lives in 1993 (though personally I hope they pick 1976 so I can sell them my wardrobe). What bothers me is that after they've picked all their new catch-words, they're going to get around to drafting a master plan or a five-year plan or something that we all should conform to (for our own good, of course). Lord save us from another group that wants to tell us how to live in order to achieve its own version of utopia. Bill Muse Seattle

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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