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bullshit sustainability

January 5, 2010

last night at the grocery, i remarked to a friend about the comedy of new age/hippie products like a fake rock with the chinese character for peace or a calendar with vague concepts like hope printed on a soft-focus photo of a meadow or something. i think this stuff is hilariously ironic. anyway, i find the same comedy in the people that come into my coffee shop asking for organic coffee or organic bananas.

it’s bullshit sustainability, or a show of sustainability. these products in the american market are by definition “unsustainable.” whether it’s in terms of the environmental degradation of mono-crop plantations, transportation from asia/central america or labor riots suppressed by american forces (or forces trained by americans). people need to recognize that some products are by definition incongruent with sustainable practices. sustainability will not occur simply with technological innovation or more expensive bananas, but will require great sacrifices.

anyway, this article in the ecologist got me thinking about it. here are the questions the authors suggest asking to stimulate discussion on the “ethics of sustainability.”

  1. Is sustainability just for our human benefit, or does nature count as well? Do we care about ecosystems and species only because they serve human interests, or do they deserve care just because they are valuable on their own terms, like other humans?
  2. Is it misguided to ask: How much land should be preserved, and how much used for our own purpose? Should we instead ask, how do we have a healthy relationship with every piece of land and every body of water?
  3. How do we tell our needs apart from our desires? Does every family need a TV or car? Do we need to eat meat, and exotic foods imported from all over the world?
  4. What does a socially-just world look like? Should we begin living more like those in developing countries, or should they begin living more like us?  Why don’t we choose to live a more equitable life? Does socially-just sustainability involve more globalization, or less? Should we spend more money on organic fair trade coffee, or should we drink less coffee?
  5. Is choosing to reproduce more than once inconsistent with caring for the environment and future generations? Is refraining from reproduction especially virtuous? Does achieving sustainability require satisfying human urges to raise children by first emptying orphanages?
  6. What is a meaningful life? If we know that passing time surrounded by healthy people and environments is the route to a meaningful life, then why do we keep buying so much stuff?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cod permalink
    October 7, 2011 09:03

    Organic Coffee indeed! I don’t think the way they make coffee involves any unhealthy chemical ingredient hahaha.

    My mom is in the craze at the moment, wasting 9$ on a small bag of herbal coffee(smells grotesque) when she could be getting a larger 8$ can of the standard mild brew from the store.

  2. Cod permalink
    October 7, 2011 09:05

    To add, I can guarantee if more people would just acknowledge the six concepts mentioned in this blog, the world would be a better place.

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