J500 Media and the Environment


living at the expense of the environment by dmdeshazer
January 22, 2008, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Society + Media

I, like Kim, just waltzed back into my college life in Lawrence after a 17-day journey in the Big Apple. Needless to say, I miss every aspect of the life I had there. Until I read Kim’s post, I had only calculated my “normal life in Lawrence/Kansas City” footprint, but decided to calculate my NYC footprint as well.

Lawrence: 20-acre footprint — 4.4 planets
New York City: 10-acre footprint — 2.2 planets

I wasn’t surprised in the least bit that living in a major city cut my footprint in half, but this knowledge makes me admire New York living so much more. Most people there aren’t making enough money to waste much themselves anyway, and to be honest, I walked or took the subway absolutely everywhere. Public transportation makes me giggle– I love it that much.

Life in Lawrence, for me at least, is not “eco-conscious.” Although I walk to campus and my classes, and I admit, to the bars, I drive everywhere else. It seems that’s what life has dwindled down to. Especially being from the Kansas City-area, I’m used to getting around by car. And now that I intern in Topeka part-time (at Natural Home magazine, a sustainable, “green living” magazine), I am going to be driving that much more. Kim and I are carpooling with each other, but I only thought to do this in order to “save money,” not the environment. That’s what our world has come to– everything that drives our decisions is mostly by the price tag attached to it. I would like to eat better, natural, whole foods, but it’s more expensive. I’d like to buy energy-efficient lightbulbs, etc., but again, they’re expensive.

I’m not saying I’m not conscious of it, but in a college student’s life, it’s much easier to go the cheaper way than the healthier, environment-friendly route. I hope that I can learn to take those “baby steps” toward better living, even if it’s by the sacrifice of some short change.

–Danae DeShazer

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6 Comments so far
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Danae,
Hopefully what you will find is that those ideas of affordability and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Certain things – like Local Burger – are a luxury. But in an ideal world, we should all have equal access to healthy food – as well as clean water, clean air and clean soil (as the environmental justice movement espouses).
Natural Home will teach you a lot.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Interesting post…as someone who travels to NYC a couple of times a year for work, I know what you mean about the glories of efficient public transportation–and the benefits of walking everywhere (both in terms of personal health and for the health of our environment).

I don’t think you should kick yourself, though, for carpooling for personal financial reasons rather than environmental ones…who cares what the motive is as long as the result is positive, right? In fact, I would argue that your reasoning is the key to solving most of our problems…when people find out that such practices are not only in their best financial interests but also in the planet’s best interest, they’ll be more likely to act; it seems like a win-win situation.

As for expensive organic food, I do take issue with the argument that they are more costly. That is, in terms of retail price, yes, they are a little more expensive. However, in terms of the hidden costs–benefits to personal health, benefits to the environment–they clearly outweigh processed, “mainstream” foods that are loaded with unnecessary chemicals, shipped across countries and states, and that are far more detrimental to personal health. Eating “mainstream” food might be cheaper in the short run, but then you’d have to take into consideration the costs of medical expenses that result from years of eating crap (like all that high-fructose corn syrup), for example.

Bottom line: I think most reasonable people would be willing to pay slightly more for better/healthier products if they simply had all of the information. Of course, it’s in the best interest of major food producers to keep that information hidden (for further evidence, I’d recommend reading “Fast Food Nation,” if you haven’t already…)

Anyway, I enjoyed your post and I know there’s a great deal of truth to NYC allowing for a smaller footprint…but then again, when you take in air pollution, the greater amounts of daily trash/consumption, etc., the city as a whole is much, much more damaging to our environment than a place like Lawrence. I’m comparing (Big) Apple with Orange (Bowl) I know, but I guess some additional context is necessary.

Ranjit Arab

Comment by rarab

Danae,

Like you said earlier, public transportation is awesome and I would love it if KC had an accessible subway system like New York, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. Maybe it’s because we are not big enough, I’m not sure. I believe that if public transportation was more accessible, more people would take advantage of it. Who wants to willingly spend all of their cash on gas anyways? However, when it’s cold outside and you have to wait for a bus, more people choose convenience and comfort over what is good for the environment. And while that is a sad fact, it is true. And when you mentioned ealier about eating healthy, I would love to but the truth is, I just can’t afford to. Every thing that is lower in fat or organic is ALWAYS more expensive, so until that changes, I will sadly have to buy the cheap, unhealty, environmentally unfriendly stuff.

Lindsay Crupper

Comment by Lindsay

You brought up a lot of points concerning transit and consumption that I often feel I am out of control of as well, being a broke student.

Lawrence has it’s own public transit system, but most of the time, when I see those buses running around town, they are mostly empty, and it breaks my heart. I would much rather use the bus system around town than drive my car, but I feel that it would be difficult because it would, unfortunately, be inconvenient because of the extended time it would take to walk to a bus stop (the closest to my home is 6 blocks away), wait for the bus to get to my destination and do all the steps to get back home. For a bus system that only comes only every 45 minutes, this would be difficult for those of us who have extremely busy schedules.
While biking is my ultimate choice in transportation, I can’t help but wonder how efficient an empty bus system is. I acknowledge the power of public transportation, I just wish we could create a more timely, and efficient system for Lawrence!

I think this would greatly improve life in Lawrence.

Juliana T

Comment by julianat

Alright Juliana, what are you/ we going to do about it? What are the levers of change in the City, media, etc. to draw attention to the fact that our public transit system needs some help?

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Definitely we would have to create an issue about it, and get it on the legislative agenda. It would have to be something people were genuinely interested in. We would have to make people realize the benefits of public transit for the environment, as well as the community. I guess the first step would be to learn more about the public transit system in Lawrence, and find out who to talk to first about the issue.

Juliana T

Comment by julianat




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