Context: The Global Sustainability Movement

November 4, 2021

Your local context is where the mobilization of global change happens. As one context is pieced with the next, a mosaic of global sustainability will begin to take shape.

By Zainab Azhar

The goal is always to achieve sustainability as a collective. It’s hardly a competition because a true vision of sustainability is only complete with everyone in the picture. But, can you really sit down an entire planet of man, animal, land and water at a table to have a conversation about inclusive change-making? Moment after moment we are shown at such “tables”, it is only the voices, faces and needs of a few at play. It’s no wonder the existence of body, soul and earth must be fought for at the handle of a protest sign.


So how then, is global sustainability reached? Context by context. Step by little step.

Maybe that’s why we speak so much to the “footprint” in the world of conscious living – each footprint adds to the mosaic of the whole, no matter the sprint, run or walk of life that brought you here. Yes, the individual does in fact make up the whole but let’s not skip the in-between. The smaller whole: your… our local context. The story of a community or street bears a particular cadence within the whole. That’s why a Raptor’s jersey feels a very certain type of way on your back. The same way, an understanding and connection to local context plays a critical role in our ability to achieve a biosphere, atmosphere, and anthropocene built intentionally on principles of sustainability. 


Local context is deeply complex. There’s street layouts, culture within culture, culture that fits within no culture, micro-socioeconomy, norms and values, garbage collection schedules, dissent dotted with street signs and graffiti, artists, leaders (not just political but the ones that truly shine), justice or a lack thereof, gardens, skyscrapers, footprints, fingerprints and all of the beautiful people attached to them. 


Understanding yours or another’s context leads to the development of actionable items that actually make sense. An example of which are the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 goals ranging from the suppression of poverty; to conscious interaction with land and water; to economic innovation and diversification; to inclusivity and equality between all persons; and the building and maintenance of relationships that foster this global conception of sustainability. Canada itself has pledged its stewardship of these goals. The aim is to achieve these 17 goals with respect to the context of each nation. In essence, mobilization on “Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” or “Goal 14: Life Below Water” will look very different in Canada versus Portugal or Morocco or South Africa or Japan. Similarly, each locality within a nation will carry its own cultural, geographical and socioeconomic nuance. 


Sustainability is just like that: a commitment to holistic growth that begins where the grass grows, in the local context. Examples of these commitments are all around you.

Here are some ways you can share in the sustainable development of your own context: 

  1. Volunteer or work with sustainability-centered grassroots organizations (UnaTerra 😉) within your municipality;
  2. Support local businesses, artists and creators;
  3. Attend events curated by national networks and hubs that are proponents of sustainable development (The Inter-Council Network)

Add it all up and then some. The result: sustainable change within a global mosaic of contexts – set in motion by none other than you.


By Zainab Azhar
Edmonton, AB
IG: @zai.azh


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