"Sustainability" & "Bioeconomy"

I am the kind of person to whom wording and how certain words are perceived really matters. Words are powerful because of the connotations, charges, and subconscious biases that come with them. The words themselves may be objective and have a singular definition, but that does not always mean that the way they're defined is the way they are understood or received.

Sustainability has grown to be a bit of a problem word for me. I have no issue with how it's defined, but I tend to avoid using it unless I'm willing to be very specific with it. First off, sustainability is such an abused and buzzy term. Everyone wants to throw the term around because it's popular and carries a positive social connotation. Unfortunately, its abuse in the social and political realms has irreparably polluted it such that it's impossible to use it without evoking social and political aggression. While I, too, am impassioned about my drive to engineer products with environmental well-being in mind, forging concrete connections to social groups, political parties, and other popular ideals only hinders my efforts. Why?

Because environmental consciousness supersedes all social and political constructs. To ally them is to say that environmental sustainability is nothing more than a manipulatable crutch that individuals can indiscriminately use to pursue their own agendas. That is what the word "sustainability" has come to be, a buzzy word that's used to get people's attention for the sake of personal gain.

I don't entirely detest the use of the word, but it needs specificity. For instance, sustainability can apply to several aspects of a good or service. It may be economically, environmentally, or socially sustainable. Without specifying which, "sustainability" doesn't serve to carry much weight other than it sounds good and can be used for promotion (aka greenwashing).

The term "bioeconomy" is vastly different. For one, it is still in its infancy. Many people are not familiar with it, and some who are may not fully grasp it. And although any word has the capacity to be manipulated and abused, the bioeconomy's inherently more technical and professional construction makes it somewhat immune. Furthermore, the bioeconomy is about taking action. On the other hand, sustainability can refer to social movements or mere ideas, and while I do not discount those, practical solutions are ultimately what combat climate change. To speak of the bioeconomy is to speak of enhanced solutions that actively work to improve the planet while promoting economic growth and social well-being.

This brings me to my biggest issue with "sustainability." Overuse and abuse of the term have left environmental sustainability at odds with economics in many people's minds. This notion and unconscious understanding is incredibly damaging and could not be further from reality. "Sustainability" creates a this-or-that situation or a win-lose. Solutions cannot be profitable and good for the planet because our notions regarding sustainability have demonized profit.

The "bioeconomy" cuts through the haze of "sustainability" to see a superior reality of this-and-that or a win-win (win-win-win, really). Bioeconomy solutions consider the planet, people, and profit because, without any one of the three, the solution is not truly sustainable to our society. "Sustainability" forces a loss when it does not have to be the case. The bioeconomy is the solution we are all seeking, and it is the future.

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