J500 Media and the Environment


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

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You are right about sust being about thinking. Green or reduce ecological footprint is only part of the picture, ie what some call enviro sustainability. Consider the following from three years before the ubiquitous Bruntland definition,
To achieve sustainability, a system must be ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just and humane (embodying our highest values–how we treat animals, people and the Earth)
~ Alliance for Sustainability , Manna, 1984
On, on.

Comment by Ed Longnecker

Hi, Erin!
I’m afraid of this fading out, too. When I was a kid in California, environmentalism, conservation and ecology, was huge. There were little Hondas and VWs that got better gas mileage than they do now, and we recycled and we wore peace signs and listened to the soundtrack from Hair. I mean, we cared about Mother Earth! And that was back when gas was, get this, about 30 cents a gallon. People started to care more about themselves in the 80’s and then somehow in the 90s, I guess driving SUV’s and consuming ten times more than you need and not being inconvenienced in ant way became all the rage. I’m glad the brakes are on and people are reevaluating, but you’re so right about the need for the timeless commitment in this project. Immediate gratification has got to be done leading the way- forever.

CarrieS

Comment by carrieshoptaw

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you about the generational lifestyle habits between 40 and 50 years ago and today.

My grandparents have told me how they didn’t let a thing go to waste when they were growing up. Part of this could be that they grew up during the Great Depression, but I see my grandparents still living this way. They don’t throw anything away. My grandma washes out Ziploc bags to reuse them instead of throwing them away. She uses old mayonnaise jars to can and freeze vegetables for the winter. And my favorite, she uses my grandpa’s old shirts and pants to make quilts out of them. I love these quilts because she can tell me a story about each square of fabric, i.e. that my grandpa would wear this shirt to church on Sundays, he’d wear this pair of pants for parties at the admiral’s house, etc. She’s found a new purpose for everything and she’s not doing it to be environmentally responsible, she does it because that was the way she grew up.

I think if we begin to teach kids now ways to use what we have instead of always buying new, it will become a way of living for them, much like it has for my grandparents’ generation. I agree with you, it seems as if the 80s and 90s were the decades of high-consumption, self-serving living. These are coincidentally the decades I grew up in. How do we convince people to reevaluate their lifestyle habits and make a few changes to lessen their consumption and help the environment? My generation has grown up in a life of convenience so I think we’re the hardest group to convince. Regardless, I agree with you, immediate gratification has to be done in order to fix this problem of high consumption.

-Erin P.

Comment by erinleap




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