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Topic 1: Is Sustainability a Realistic Objective for Society?

Are we able to make the necessary social and economic changes that would lead to a more sustainable society?
by

Larson Collier

on 22 April 2013

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Transcript of Topic 1: Is Sustainability a Realistic Objective for Society?

Can we overcome barriers to becoming sustainable? Or is the ideal of sustainability incompatible with the modern lifestyle? Problematic Product Culture Sustainability is easier said than done... Inadequate Social Awareness or Concern In my own experience... Functional/planned Obsolescence: making products that don't last so that consumers have to buy new ones
Fashionable obsolescence: offering new items with new features and aesthetics to make people buy them
Increasing GNP seen as a sign of a healthy economy
Easier and cheaper to replace rather than fix products
A plethora of cheap, quick, disposable accessories Consumer Society Pre-WWII and Great Depression era valued product quality and longevity due to more modest means of production
Post WWII era saw rapid consumption as the key to recovery and prosperity
In the 40's and 50's, rise in consumer demand was more impactful on domestic employment and economy, due to domestic production Solutions Begley focuses most of her argument on pointing out general ignorance around environmental issues
The general public has many misconceptions about green alternatives, and good steps to take to reduce their personal footprint
Begley claims that people who consider themselves environmentally conscious had less accurate perceptions of responsible energy use When surveyed, most people saw reducing energy use (driving less, cutting lights, etc) as the most effective means of conserving energy, rather than increasing efficiency In an experiment I conducted for high school Statistics, I tested whether students were more likely to recycle a coke bottle or can when a recycling bin was placed next to a trash bin of equal size Attainable through commitment and change in consumer culture... Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, journalism professor and freelance writer advocates:
heirloom product design
change civic consumer responsibility mindset Larson Collier Retailing analyst Victor Lebow in 1948: "Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption" Legislation: Can revive interest in repair
EPR extended producer responsibility of product life-cycle
Regulate emissions, require responsibility for carbon footprint Market: Increase appeal of longer lasting items
Move towards heirloom design
Adapt business to include services and repair for sustainable economic
Ingenuitive product design for upgrades and repairs without replacement Patagonia provides free repairs of clothes and is running a campaign against unchecked consumerism The real issue is in creating the demand for longevity versus dispensability Sharon Begley, journalist, believes we don't have the capacity to make the necessary changes Even when aware of the problem, it is unrealistic to expect people to radically change their way of life; people have self-serving tendencies
"No wonder Americans are so resistant to taking personal steps to mitigate climate change: they think it means doing without." Begley When people take easy small measures, they figure they've done their bit for the environment, and overlook much more impactful problems Ignorance Though Begley only mentions ignorant actions by those who acknowledge environmental problems, many people are ignorant or dismissive of these problems 30% of cans were recycled
No bottles were recycled Atlanta recycles plastic types 1-7
Aluminum can be recaptured with no loss of material Systematic Problems Bryan Welch points out that our actions do not reflect our awareness, we take action in proportionally insignificant ways
Government regulation would require corporate transparency "Degrowth" too difficult, people cannot be without something they have come to expect
Reframing our economy may not be doable; it would put heavy financial burden on many people during a recession Is the concept of sustainability incompatible with human nature?
Would business interests ever consider the shift towards heirloom design?
Are people apathetic about the environment and sustainability? Questions
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