(Lack of) Sustainability Articles in HT

carbon footpringToday’s HT has much to recommend it, particularly as it offers many articles that focus on the issue of sustainability, notably the entire “Down to Earth” section.  The Errant applauds this and wants to highlight bits and pieces of each in an attempt to stretch and perhaps even challenge the notion presented to us as sustainability.

Let’s start with the basics: what exactly is meant by sustainability?  This Wikipedia entry seems pretty good.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.

Healthy ecosystems and environments provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services. One approach is environmental management; this approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science, and conservation biology. Another approach is management of consumption of resources, which is based largely on information gained from economics.

You can see how easily, though, that this word can take on a bias of perspective.  A way of life might indeed be sustainable for one element of society but not for another; for one species but not for another, and so on.  Talk amongst yourselves about that.

Here are some links to the HT articles that might fit into the Sustainability (or “lack of”) meme.  You can let us know your thoughts on how or why they do or do not.

  • Speed limits on neighborhood streets could soon be lowered from 30 to 25 mph.
  • Congress and the administration want to compensate for inflation with a cost-of-living adjustment. However, for all of our philosophical pondering combined with our statistical cleverness, we cannot figure out what is “living” nor determine its “cost.” At best, we can measure changes in the quantities we consume and the prices we pay. That is the index.
  • Strokes have spiked in the U.S. among pregnant women and new mothers, probably because more of them are obese and suffering from high blood pressure and heart disease, researchers report in a study published Thursday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
  • The Bloomington Commission on Sustainability is tackling those questions in a way that will result in a Web-based, “living” document that can be updated easily and better engage both citizens and public officials in an ongoing conversation about community resources.
  • [M]ining company Massey Energy settled a seven-year-old lawsuit with hundreds of southern West Virginia residents who claim the company poisoned their drinking water supplies with coal slurry. The financial terms will not be disclosed, but Moats said that as is typical in a settlement, Massey admits no wrongdoing. “We’re pleased we were able to find an agreeable resolution for all parties,” said Rick Nida, spokesman for Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha became involved in the case when it bought Massey for $7.1 billion in June and has been considering a deal that would satisfy both sides, he said.
  • The ruling by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., escalates a battle between the shipping industry, regulators and environmentalists over dumping ballast water from vessels….The EPA issued a permit regulating ship discharges in 2008. It incorporates at least 100 provisions tacked on by more than a dozen states with their own policies — some more stringent than the EPA’s. Groups representing shipping companies and ports asked the federal appeals court to strip the state-specific rules from the permit, saying they were creating a regulatory hodgepodge. But in its ruling Friday, the court said the federal Clean Water Act allows states to protect their waters.  [Ed. note: the print version is the first 3 paragraphs while the online version contains the full AP article.]
  • But people taking multiple medicines at once don’t always realize how much acetaminophen they are ingesting, partly because prescription drug labels often list it under the abbreviation “APAP.” [Again, the AP article is truncated in the print edition.]
  • For between $5 and $6, the adventurous eater will get a quarter-pound burger in between slices of a grilled, glazed doughnut. Toss on some cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion and you’ve got a 1,500-calorie meal.
  • Over the past few years, Gallup polling has shown a decline in the share of Americans saying that global warming’s effects have already begun — from a high of 61 percent in 2008 to 49 percent in March. The change is driven almost entirely by conservatives. [Article truncation in print edition.]

Just to note, “sustain” is a very “heavy” word connoting a burden: “to undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc.); endure without giving way or yielding.”  I’m not exactly sure we should be “sustaining” much of what we currently value and encourage in our human, “western” way of living.

Perhaps consider “subsistence” as, at least, a beginning place in your thinking about your life and the lives of those in your community (human, animal, organic, inorganic) as regards the matter of sustaining certain practices.

“How can you buy or sell the sky the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.”

Chief Seattle in response to an offer by President Franklin Peirce to purchase the Suwamish tribe’s land in the state of Washington, 1855

The goal of life for the Navajo, as with most Native American peoples, is to become a well balanced person. It would not matter to a traditional Navajo if you had many times more sheep than he or she if you were arrogant, or cold-hearted or were not willing to sacrifice your ego for the chance to acquire wisdom. [Ed. In other words, they would not value the amassing of possessions and would instead evaluate one’s self-presentation.] And because the Navajo are concerned for the welfare of future generations, they would think it foolish if you took more from the Earth than it could replenish

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. The LaKota people in South Dakota follow a “seven generations” principle. Decisions on resource use are based on ensuring there will be enough for the next seven generations. The success of the Navajo and LaKota cultures is measured by the health of the people and their ability to sustain themselves generation after generation.

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