Sara Gottlieb, who blogs at Visualize Whirled Peas, raised the perennial eco-question in a recent post: what is the balance to be maintained between preserving our “way of life” and our efforts to keep the planet healthy? How healthy do we want the planet to be and what are we willing to sacrifice for it?
This question is larger than just carbon impact. It encompasses land use, common air pollution, water pollution, population growth and all the other eco-issues. Here’s part of what Sara wrote:
“The major debates that I see surrounding sustainability arise from those who think technology will provide the solution and those who think that going back to a simpler way of living is the
One True Way.
Both of these viewpoints still avoid the question: What are we sustaining? My background is in the natural sciences. I have spent a large portion of my life working with biologists who monitor the status of extremely rare species in fragile environments. While the loss of species and marginal habitats is only a small piece of the environmental puzzle, I always viewed it as the “canary in the coalmine” warning us of the potential for our own demise. Short of causing our own extinction, how much biodiversity loss are we willing to allow and still consider it sustainable?
…I think we can all agree that sea level rise of several feet is an unacceptable outcome. We certainly don’t want a garbage dump in our neighborhoods. But beyond that, what do we consider a sustainable situation on this planet? How much are we willing to give up to achieve sustainability? Whose definition of sustainability will we subscribe to? And what if we don’t really subscribe to any?”
In some ways, these questions are irrelevant to the No Impact experiment since we are trying to reduce our environmental impact to its lowest extreme. But not everyone has the luxury of doing what we're doing for this year.
I was wondering, what is the line in the sand you all would want to draw? What definition of sustainability, as Sara puts it, do you subscribe to? What are the goals you would like our eco-efforts to aim towards, and as Sara asks, what are you willing to give up for them? Or do you think that the techies will save us and we won’t have to give up anything? PS Don't forget to drop by at Sara's blog.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.