As Nathaniel and I start our exploration into sustainable transportation, I have many questions that aim to pin down sustainability and make it into something tangible. The Oxford American dictionary defines sustainability as:

•    able to be maintained at a certain rate or level
•    Ecology (esp. of development, exploitation, or agriculture) conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources
•    able to be upheld or defended

This definition raises more questions than it provides answers and shows that we have been unable to come up with a sufficient understanding of what we actually mean when we talk about sustainability. Through the next 10 weeks, we intend to poke and prod to see if sustainability and transportation can coexist, and if they can, how they might come together.

The following is a small list of questions that I believe will be crucial to our understanding of sustainability.

What is sustainability? How is it defined? Is it a universal definition?
Can something be sustainable in one place and not in another? Does a sustainable solution work universally or is sustainability figured out at the local level?
Is anything truly sustainable?
Is being sustainable/sustainability a goal or a process?
Is sustainability more than an environmental concept? What are the social, economic and political implications?
Would sustainability exist if one aspect of the culture, such as transportation, became sustainable while the rest of the surrounding world continued to be unsustainable?
What are we trying to sustain?
How is sustainability measured?
How does the concept of sustainability account for change?

During this first week, Nathaniel and I will try and answer some and hopefully all of these questions, if only to provide our study with more structure. The answers we come up with may not be completely correct or agreed upon by everyone, but as we learn more about sustainability, our understandings and answers will no doubt change.

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