Sustainians

A Tribe and Their Island

Reinoud Schuijers
May 14, 2019 · 8 min read
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The Island — by Benjamin Behre

Over the past few decades, an island has emerged out of nowhere. No-one saw it coming. There were no warning signs. It could not have been foreseen — the island just came into existence and caught us all by surprise. Like when clouds form, volcanos erupt or massive shards of polar ice shatter as they crash into the emerald ocean beneath, all anyone could do while the island emerged was watch in awe and hope for the best.

The island is shrouded in mystery. It has been around for long, but was slowly forgotten by the masses. You have probably never heard of it before. Neither had I, until I discovered it a while ago. By writing about it, I am attempting to put the island back on the map. And not without reason.

See, the island is important. “How important?”, you might ask. Well, I am convinced that the island plays a crucial role in the survival of our species. Human endeavors in keeping their planet habitable pivots around this very island. That important.

If we cannot solve the island’s mysteries, we are doomed. This is no horror story, no constructed propaganda, nor is it a threat. It’s really dead simple. We will not make it far into the twenty-second century, unless we can conquer the island. And from the looks of it now — we can’t.

The birth of an island

On the fifth of October, 1970, the Don’t Make A Wave Committee was founded in Vancouver, Canada, only to change its name two years later. The committee consisted of no less than seven forefathers: Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Bohlen, Ben and Dorothy Metcalfe, and Robert Hunter.

In 1972, the forefathers changed their name to Greenpeace.

That very year, somewhere very distant — far from Vancouver, and even further from the founders’ good intentions — the very tip of an island emerged. The tip of an island that might call doom upon us, perhaps before our very own eyes, and if not, before our grandchildren’s.

The Island was born.

The forefathers of a harmless tribe

With islands come tribes. Ours is not an exception. Many people are destined to become islanders. They don’t know they are until they become one. They don’t even have to move to the island to join the tribe. They can join, spiritually, from anywhere in the world.

Much like most religions, either you commit fully, or you do not belong.

But when they do join, they are likely to be drawn to the island sooner or later. And many of them go there, eventually. The ones who don’t are the exception — and they are frowned upon by true islanders.

In the modern day, it’s an exclusive tribe. Much like most religions, either you commit fully, or you do not belong. There is nothing in between. It’s binary. Yes, or no. So if you want to call yourself an islander, you will go by their rules. No exceptions.

This exclusivity rose with the changing of the centuries. When the forefathers forged their tribe, they were welcoming. The more the merrier. After all, with numbers came power and a voice — power that had been longed for, for many years, a voice that yearned to be heard. So at that time, anyone could join. And anyone could leave, freely. It was a truly loving, understanding and respectful tribe, with only good intentions.

But by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the tribe had begun its collapse into the exclusive, closed community it is today.

The rise of the Sustainian

As tribes grow and power accumulates, their members tend to change — for the worse, in most cases. In our case, tribesmen started to feel superior to The Rest. Pride of belonging to the tribe translated into disrespect of those who didn’t — a toxic development.

Accordingly, a right of passage was introduced. Slowly, the island put up walls on its shores, completely closing it down to newcomers. Only they who proved to be very worthy tribesmen, committed to going all the way and further, were accepted. The Rest would often be shot on sight or captured and tortured, perhaps to set an example.

Around the year 2000, out of this violent mindset, the Sustainian was born. A Sustainian is best described as an individual living on the island and obeying its rules. It feels superior to those who are not Sustainians. Any outsider is a threat and treated as such. It has the self-proclaimed right to judge others. Even fellow Sustainians can be judged — and punished. Not following the rules strictly enough, not fully committing, or even unsubstantiated suspicion will result in punishment and even social manslaughter. The island demands purity. The Sustainians are there to impose the island’s will. Subsequently, the ideas of the forefathers have since started to blur.

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A human — by MD Duran

Hunters and prey

Hunting has always been a fundamental part of Sustainian culture. At first, under the guidance of the forefathers, they would hunt strategically. Locate the biggest prey. Carefully plan the attack, and execute with precision, avoiding collateral damage.

They have thrived this way for many years. They have won battles, and they have suffered defeat, losing quite some tribesmen along the way. A sacrifice many Sustainian is willing to make.

