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I dislike the word ‘glocal’. It’s an ugly word used by high altitude thinkers to add zest to another word – local – that they find tedious on its own.
I also dislike the word ‘creative’. It tends to be used by uncreative people to describe people like themselves. Its bastard child, ‘cultural creative’, is twice as bad because …well, you fill in the gaps.
Now a new word has come along to bug me: ‘Sustainism’. It adorns a new book that celebrates the glocal and the creative. Not a good start.
The word sustainism has been invented by two design eminences from The Netherlands, Michiel Schwarz and Joost Elffers. They’ve created the new word as a “replacement for modernism”.
Sustainism as a new cultural era is described in two ways. The first is a series of quotes and aphorisms, two or three to a page. Familiar words flutter across the folios: connected, local, digital, ecology, community, interface, collaboration, crossover, social, and so on.
The book’s second channel, if we may call it that, is a confetti of colourful logos [including the ones above]. These intersperse the aphorisms. The effect is visually pleasing – the book reminds me of an illustrated diary I had as a child – but I reached the end feeling I had read a contents list, but not the content itself.
The idea, say its author-designers, is that Sustainism’s “graphically dynamic aphorisms, quotes and symbols” capture the zeitgeist of our culture and “name the new age”.
I’m not so sure. The word sustain – whether attached to an -ism, or an -abiity – speaks too much, to me anyway, of bailing out a leaking boat as it drifts towards a waterfall. It’s got to be done, but it’s not a joyful prospect.
Sustainism is rather like a butterfly collection. Many of its specimens are renowned, and some of them are beautiful – but they are also – how to put this delicately? – lifeless.
Sustainism, in consequence, achieves the opposite of its ambition. It’s a very Modern book.
Sustainism Is the New Modernism: A Cultural Manifesto for the Sustainist Era by Michiel Schwarz and Joost Elffers is published by Distributed Art Publishers.

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