Redefining Sustainability and a Fresh Perspective on Economic Value

Cathy Presland
7 min readMay 6, 2020

The Myth of the Perfect System

[I’m not going to talk much about the economy so if you came here looking for answers, prepare to be disappointed.]

I’ve been invited to a lecture tomorrow on building a sustainable economy post-covid-19, and it got me thinking about what that means, or at least what it means to me.

I have no idea yet what it will mean to the speaker.

It’s flagged as stimulating a debate about what we value, with the emphasis on stimulating a debate, and I love that, although my experience is that most of us are more keen to rush to designing a new, and better, system and arguing the rights and wrongs of our model versus the current model (or someone else’s model) than we are to being genuinely open and curious.

No Matter What?

Our attachment to ideas is understandable, and maybe even part of the process to dream up what might be possible, but, it looks to me as it the folly comes when we believe that the answer is in the blueprint rather than the brain of the architect, and that the ‘model’ is thing that will save us and, therefore the thing we must engineer and build no matter what.

The truth about ‘the economy’, as with the truth about humans, is that there is a limitless capacity for innovation and adaptability that is always there, whether we see it or not.

Yes, sometimes there are juggernauts that are harder to turn. Often there is a lag, especially when it comes to the economy, and a need for some kind of safety net in the interim. But the decision, and commitment to adapt can be taken even when we our new model isn’t even on the drawing board, let alone ready to roll off the production line.

Physical Limitations Being True

It looks true to me that there is a limit to the physical nature of the earth, just as there is a limit to the physical nature of being human, we don’t breathe well above a certain altitude, and we can’t (yet) fly unaided.

If we accept that toilet paper is a diminishing resource, it’s surprising, or not, to see how adaptable we can be. The value is in the adaptability…



Cathy Presland

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