EcoBlog is very fortunate to have contributors who are quite knowledgeable on issues of environmental ethics and sustainability. To take advantage of this expertise, I've decided to start a new feature for this site called "Contributor's Panel." The idea is to pose an interesting and topical question to our contributors and let them share their insights.
The first question that I posed was something of a "softball" just to get the conversation rolling. My question was: "What are three simple steps that everyone can take to live more
And here are the responses from our panel:
Frank Morris [Ecological Advisors]
1. Get Informed. Human Societies are driven by 4 main variables -- Policy, Investment, Competition, and Education. Present societies were born of past policies, past investments, past educational decisions and the competition between local human sub-cultures and the greater nation-state. Global Sustainable Society represents different policies, investments, and education-and a culture of sustainability will need to effectively compete with a presently dominant culture of exploitation. The 1987 BrundtlandReport -- Our Common Future -- developed the initial framework for global sustainability.
2. Get Connected. There are many groups involved with Sustainability. Even the Catholic Church has called for an ecological conversion in the cause of sustainability. Millions of Americans, and citizens around the world, belong to environmental organizations. What's missing presently is an aggregation of those members, and a clear game plan to drive policy, investment, and education to engage the present dominant culture of exploitation. By connecting, individuals within sustainable society can aggregate and demand policy, investment, and education in sustainable solutions. And those solutions will need to compete with a culture of exploitation.
3. Get Motivated. Sustainability provides without pollution. Sustainability effectively engages a culture of exploitation. Sustainability represents realistic hope for a better life for Earth's global citizens. Sustainability is great stuff.
Demosthenes Maratos [Sustainability Institute]
1. Go vegan. It has never been easier. There are alternatives in virtually every grocery store in North America, Web sites, discussion forums, books, magazines, videos and more all available to help you make the transition. It’s better for your health and for the planet. Most important, it’s the morally right thing to do. Being vegan is your everyday statement that things are not right as they are, that you are one more person who is standing up to be counted in opposition to the exploitation of animals. It is a refusal of a system that produces enormous profits at the expense of animals who are just as sentient as the family dog or cat.
2. Resist the cultural cues to desire unnecessary things. Consume less. Ask yourself: "Do I really need it?" Learn to be happy with less, you just may find that so many possessions were only complicating your life. You may find that fewer (but more special or unique) things trump many ordinary things. Sure, some material objects do make our lives easier, but they can't bring us happiness. That must be found from within.
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy." (Dr. Martin Luther King, April, 1967)
3. Understand finite resources and look beyond yourself. Consider the sustainability of your everyday activities. Sustainability as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, (and perhaps the most popular definition) is "meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs". Know with confidence that your daily actions, choices and decisions pass muster.
Nicole Giambalvo [Activist]
1. If you want to go green, go vegan. Or, at least limit your consumption of animal-based products. A plant-based diet isn't just good for animals and your health--it also has a positive impact on the environment. Reducing or eliminating animal-based products is one of the most powerful ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Farmed animals and their byproducts are responsible for 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to www.worldwatch.org.
2. Share. The amount of food products discarded by supermarkets and restaurants in the US is astonishing. There are locally based organizations that make a point to share discarded food products with those in need. The reflexive relationship between food waste and the social, economical and environmental oppressions within our society can be addressed through individual awareness and actions to eradicate poverty within low-income communities.
3. Recognize your accountability. Support reproductive justice. Industrialized countries with 20% of the world’s population are actually responsible for 80% of the accumulated carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere while Africa was only responsible for 2.5% according to https://outlook.molloy.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=9d65bbb7dfd0475788236479203daa09&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.sistersong.net. Supporting safe and ethical reproductive health options in the Global South is important when addressing issues of world population increases. However, laying blame on nations which are much less responsible for carbon-dioxide buildup eschews the US and other industrialized nations' environmental responsibility.
Edward J. Thompson [Founder, Sustainability Institute]
1. Use a non-pesticide weed killer/fertilizer for your lawn. This saves money, promotes deeper root systems (which save water) and doesn't dump poison into our groundwater.
2. Stop buying bottled water. The plastic bottles are made with petroleum and are then shipped around the world using more petroleum.
3. Give more, expect less. With this motto, you will derive happiness from life itself, and not from consumption.
Peter Fallon [Professor, Media Ecology]
1. Humility. The overwhelming majority of what we consume, we don't really need. We eat more than we need. We buy things we don't use. We use things to fulfill "needs" that never existed until created and suggested to us by advertising. We throw things away rather than repairing them. We want a lot but even as we get what we want we want more. Our advertising industry puts us directly at the center of a very small universe created in our own image. We are Gods. And we should get over this.
2. Awareness. It is far too easy to be -- and to remain -- completely oblivious to the rest of the world in the information environment we've created for ourselves. It is too easy to be ignorant of both the suffering, exploitation, and deprivation of the developing world, and of our role in the creation and maintenance of that suffering. In order to become and remain aware it is necessary that we achieve a certain level of disconnection from the digital distractions and electric entertainments of our culture of commotion, confusion, and chaos.
3. Give a shit. The world's resources are not infinite. They are not evenly distributed across the Earth. Human societies have not developed at the same rates for reasons not necessarily of a given society's choosing. Powerful societies can, have, and do exploit weaker ones. People do suffer as we lead pretty fat and happy lives. Think about that. And let it bother you. Because it really should.
Sara Kline [Environmental Activist]1. Support Campaign Finance Reform. Real environmental change is impossible as long as our government is being hijacked by corporate interests. But as long as our elected officials need to raise millions of dollars to run an effective campaign, they will continue to sell their votes to the highest bidders—and that usually means multinational corporations like Exxon and Monsanto that have a vested interest in blocking environmental legislation. Unless we remove the corrupting influence that big money has on our election, everything else that environmental activists try to do will be in vain.
2. Eat fewer animals and animal products. I’m not saying that we all have to go vegan, but even if we all made the pledge to eat less meat and dairy (Meatless Mondays, anyone?), the benefits to the planet would be extraordinary.3. Teach Your Children Well. If future generations don’t have the experience of actually being in nature, they’ll never come to an appreciation for protecting natural resources. That’s why I think that one of the most important things we can do is get urban children in particular out of the house and into the wild. And you don’t have to take them to Yellowstone or Yosemite either. Start by finding a local preserve or state park and bring your kids there for a hike; or take them on a camping expedition for vacation instead of to Disney.
Elyssa Hopkins [Environmentalist]
1. Reuse/Upcycle everything. Avoid food packaging when you can, but when you can't, find other uses for it. For example, keep sauce jars to store leftovers instead of buying tupperware, and keep the plastic containers that salad greens and strawberries come in to bring baked goods to the next friend or family get together.
2. Invest in reusable shopping bags. Come on, they're less than a dollar and they pay for themselves in no time since most grocery stores give you a discount for using them. You have no excuse not to. Make the transition away from plastic!
3. Buy used. Furniture is a great example of something you can buy used. It'll be cheaper and even if it's not in perfect shape you can say it's "antique" or "rustic". You'll be conserving numerous resources, and if it's a wood piece it most likely has outgassed most of the formaldehyde that most wood furniture contains.