Sustainability; the Unspoken Code.

Sustainability; the Unspoken Code.


Sustainability this, Sustainability that, Sustainability all. Once Jose had settled into his new environment, one thing seemed subtle. His quick adaptability to the new way of doing things in this new environment.

The way of doing things in this new environment was coded with an unspoken code with which one had to fit with or fit in. To say Jose quickly adapted to it could as well equate to an overstatement because the truth was more in his cultural inclination rather than an expectation to honor this unspoken code.

And this unspoken code had everything to do with sustainability. Understood in the context of the youthful slang which Jose understood better from where he came from, it meant to maintain. This loosely came out of the understanding that a lady in the streets with some big buttocks better known as ‘nyash’ maintained that standard for some lengthy time, the colloquial term used among Jose’s peers to describe the ‘maintenance’ was that she had sustained it.

Well, over time the ‘new’ man in Jose was beginning to question this old gospel about sustaining once the new context came into the picture. The new definition in this case had more to do with mannerisms of ensuring proper resource utilization given their scarcity and nothing to do with ‘nyash‘ at all.

But then the habits, what has been engraved into the human brain as the acceptable way of doing things, made possible by advancement in technology and high levels of living enabled this sustainability to look within grasp.

The question that lingered through Jose’s mind was if people made deliberate decisions to behave in such a way that contributed to sustainability or culture and catching up with trends was the unconscious contributor without their knowledge.

Let me break this down to make it palatable. Jose came from a big ‘family.’ In their small house in the village, Jose’s grandmother stayed with them, his sister, 3 of his cousins, and their half-sister who had already given birth to two children while still living under her parent’s roof.

So speaking about food as an example, most of the time it was a competition against time to have a proper meal for the day in Jose’s family. However, this new environment was different. Families were small and they cooked a lot of food only that they had little fear of the excess food going bad because the food could be frozen or kept in the fridge until it was later fully consumed.

Back in Jose’s village, there seemed to be nothing like enough food. One day Kwamboka, Jose’s half-sister cooked what she purported to be a lot of food after their mother came home and said she had seen the children eating somewhere in the village at a party. She kept lamenting how that food would go bad now that people had eaten and would come home full.

She was wrong because, by the time the children came home, they ate as though they had not eaten at any party. So the worry about food going bad is not a worry for either side of the divide (Jose’s village and his new environment) but because of different circumstances.

One is driven by cooking to consume and finish in one seating whereas the other is on the fact that cook what you can have up to two days in advance or even more depending on storage and other factors.

But remember old habits die hard. So when Jose arrived, he came with the mentality of cooking to eat and finish. He did that for the first few days of his arrival and realized he could not sustain it and so what could he do other than adapt to this new environment and its dictates?

Out of the kitchen and into daily living and sustainability in terms of consumption, traveling, and learning as far as purchases took precedence. By trying to heed systematic dictates of which there were no choices, the unspoken code of sustainability was imbued into his DNA.

So it wasn’t a matter of adapting. It was about survival or death. Speaking about adapting and someone has a choice of not adapting and still surviving depending on quite a lot of factors. In survival, the aspect of death is never a choice. It is about clinging to life.

Anyway, by choosing to survive, he had also done his part in contributing to global sustainability. Not choosing to use a taxi over the bus, he was reducing his carbon emissions (carbon footprint) although there was more to it than simply the love of using the bus. Jose could not afford a car.

And because being a champion for sustainability is a cool thing in this new environment, he will stick with it as long as he can to stand tall in solidarity with the unspoken code of sustainability. In a deeper sense, something in common with everyone in the new environment.

Someone wonders if it is the respect or fear of the law driving the heed to this unspoken code. The fear of the law breeds compliance over the long run and thus things are respected because breaking the law attracts severe consequences. But keenly considered, it is more about respect for the law.

For instance respect for the law seems to have mutated into some sort of unspoken respect for the trees, human rights, life, and a lot in society in general. Care and respect for the environment are not openly spoken but deeply and silently admired. Well, it seems after all that this unspoken code of sustainability is not bad. It doesn’t matter the means or the end as long you heed and stand solidary with the code.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at
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