The Race to Sustainability

- a race against the clock


The Race to Sustainability is a cooperative competition to help mobilise individuals and communities to achieve sustainability, urgently.

Why do we need a Race? (Or, what’s the rush?)

These days there is a wide recognition in the community that environmental and social sustainability is important. And there is a lot of effort being put into reducing negative impacts - but there is much less effort going into making sure that a sustainable condition is actually achieved. If we don’t get to a sustainable state soon, more and more of the things that we love and depend on will cease to exist.

The Race to Sustainability- as a metaphor

The value of the race metaphor is that it taps into our wide and deep cultural understanding that there is a destination to be reached (the finishing line) and that there is urgency (the race against the clock). A race also is a galvaniser and motivator for those directly doing the racing and for those supporting them.

The notion of the Race to Sustainability therefore helps us to keep our minds firmly on the central goal - to get to a condition of sustainability fast - and helps us avoid substituting means for ends (eg. treating the journey as more important than the destination).

The Race to Sustainability- as a program of action

The Race to Sustainability is a mechanism for mobilising very large numbers of people in communities across the world to achieve sustainability, fast. And because it focuses on the practicalities of actually ‘getting across the line’ to sustainability as quickly as possible it has to be strategically driven for as long as it takes to achieve sustainability.

How it might work

We see the real Race as a decades-long marathon to restructure our economies and lifestyles globally. We also see the need for motivating events to show progress and provide a series of near-term goals, for example, a two yearly ‘Sustainability Olympics’. We envisage that self-appointed champions would nominate their communities as participants in the Race. These champions would form a strategic team to motivate and lead action programs to try to achieve the necessary social and economic changes in real life. Since there are many distinctive bundles of strategies for achieving sustainability it should be possible for large communities (eg. the size of States or Provinces) to have more than one team attempting to get their community ‘across the line’ to a sustainable condition.

Who’s involved?

Since November 2003, the Sustainable Living Foundation has begun cooperating with other groups in Australia and overseas to establish the Race to Sustainability.

We are looking for partners who share the following values:

  • Respect and care for life (people and the rest of nature)
  • Collaboration and, where useful, co-operative competition
  • Practical idealism

Next steps

We are currently working hard to turn the Race into a worldwide action program and doing so through three directions. We are:

  • reaching out globally to find partners to establish an international structure to run the Race.
  • engaging scientific and technical organisations to develop the judgement system for the Race (where is the finishing line?, where are the participants on the track? how do we know when participants ‘cross the line’, when is the race over [ie. the world is sustainable]?, what are useful intermediate goals that all participants can share?) The Australia New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics is now researching this issue and will be encouraging the International Society for Ecological Economics to be involved in the process as well.
  • gearing up an initial set of communities to be participants (eg. Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands) and forming a few teams to begin the action (we hope to have two demonstration teams in Victoria this year).

For more information on the Race to Sustainability and how sustainability might be achieved before 2030 (prepared by the Sustainable Living Foundation’s strategic partner, Green Innovations) see:

To join in the race to sustainability

If you want to be involved in the Race, contact us by email:

(Version 1.j 24 March 2004 )

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