Response to blog prompt: Homo economicus

Standard

It is obvious that our current model of grow or die will not work. Infinite growth is not possible with finite resources. I think it is definitely possible to maintain high standards of living while at the same time decreasing consumption to sustainable levels. Think about how many of the resources consumed are actually used. A large portion goes to waste. Food is often thrown out before it can be eaten. Consumer goods are thrown into a landfill, or used a few times before being retired to a shelf or closet.  I think the most important step towards sustainable living is eliminating waste. Other useful tools will be collaborative consumption, which will allow for sharing of consumer goods and thereby limiting the overall number of consumer goods needed to be produced. However, I do not think that this alone is the answer. I think it is necessary to completely separate wellbeing and consumer goods. Ensuring that every citizen has access to healthcare, food, water, shelter, and civil liberties should be the first priority of any society, and the economy and consumer goods should follow somewhere behind. Developing nations with this idea in mind will notice more stable populations, as has been shown historically (increase social equality, decrease population). Bringing social equality will be conducive to establishing environmental equality. True sustainable consumption will not be possible, however, until people throw away the current system of wasteful consumption for profit and exchange it for one of sustainability and responsibility. Changing from a system that is currently being used globally will not happen overnight, but starting with small, local changes will lead to large global ones. 

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One response »

  1. I completely agree with you that our high standard of living does not have to be compromised by a desire to live a more sustainable life. Sustainability is all about preservation for the future, which does require us to make smarter decisions about how much we consume and what resources go into those products. It doesn’t require us, however, to stop living in the 21st century and enjoying the things that we have grown to be accustomed to. One of my favorite examples of this is the Sierra Nevada Brewing company and their philosophy on energy conservation that the most sustainable watt is the watt never produced. It is no secret that the brewing of beer requires large amounts of energy in order to cool the beer for fermentation, boil water, and malt the sugar. Sierra Nevada Brewing generates 20% of its electricity needs through solar panels and 40% through hydrogen fuel cells, however, on a clear day they can usually generate 100% of their energy needs through renewable resources. They also divert 99.8% of their solid waste away from landfills via the HotRod composting system, which converts organic waste into rich compost that is then used in their barley and hop fields. It is actually really fascinating stuff and you can monitor the amount of energy produced in real time through renewable resources at http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/about-us/sustainability. This proves that sustainable living can be achieved without taking away any of the luxuries we have grown to love. The problem is that it does require an investment in technology and a large amount of startup capital, however, that does not mean that it is unachievable. Closed systems such as the Sierra Nevada Brewing company allow for products that cannot be shared among individuals through collaborative consumption to still have a place in a sustainable market. The need for this technology is not currently necessary in the eyes of large corporations and CEOs because there are other means available through the exploitation of natural resources. Although, it is imperative to the future of our environment and the quality of life available to the human race as it continues to expand. Small, local changes eventually result in large, profound movements if enough people see the need for change. Cheers!

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