Sustainability & Business
Businesses have a profound effect on sustainability. Businesses are permitted to externalize many of the costs associated with producing, using, and disposing of their products, which means that the cost and damage is shared by everyone.
For example: Coal sells as a commodity at about $50/ton. Experts estimate that the extraction and burning of coal creates additional costs to society of over $200/ton.Coal and energy companies profit from the low price, while everyone else bears the costs, primarily in the form of environmental degradation, global warming, and impaired health.
(Other examples include difficult-to-recycle electronic devices and single-use containers & packaging.)
Here we focus on rethinking the ways we live and the ways society and its systems are structured. It includes approaches, perspectives, and philosophies that can empower our pursuit of sustainability, getting more specific about the frameworks for thinking and action given in the Finding Solutions part of the Think Globally section, namely, the models of change available to help us understand the various aspects of the problem we are facing and to help us move towards sustainability.
The change paradigms are a varied lot. Some focus on specific objectives, some are holistic. Some are weighted toward “taking action” strategies, some toward conceptualization, some are rather balanced in dealing with both theory and practice. They all can find expression in local, regional, national and/or world-wide actions. They all can inspire us and help us find the way.
Please contact us about models for change that you would like to see added to this listing.
Economy, Business, & Finance
Two of the six Alliance goals focus on the importance of the local economy. In order to create equitable and livable communities, it is essential to build strong local economies. This includes a variety of efforts, including assessment of the ways raw materials are accessed, the materials processed, the finished products distributed and used, as well as the personnel, the know-how, and the technology needed to carry out the conversion of raw materials into finished products.
In this section, we deal with the importance to sustainable communities of Going Local, which involves consideration of:
How we provide healthcare—not just the services and treatment themselves—has a huge impact on people’s health.
The dominant system in the U.S. relies on drugs and technical intervention and is largely administered by—and for the financial benefit of—insurance providers. Health care in the U.S. is the most expensive in the world, but the overall quality is rated about 40th in the world.
Holistic approaches to health care are often less expensive and less invasive or traumatic for the body—and holistic approaches are often more effective, because the strengthen and enhance the body’s natural defenses.
In today’s world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future.
Fair Trade helps stop this cycle of exploitation and encompasses a range of goods from the global south, from agricultural products such as coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas to handcrafts such as clothing, household items, and decorative arts.
- Big Changes in Fair Trade!
- Chocolate: The Bitter Truth
- Support Authentic Fair Trade
- Fair Trade links & resources
- Where can I purchase Fair Trade products?
… focusing on the importance of going local to reap the advantages of local economic transactions. (For example, about 45¢ of every dollar spent at a locally-owned business circulates within the community, compared to only about 15¢ if spent elsewhere.) This Going Local category includes the thoughts of local business owners, community members, and students in the articles.
In Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age, Michael H. Shuman asserts (p. 50), “The key [to sustainable community] is to start with self-reliance and frame local business, labor, and environmental laws and policies around it.
Globalization, on the other hand, lacks all the positive qualities of going local!
(Is capitalism itself the problem? See Michael Carriere’s interview of Alex Knight.)
Community Land Trusts
Community land trusts are a way for a land owner or community group to preserve open space, prevent undesirable land uses, and/or provide affordable housing. Ownership of the land is often deeded to a nonprofit organization.
Corporate personhood is the notion that corporations are persons and therefore have rights, a notion that was strengthened by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Citizens United.
Agriculture is at the root of the local economy and of viable, sustainable communities. It provides resources – food, fiber, and more – as well as productive work, community cohesion, opportunities for engagement, and stewardship responsibilities. In order to understand it’s importance in society, one must understand how agriculture works and what it effects and how it is effected.
Capitalism is an economic system where owners — those with capital —control business and the means of production. In general, this allows the owner to take and accumulate the surplus value produced by workers, thus reinforcing the capitalist owners’ wealth, power, and control.
By Stephanie Bennett For many of us, the food that is on our plate is so far from what our ancestors consumed a century ago. Fortunately, the sustainable food movement has been growing and consumers have been incorporating more organic, … more
By Zeke Zelker Land Use and Development As a teenager, I spent hours walking in the cornfields of Lower Macungie, searching for solace in the serene pastoral landscape. I would traverse this landscape alone, rummaging through my confused adolescent mind trying … more
One of the surprises we found in our research, is that a natural turf is often much less costly than synthetic turf (also known as artificial turf), even with fairly heavy use. The cost for each field depends, of course, on … more
Synthetic turf marketers sometimes claim that their fields require little or no maintenance, but proper maintenance is essential for playability and for the full usable life of the field. Minimal maintenance includes regular brushing, returning loose infill to the playing … more
The system is broken. Everyone knows that. But do you know that no one knows what the hell the system is? We may be missing the obvious, like the proverbial elephant in the room, that we’re blanking out to, as … more
Trainloads of crude oil from the Bakken shale in ND do pass through the Valley — and these trains travel through the center of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, often right next to the Lehigh River. This raises major safety concerns and … more
Community development is often bundled with economic development, but it is focused on the people and a sense of community, rather than the economic impacts of buildings & jobs and the like. Use the comments feature on this page to … more
Check out Willie Nelson’s YouTube video on mountaintop removal mining: More info: Focus On… Mountaintop Removal mining (MTR)