And while painful, these losses only forged the tribe to become denser and more exclusive. One without stories of glory is one not worthy of respect. You have to earn your respect the hard way. It takes time, stamina, and perseverance. And even then there is no guarantee that you will be fully accepted.

As time changed, so did the hunting strategies of the Sustainians. At first, there were only a handful of tribesmen. A team of specialists, executing precise tactics. But numbers grew. An army arose. An unguided army, so it turned out.

Strategy was devoured by frenzy. Planning was overgrown by bloodthirst. A once peaceful and thoughtful tribe became an aggressive one, lashing out to anything that came close.

Drifting away

With aggression came weapons. Bows and arrows, in this case. These allowed the Sustainians to defend their island without having to leave it. The island became isolated. Anything that came close would be shot, no matter the intentions of the newcomers and travelers.

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Dark shore — by Quinn Nietfeld

The strategy worked. The island, the Sustainians, and their bows and arrows began drifting away. Further and further away from The Rest. So far, that the island became a mere speck on the horizon.

The Rest knew it was there — but it didn’t really matter. The island grew into a ghost of the past. A ghost that no-one was keen on being reminded of. A ghost that people had quietly started to resent.

The bow and arrow thinking of the Sustainian had caused The Rest to stop caring. If coming close is punished regardless of one’s intentions, then eventually people will stop caring. They will stop trying. They will move on to places where they are welcome. Places where they can contribute. Places where they are respected.

The island became a distant, isolated place. At first, this did not seem to be a problem. But as time passed, the Sustainians grew restless. They started to realize that they depended on The Rest to fulfill the Island’s wishes. But The Rest had moved on.

So recently, they starting reaching out again. They are sending missionaries. Missionaries with trinkets, holy writings, proof. Proof that might very well be truthful. Scientific proof. But The Rest is not listening anymore. Perhaps even more so because the missionaries are still eager to impose their views by the sword, rather than through meaningful dialogue.

“Time is running out” is their major argument, completely foregoing the making up they have to do. The Sustainians do not acknowledge their numerous missteps. Their self-granted superiority. Their capriciousness. They still view themselves as the saviors of our planet and expect to be treated as such.

Reality, however, is telling us that the Sustainians are not the saviors. No-one is. Failure is a joint effort. So is victory. There are no heroes. There will be no ceremony, no praise, no individual reverence. Life is the only reward. Life for all. Not just for those who feel they fought the hardest. Not just for the Sustainians. For everyone.

The long overdue revolution

Our planet and everything it encompasses is obsessively watching the slow, painful chess game between the Sustainians and The Rest. But the clock is running out, and — as we’ve seen — it’s not up to The Rest what will happen next. It’s up to the Sustainians.

They hold the key to the island. Are they ready to let The Rest approach? Or will they keep their guard up, imposing their superior views, disrespecting everyone that is not fully on board, and shooting adventurers on sight?

Time will tell if they will drown not only their cherished island, but also the dreams of their forefathers and everything they’ve fought for in the process — or if they are maybe, just maybe, willing to forge a truce.

Not every vegan is a Sustainian. Not every vegetarian is a Sustainian. Some are, some aren’t. We are in dire, dire need of more people who care, but we are in even more desperate need of people who understand how to forge a movement large enough to make a change this big.

Criticizing everyone who isn’t with you does not work. This has been tried numerous times, and this failed miserably every single time. The impact of organizations doing good is negligible compared to the change that is required. It’s harsh, but it is the truth. Progress is way too slow. Raising voices even higher and imposing superiority even further will work counter-productive.

So will protests. Occupying places. Boycotts.

We need the masses to make the change. And if we want to reach them, we will have to listen to them, start a true conversation, and don’t expect them to change their lives in a matter of years. The masses hate protests. They hate occupancies. They hate boycotts.

Besides, a change of this magnitude takes decades, if not generations. Counter-intuitive as it might sound, it is time to applaud the little things, instead of endlessly asking for more. It is time to reward good intentions, even if they don’t yet yield grand results. It is time to welcome everyone — every single soul — that wants to make even the smallest change.

It is time for The Island to be there for everyone. Arms open wide, lovingly accepting.

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I take care of my body because it is what carries my mind. Founder & creative director of srj.agency. Not a doctor.

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