Cultural Sustainability

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 13 march 2008

Danah Boyd’s thoughts on cultural sustainability reminded me of the 50/50 Corporation theory. Danah suggests that cultural sustainability should be a strategy that companies should adopt and goes beyond ideas such like ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘environmentally sustainable’.

At the same time, a company can be environmentally sound and completely destroy local economies and other aspects of culture through their moves.

To me, the idea of “cultural sustainability” is about companies whose actions offset the consequences of their presence (or disappearance). For example, when large companies abandon cities that they’ve been in for years and where the entire city revolves around them, their move has a HUGE culturally destructive force. How do they offset this in a functional way? How does this get considered to be an externality that needs to be factored in?… Large companies who come into a town and put out of business a variety of different local merchants have another kind of culturally destructive practices. This is why the conversations around Wal-Mart get so heated: capitalism vs. cultural sustainability.

…There are numerous points of pressure placed on companies right now to be environmentally sustainable, but this is not the only kind of sustainability that matters. That said, there are lessons to be learned. For a long time, the conversation tended to devolve into capitalism vs. environmental sustainability. More and more, folks are saying BOTH and finding ways to make that work. How do we do this with cultural sustainability? What pressure points need to be put into place where culture is evaluated as an externality in the models that economists draw up?

Read more: apophenia: cultural sustainability


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