Is Global Sustainability Even Possible? Yes, Says Bryan Welch

Sometimes the most forward looking among us come from the most unlikely places.† I’m neck deep in the sustainable business realm, and delight in discovering† and sharing new sources of inspiration and innovation with my audiences. And the most powerful mover of green ideological mountains and catalyst for action I’ve seen in 2011? A rancher from Kansas. Bryan Welch.

Oh and he happens to also publish†Mother Earth News,†Utne Reader,†Natural Home,†and, um,†Gas Engine magazine.

This former newspaper man turned publisher has had an eclectic background that has helped him develop a broad perspective that doesnít have the blinders on when it comes to thinking about how living and doing business sustainably can happen.

He recently wrote a book called Beautiful & Abundant: Building The New World We Want,†that eschews the dramatic eco alarm sounding and finger wagging that many books and people take, while at the same time not avoiding thinking about and looking at the challenges we face.

He has a clear framework for how to shape what you do and how you communicate it, that could very well be the glue that sticks all the disparate, supposedly separate groups of people in the world, together, in common cause.

For GreenSmith Sessions #8, I had the good fortune to spend just over 30 minutes in frank conversation with Welch about everything from how many environmentalists are stymieing mass scale progress on the important issues at hand, to his desire to see Earth Day and green business become obsolete concepts in the near future. Do stay tuned to the last five minutes, where he deftly explains that how he sees drastic population reduction being achieved, not by government mandates of natural/manmade disasters, but in an organic fair, just, desirable fashion.

This Session was full of gems, hereís two of the best:

ďIt seems to me illogical that the concept of sustainability would be controversial. Who does not want clean air and clean water? Who does not want, 3 or 4 generations from now, a wonderful place for human beings to live on this planet? Yet somehow weíve allowed sustainability to be pigeonholed as this wonky, tribal fascination for people who wear Birkenstocks and burn Patchouli. Itís wrong, itís destructive, and itís absurd.Ē

ďPeople who are utterly cut off from the prosperity that we enjoy in the developed world donít have the time, resources or motivation to think about sustainability. We alienate them if we pose solutions or pursue visions that exclude them, and we canít afford to exclude or alienate them, because we need a very broad consensus across the planet, or the whole notion of human sustainability is unattainable.Ē

Listen in to the podcast here, and let’s talk about it, below!

Remember, you can also right click the podcast and save it, or get it free from†iTunes, where you can also subscribe to get all future GreenSmith Sessions.


Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of†GreenSmith Consulting, blogs weekly on green start ups of note at†Triple Pundit and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.

Originally posted on and republished here with permission.


Janine Hofmann
Janine H6 years ago

Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Bryan W.
Bryan W.6 years ago

Thank you all for chiming in and illuminating these issues further. It's inspiring to hear from you! - Bryan Welch

Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun6 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Tom Y,

"Bucky" was correct and remains so today but with that thought comes conditions. When Paul R. Ehrlich, first introduced his book, Population Bomb, he set the stage for many debates and we had them for years, i so miss those days.

Bucky, also knew that for such a premise to be possible and/or feasible, it would require man to make many abrupt changes in the manner in which we conducted our daily lives..

Well, we were dreamers, and it was a dream, worth dreaming and yet many of the ideas we had back then, have come to be. Solar, Wind, renewable fuel technologies and so much more. Unfortunately, the Geodesic Dome has not faired so well, not by its lacking in design or attributes but mans inability accept revolutionary ideas.

To watch the news, one would think that the pressing issues of the day are nearing a resolution, they are not. Global Climate Change (GCC) is real, just as comforting the the worlds ability to feed itself.

We now have the ability to feed starving peoples in Africa, but we have not yet learned as to teach them, to feed themselves.

Compared with all our other "success'", such as renewable energy production, which amount to less than 1% of all energy use, it would take us an additional 200 years to see, lets say, a 15% net gain to alter the effects of (GCC). With every gain of 1 %, we loose 2-3 %, this moves us in to the exponential. This is where we begin to realize that the prospect of Global Sustainability is possibly,no longer, a

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose6 years ago

I agree with the comment that human over population is the crucial problem along with others such as Bernadette P. Human sustainabilty. Huh!!! Has anyone (perhaps the author) asked about the rest of the life forms that call this planet Home and need sustainablity also? Human billions of mouths and bodies are consuming Earth to death with all the demands we make for Our/human survival. Some of them so silly (my I-pod, my special nail polish, my golf club, my special preversion, etc). To heck with the facts that this planet is the Only home to billions of other life forms. And to heck with the facts that when we hurt the earth and other inhabitants, we have created our own near-time death sentence.
I tried to send a Green Star to Bernadette P., but Care2 referred her comment to an entirely different article that I would not read, let alone endorse.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Alberta Gentleman

Thanks. Very good article.

Shel G.
Shel G6 years ago

I'm glad others here are pointing out the overpopulation issue. Yes, the earth probably could sustain us at considerably higher levels of population, but what about quality of life??? Look at the most overpopulated countries on earth - personally, I'd rather live in a place that has plenty of unpopulated wild places to visit (and then leave alone!) than in a place teeming with humans, no wildlife and no personal space.
And - we can't just blame the usual victims for population growth. The USA has one of the highest rates of population growth among so-called Western nations. Just look at the rate of property development in most areas - at the expense of wild habitats. Despite the potential impact on the economy, which CAN be managed, population growth in the USA needs to be curbed.

Tom Y.
Tom Y6 years ago

Bryan Welch has an interesting message, and its time is certainly now! I agree with him that pessimism can become gridlock, and that a constructive course of action is really the only way through these times. It'll require a rethink of our consumerist patterns and returning to priorities that matter. (I don't think policing thy neighbor's output of children is the solution; it's their issue. MYOB.) Buckminster Fuller once proposed that with an alteration of consumption patterns, the Earth could support up to 35 billion people with near-minimal environmental impact; and he said "To be optimistic about the future you have to know a lot. But to be pessimistic about the future you don't have to know nothing." Welsh has apparently been deep at the fount of knowledge, and has learned to see the potential that's lambent in our times.