J500 Media and the Environment

I am the Winner! by acbowman
January 21, 2008, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I was surprised to see that my score was so incredibly high. According to the test, it takes a ginormous 36 acres to support my lifestyle. If everyone lived like me, it would take 8.2 earths to meet our living wants. At first I felt really bad, then I saw the “Donate Now” button and began questioning the quiz.

There needed to be definitions of certain terms used in the quiz. For example, what constitutes processed and packaged foods? Is pasta processed?

It says my goods and services take up 14.3 acres to support. But I only answered one question to determine this, how much my garbage compares to my neighbors. It doesn’t account for recycling, or type of garbage. Some is biodegradable, some clearly is not. When reading through their explanation of how they came up with these figures, they sort of glazed over the details.

The quiz also estimated that it takes 4.5 acres per person to live a sustainable life. If you multiply the 4.5 acres by the population of Lawrence , 90,000. You get 405,000 acres. That is 692 square miles. This is far more than the 200 mile radius that is considered local for food production. It is physically impossible for the city of Lawrence to eat locally by their estimates.

In the U.S. there were roughly 281 million people in 2000. Using the same math, it would take 19,757,812 square miles to feed the U.S. population. However the U.S. has an area of only 3.79 million square miles. According to the quiz, the U.S. can’t exist sustainably on it’s own. This means importing goods, this of course takes more pollution and consumption to get the goods here.

After taking the quiz, I clicked on “Donate Now” to see what I would be donating money too. I found that the money would go to the Earth Day Network that promotes environmental and sustainable practices in various outlets. The Web site states, “We pursue these goals through education, politics, events, and consumer activism.” I was struck by the consumer activism portion of the mission statement. As I found out through calculating the numbers, consumer activism is only going to get us so far.

There needs to be some corporate activism. We can’t restructure how society works. Steps can be taken to reduce our footprints, but we are ultimately going to have to rely on new technologies for cleaner renewable energy. We also need corporations to adopt these technologies as they become available, and then offer their services to the consumer at reasonable rates making it convenient and available to everyone. Not only to create a greener planet, but also to remain a competitive company in the years to come.



4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I agree with your assertions, Adam. The quiz derived enormous answers from just a handful of questions.

Good point on the corporate activism component. It is important to note that going Green can be profitable; businesses need to realize that and enact changes. However, if the government passes legislation to force businesses to make changes, then we get into some questionable territory. The government should provide businesses incentives to go Green, not decide how they operate.

JJ DeSimone

Comment by jjdesimone

Incentives are what got Nuclear Power started when price of oil was going up. Why not do it for green energy now that we need to reduce carbon emissions?

The next elections should be very interesting, and I would like some debates on the issue of boosting green energy markets in the U.S.

I think it was Thomas Friedman who said on the Brian Lehrer show that there was only one question concerning the environment in the last election.

Adam B

Comment by acbowman

I would agree by saying consumer activism is only going to get us so far. Instead of the word activism, I believe it is important to use the word “awareness”. Before we, as a world, can change the way we live, we have to be aware of what we are doing and how these everyday lifestyle choices are impacting the planet.

As time goes on, I also believe new technologies will be developed that could allow businesses to go more green. Overall, it is all about the baby steps.

Dena H

Comment by denah

Adam, Good skeptical eye!
Unless your pasta is homemade, it’s processed. As for the area required to sustain us, I would not assume that 4.5 acres was exclusive to one person For example, many could eat off the same cow, etc.
If this is interesting to folks, we can invite the gentleman who came up with this footprint analysis to pay us a virtual visit.
As for addressing environmental issues in elections, take a look at this rundown from NPR:
As I often say, we can’t shop our ways to sustainabilty, but for many, shopping differently is an essential first step to changing behavior. It just can’t be the ONLY step.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

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