Adedotun Babajide

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the future; it is a balance between society, the economy, and the environment.

Adedotun Babajide holds a master’s degree in English Language and Literature from Queen’s University. He has worked with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems for two years, helping with their podcast, Handpicked: Stories from the Field.

Some words in the poem below may not be familiar to all readers. A word bank with explanations follows.

Three to Tangle: Sustainability and its Complexity


Sustainability is one
for all, and all for one.
One for now, and all
for now. Now
for later, and later for now.
               a meal equally set
A tango of three
bedfellows: Society, Environment, and Economy.
A tough task for partners
with tangled tusks,
with needs dug deep
into greedy skins. Society
must sway Economy
one way but cannot step
on Environment’s gown.

What is good for goose,
is bad for gander.
Society: man and kind, must find manna
in the des[s]ert with five oases:
a drink
from Population Engagement,
before a dive into Local
Economic Dynamism. Rest
at Health and Wellbeing.
At Social Justice, look further
to Ecological Regeneration.

Sustainability is
One foot forward, then, the other.
The other foot forward, and the first foot
over the other. Hips swaying
to the tune of the típica.
               the murmur of yearning
What is good for goose, is goose for the good
of another. One recycled can.
To make farming easier
for large-scale farmers, machineries
pounce on farms. Licenses incense lies
to keep farmers
hooked to corporations. Rights
to seed varieties are bought, man
owns genetics, food
sovereignty is attacked. Ganders
gather together way over
yonder. Ogonis, a Shell
of former self. Oil
spills give birth
to destroyed farmlands.

Sustainability is Change
for improvement, improvement for change.
Change to improve improvement and change
Because change leads to change.
               some intricate purpose?
Loose change to the local
vendor at the farmer’s market
might trump the big
don with same day delivery.
Homeostasis—a balance
between products
of industrialization and community
farms. Food-related diseases crush
2 billion, 800 million bow at the feet
of food insecurity. Right foot back
left foot back. Circle ’round
feet together. Sustainability is born.


An axolotl replenishes a lost limb
similar to a starfish.
Sustainability is growth, growing
without loss.
A knot, firmly tied,
though pressed down
by Capitalism—the fellow
with the big gut. Government
policies whirl it around and toss it
to international relations. Man
is on mars. Masses, kin, amass under
Survival. The air burns, polar
ice caps melt. Elsewhere, the vihuela
is the goje; agbadas cannot
fit under winter coats. Pound
pounds the Naira, cut each sari
according to size.
Yin, yang.

To stop the oil
production, is to save
the environment, but it is also to take
the livelihood of many.
Around the fire, man dances, naked.
Sustainability is understanding.
Culture and history dictate under
each climate.

Left foot back and to the left,
to the right, right foot back
Lunge back on the left
and corte.
Three to tangle.
Au revoir to covetousness,
Alas, change tout d’un coup?
Communities must remain
together: leave no one behind.
One giant step for man, another
step for biodiversity
and human rights. It is only right
if the end is the process,
and the process is the end.
A Brave New World
of rethinking
metrics and international agreements.

The finish line moves
with the runner.
The left follows
the right, forward,
back, side, around,
a dance.


**Indented phrases in italics are taken from the 19th section of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”


Word Bank

Típica: Orquesta típica, an ensemble or band playing popular music. In some countries it is synonymous to bands playing tango music.

Ogonis: the Ogoni people are located in Rivers State, Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. For decades they have had problems with the Royal Dutch Shell oil and gas company over issues such as the pollution of their farmlands caused by oil spills.

Axolotl: an amphibian, a neotenic salamander.

Vihuela: a Spanish string instrument. Shaped like a guitar, it is fretted plucked and has five strings.

Goje: a bowed string instrument indigenous to West Africa.

Agbadas: commonly worn in West Africa, it is a fitted wide-sleeved robe.

Naira: the currency of Nigeria.

Sari: a garment worn by women of South Asia. Yards of either silk or cotton is draped in a manner that forms a skirt and a shoulder or head covering.

Corte: a type of lunge in Tango.

“Tout d’un coup” is a French term which translates to “at once.”

Discussion questions

  • What challenges and opportunities for acting sustainably are apparent in the poem above?
  • Pick two examples from your life experience that illustrate the complexities of sustainability. Explain them to someone else, either out loud, in prose, or as a poem.
  • Some people talk about sustainability as a process and not as a final destination, a practice rather than a conclusion. Do you think sustainability is achievable?

Additional Resources

Arts, K. (2017). Inclusive sustainable development: a human rights perspective. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability24, 58–62.

Brundtland, G. H., Khalid, M., Agnelli, S., Al-Athel, S., & Chidzero, B. (1987). Report of theWorld Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. UnitedNations.

Di Battista, A. and Young, L. (Hosts). (2019). Because Everybody Eats: Exploring Sustainable Food Systems for a Better World (No. 1) [Audio podcast episode]. In Handpicked: Stories from the Field. Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems.

Intergovernmental Plan on Climate Change. (2019). Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

La Via Campesina & GRAIN. (2014). Food sovereignty: 5 steps to cool the planet and feed itspeople.

Pascoe, B. (2018). Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture. Magabala Books.

Sharma, R. and Monteiro, S. (2014). Creating Social Change: The Ultimate Goal of Education for Sustainability. International Journal Conference of Social Science and Humanity,6(1), 72–76.

Von Wirén-Lehr, S., (2001). Sustainability in agriculture—an evaluation of principal goal-oriented concepts to close the gap between theory and practice. Agriculture, ecosystems & environment84(2), 115–129.


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