J500 Media and the Environment

Sustainability…Earth’s Ecological Tightrope by jasonmer

Experiences form our belief system and allow us to define the world we inhabit; my experiences as a former research chemist and current student help me define sustainability through the portal of a scientific term called homeostasis.

Maintenance of a constant or the pursuit of balance is homeostasis.  Chemical reactions, simple and complex life, AND the earth seek balance.  Man’s actions are negating earth’s ability to naturally achieve balance.  Balance, or homeostasis, is the goal for earth on the ecological tightrope; a coexistence with the daily push and pull between conservation and natural resource utilization.

My definition of sustainability:  Finding balance in mans utilization of earth’s resources by practicing environmental stewardship through reduction of our ecological footprint, and restoration of the Earth’s natural ability to maintain homeostasis.

Frequent reminders exist on how far society wanders from this definition.  An example can be seen in my recent return camping trip last weekend to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The park spoke once again to nature’s grandeur and delightful simplicity.  Upon arrival to the park something was noticeably missing – the weathered, worn, and affable face of Betsy, the Park Ranger for the campsite, was gone.

Wood chopping, tents out of place, coolers and food left out, fires burning unattended, scattered trash, and improper water disposal fill the void left by Betsy’s absence.  Nonexistent stewardship of the campsite and ecological trampling by the visitors handicapped nature’s homeostasis.  The park policy of “Leave No Trace” was ignored.

Leave No Trace from "hikingdude.com"

Leave No Trace from "hikingdude.com"

My camping trip is not an incident in isolation.  Destruction of the Earth’s natural resources is occurring at an excruciating pace on the world stage.   Indefinite sustainment of a linear materials economy can’t continue; current levels of consumption in the United States would take three to five earths to sustain if the rest of the world were consuming the same amount.  We are outstripping Earth’s biocapacity by 39 percent and leaving a footprint which knocks Earth off her ecological tightrope.

Is achieving balance realistic in our lifetime?

Jason Merckling


Should she take the garbage out? by jennibro

When I was a little girl my mother used to read Shel Silverstein poems to me. My favorite poem was about a girl named Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. This little girl adamantly refused to take the garbage out.  This poem gave me dreams as a child that one day our garbage was going to take over our lives until we were swimming in it.

Image by Chelsea Carolyn

Image by Chelsea Carolyn

It’s scary images like this that inspire people to begin the process of reduce -reuse -recycle. Blue bins now line the streets on trash pick-up day, and recycle signs designate the appropriate can for your bottle around the office. Unfortunately, recycling paper and plastic isn’t all it’s going to take. In “The story of stuff”, Annie Leonard stated that, for every can of waste put on the curb, 70 cans of waste were made to produce the contents  of that can. “So even if we could recycle 100 percent of the waste coming out of our households,” she said, ” it doesn’t get to the core of the problem.”

So what can we do? The answer is sustainability. Sustainability is to maintain and provide for. To keep the planet healthy, rather than make it worse for the wear. To conserve our resources, eliminate waste, develop clean air technologies, invest in waste-water solutions. The planet Earth is complex, and to sustain our planet it is going to take multiple efforts.

So what can Sylvia Stout do? What can one person do to help maintain the planet?

She can constantly educate herself to make the right choices based on what is best for the environment. She can recycle, choose to buy products without bulky packaging, use natural pesticides that are toxin free. She can refrain from buying the newest phone every six months and throwing away the old. She can change light bulbs to fluorescent to cut down on energy consumption, or ride a bike instead of driving. The possibilities are limitless, but the first step is making the commitment to consider the planet a top priority and provide for its health and safety.

-Jenni Brown

Sustainability: Mind over Action or Mindful Action? by erinleap

Sustainability: a way of thinking that timelessly generates relevant ideas and tactics ways humans can reduce their ecological footprint on Earth.

Here’s how I’ve broken down my definition of sustainability to make it more understandable:

  • A way of thinking that timelessly generates – assessment must be ongoing in order to successfully implement the rest of the definition.
  • …relevant ideas and tactics – the plan and approach must be appropriate to the time and the situation. This necessitates ongoing and new ways of thinking as the environment and society change.
  • …ways humans can reduce their ecological footprint on Earth – minimize  human effect, minimize harm to the Earth, sustain what is still available.

To me, sustainability doesn’t simply mean being green. I believe a big part of sustainability is in the way one thinks. Sure, you can recycle, but do you know why you’re recycling? You can drive a hybrid car, but what’s the true benefit in doing so? It’s important to not only do the action but also know the benefits or consequences behind it. I believe actions can wear out over time but to change the way someone thinks has a long-lasting effect. If actions speak louder than words, does the mind speak louder than actions? Not necessarily.

I think it’s also important the mind and action work together. Many people want to be sustainable and think about doing so, but it doesn’t help matters if they’re not actually acting sustainably. It goes along with the common used phrase, “Easier said than done.” It’s easier to say you’re green than to act green. It’s easier to think about sustainability than to be sustainable. To think and put your thoughts into action is what matters but also requires a little effort.

Will too much green to be green blacken the green movement?

Will too much green to be green blacken the green movement? (Photo courtesy of Karl Brauer of Edmunds.com)

My biggest fear is that this green movement we all seem to be currently riding will eventually die out. Being sustainable is the popular culture phenomenon right now but does it have an expiration date? I know it’s an oxymoron to use sustainability and expiration in the same sentence but I have to wonder. This is why I included the words timeless and relevant in my definition. Sustainability needs to be both of these in order to successfully outlive this green wave of popularity to continue into future generations.

-Erin Pursel

What does sustainable mean? Does it mean anything or everything? by christinewerem
July 14, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 5, Waste + Recycling | Tags:

Through my class readings and discussions I’ve concluded there is a single definition for sustainability. While Bob Doppelt includes an encyclopedia definition in “Leading Change Toward Sustainability” he goes on to say the companies that lead in sustainability must be lucid in their efforts to understand the end sustainable goals. While Doppelt says sustainability means to use a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged, a Washington University microsite from 1999 defines sustainability the same way, “Sustainability means using methods, systems and materials that won’t deplete resources or harm natural cycles.”

I could go on but all definitions I found for sustainability said the same thing. My definition of sustainability is to buy, build, recycle or throw away those materials that will not harm environmental systems. I think this definition can encompass a variety of sustainable initiatives including building (LEED, materials chosen, using solar panels, rain buckets, etc.) buying organic or sustainable products in both business and consumer levels, throwing away only those materials that cannot be recycled or reused in a safe manner that doesn’t harm the environment.

My definition helps define the grey areas green sustainability still has within the public. While the term sustainability has a defined definition because, the term “green’ does not. ‘Green’ is a catch all phrase that is wishy-washy in my opinion. Anything that is considered sustainable should be specific, i.e., all materials used for the product should be recyclable or used to decrease the harm within the environment.

Anything that is labeled ‘green’ should not be considered sustainable because many green products are only partially environmental friendly. For example, Starbucks’ coffee cups are only 10% recycle and some communities do not have the ability to extract the recyclable part from the non-recyclable part so they throw the cups away. Hybrid cars, should also be considered green (verses the 100% electric cars) because the products the car is created out of are non-recycle and the majority of these products cannot be re-used.

The point of this tirade is to say my sustainability definition should be all or nothing- sustainable products should be 100% recyclable and environmentally friendly whereas green-labeled products are partially environmentally friendly.

I think these are fair definitions but some people may disagree. Do you?

Christine W.