J500 Media and the Environment


Is Our Society Sustainable? by IanN
July 26, 2009, 10:39 am
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Justice + Outreach | Tags: , ,

Service learning is a great concept because everybody wins. It allows us students to tackle real-world challenges while lending a hand to organization’s that can use the free professional help (which can be quite an investment if contracted out). Plus, it also exposes students to social welfare causes that make a business-geared education something more than just about making money. An article in a recent Harvard Business Review states that “it’s hard to top the sense of satisfaction you get from using your vocational strengths to make a difference to a worthy cause” (“Leadership in the New World”). It also teaches us about building a better community as well.

When we first discussed our service learning projects, I wondered how homelessness was related to the environment and sustainability. It seems that with our unemployment rate currently around 10 percent, a sustainable life is not possible for many Americans. “Homelessness: Old and New” by Kim Hopper points out that homelessness is a function of poverty — which is essentially a lack of material resources. Is our country sustainable if we cannot feed, house, provide jobs, and healthcare (the basic necessities of modern life) to all of our citizens that want to participate in our society? Does a society that is not sustainable eventually collapse like one that is not environmentally sustainable. Many scientists believe that the ancient Maya caused the destruction of their civilization through the unsustainable use of resources. Could have the Roman Empire collapsed because it was socially unsustainable?

Learning more about homelessness has helped me to recognize my own prejudices and fears in this regard. Is my fear or ignoring of a homeless person I run into in the street a primordial or social instinct? The settler’s fear of the nomad?

After completing this project, I have a more compassionate view of the plight of homeless people. Homelessness is a social welfare issue that is largely ignored in our county. There is much more sympathy in this country for homeless pets than homeless people. Sadly, in addition to rough living conditions, homelessness leads to the isolation from society and even humanity.

–Ian N.

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