J500 Media and the Environment

Disposable Society? by bethd

So what’s sustainability?
To me, true, bona fide sustainability is using only biological or renewable resources in all production/manufacturing for everything  we use and/or consume, and only using those resources at a renewable rate. Isn’t that truly sustaining? Well that’s proves difficult for our society at this point.

Are we too far gone?
We are a society of consumers, and it seems that success is often measured by the stuff we consume—at any cost. We max-out credit cards, sacrifice the planet and work 80-hour weeks just to ensure we are able to maximize our consumption. And all the while we never stop to think about how disposable we are treating everything—time, money, energy, and the environment. These are not things we will ever get back nor can they be recreated or regenerated; our lives are not sustainable. To that point, the planet is a shared space and our society’s decisions should treat it as such. And driving giant vehicles and climate-controlling excessively huge houses (just some examples) are sustainably-poor decisions.

Video courtesy of http://www.youtube.com

We are faced with a compromise between sustainable, emotional and economical demands. In Annie Leonard ‘s Story of Stuff, she warns of harmful PBDEs used in flame retardant products. Still, there are no perfect alternatives. There are a number of pros to using flame retardants, it unarguably saves lives from fire. Eco-friendly products are available that offer flame retardant benefits. Greensulate™ , is a housing insulate made of agricultural waste products and has a class-A fire rating, but it’s not competitively priced and it’s not applicable in all situations. This is great, but what about other flame retardant uses—-clothes, camping accessories and firefighting equipment. We have to choose between the environment, our health and monetary feasibility, and there’s not an easy answer. This is just one example, but we find ourselves in these types of situations everyday.

Great, now what?
I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. I just know society is very far from abandoning all of the unsustainable luxuries that modern technology has afforded society. We use non-biological and non-renewable resources everyday, and exhaust the renewable ones available.

Over the last few weeks I have been exposed to a wealth of valuable information regarding sustainability, and the lack of in our society. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to be sustainable as possible by doing what I can, when I can and as often as I can (for example, I just started printing on both sides of paper and recycling). And just as important, I feel educated enough speaking to and encouraging others to do the same. I realize I could do more, we all could, but these are steps toward being more sustainable and less disposable. 



Beth Davis


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Beth,

I was thinking of your examples – paying taxes, driving through red lights, etc., and why people follow those norms.

Could it be that people can see a tangible result of not acting that way and therefore have an incentive to follow? Dropping out of school, for example, doesn’t have an immediate consequence, which may explain why we still have up to 50% drop out in some major cities.
Left to our own devices, we don’t seem to be able to follow Kant’s First Maxim.
Do you think stricter legislation (without becoming draconian) with real and immediate consequences could be an answer?

-Victor V

Comment by victorvi

Hello Victor,

I appreciate your thoughts.

Yes, I think most people will only make environmentally conscious changes in their lives if they are gently shoved. I do not think this is a conscious choice to harm the environment, but that people do not take the time to proactively make decisions to better the environment. Maybe it’s laziness or lack of education; we could speculate forever, but whatever the reason there’s a cause-and-effect disconnect.

Our government is beginning to take initiatives mandating these types of activities. The U.S. EPA facilitates the Greening Government Procurement program. Basically federal government agencies (i.e. Department of Revenue, Department of Defense) are required to purchase “X” amount of items containing “green” products. I’m far from an expert of the program’s specifics, but “green” products included in the program are recycled, biobased, non-toxic, etc.

Beth Davis

Comment by bethd

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