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.)
Environment & Ecosystems
This section deals primarily with basic environmental topics, but it also includes topics such as Biodiversity, which extends it into the area of ecosystems.
The 4 basic principles of ecology are important not only in the environment, but in all systems.
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.
The term environmental health is used to frame issues where pollution and toxins in the environment cause or contribute to health problems, both chronic and acute. Environmental health concerns often have a very disproportionate impact on minorities and low-income people because of the ways facilities and roads are sited.
Some key areas of concern:
The precautionary principle is just a coherent statement of what really is just common sense: Faced with reasonable suspicion of harm, the precautionary approach urges a full evaluation of available alternatives for the purpose of preventing or minimizing harm. Instead of asking the basic risk-assessment question—”How much harm is allowable?”—the precautionary approach asks, “How little harm is possible?”
Here is the essence of the Precautionary Principle:
We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.
While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.
Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.
You can find the original statement of the precautionary principle here: Wingspread Statement
Rights of Nature | Rights of Mother Earth
The ‘rights of nature’ concept recognizes that the natural systems have a right to exist, and that these rights may be superior to the commerce and property rights of humans; unfortunately this concept is only now becoming more widely appreciated.
In 2010, a general, global statement of the rights of nature, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, was issued at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. This lead to places, for example Bolivia, to recognize ‘Mother Earth’ as having rights that are parallel to human rights.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with our endocrine system, the hormones that control development & growth and the way our bodies function on a daily basis. Exposure can lead to reproductive disorders, weakened immune systems, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, and can have devastating effects during pregnancy and on young children. Unfortunately, these chemicals are found in household products, toys, plastic food and beverage containers, herbicides & insecticides, and even in many of the foods we eat.
Related blog post – Fire or Ice? (Does it matter?)
Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. This section contains articles about green buildings initiatives and research.
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.
by Lindsay Meiman As I was walking to class with a friend the other day, he casually asked me, “why do you care so much about sustainability?” I paused in my tracks, taken aback by the immensity of possible explanations … more
by Joyce Marin We are hearing a choir of voices around the world rising in urgency regarding Climate Action. Many people, especially young people, are gaining the courage to look at, inform themselves about, discuss and ask for Climate Action. … more
by Rebecca Canright As a student studying sustainability at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, I am encouraged by the recent research that Paul Hawken and his colleagues have conducted on the 100 most effective solutions to global warming. The … more
by Emma Stierhoff Consumerism […] encourages both increased consumption and increased waste, resulting in environmental destruction. It was not until I began identifying as an environmentalist in high school that I started to question the constant pressure to buy more … more
by Brianna Marmol The other day I heard a friend’s grandmother lamenting about the pressure to go “green”. She said that while recycling is important, she can’t buy a recycling bin because “I’m old and can’t be bothered. There’s too … more
by Briana VanBuskirk We’re stuck in a cycle that fosters the creation, use, and discarding of materials without any consideration for the environment, animal rights, or human rights. Why is this? It’s no secret that financial gain is the core … more
by Andrew Goldman What does it mean to be alive? Living things grow and reproduce; they adapt to change and maintain metabolic activity; they begin, and they end. In short, life takes energy and matter from its surroundings, processes them … more
by Alex Fischer Conducting one’s life to end exploitation and injustice is moral and dignified. The twin threats of nuclear war and climate change forecast a bleak future. While we cannot know whether or not people and their societies can … more
by Courtney Cohen My passion and desire to help the environment did not develop because I grew up on a farm or because I spent my days hiking in the woods, but rather because I was raised in New York … more