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 to a seemingly simple question. I took a moment, ensuring that the question was serious. I had never questioned my passion for sustainable development, as it is such a fundamental belief of mine.
After a moment, I carefully responded. “The world is so much bigger than just me, than just the individual person,” I explained, “I would not feel right about living my life as if the universe revolves around me…as if the future state of the world after I am gone is irrelevant.” Of course I understand that some people act as if the world revolves around them; however, I am not satisfied with business as usual. I want to ensure a better future of our world.
Ever since I was young, I have had a holistic perspective of the world. I believe that the best way to approach a matter is first to recognize that everything is intertwined and interdependent. As an economics major and environmental studies minor at Lehigh University, I have had the opportunity to expand on my passion for sustainability through my studies. While studying these two fields, it has become apparent that neither can efficiently, nor sustainably, operate if the other is being exploited and abused.
While the state of the economy cannot be ignored, it is crucial that environmental costs and benefits are integrated in every step. During my final semester at Lehigh, I am serving as the climate action intern for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities in the Lehigh Valley. This position has given me insight into the extensive work needed to accomplish climate action. Through comprehensive research and conversations, the obligation of educational institutions to exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society, has come to light.
After countless collaborative meetings with various people in the greater Bethlehem area, I drafted a Climate Protection Commitment for the school board of the Bethlehem Area School District, and it is my hope that those with widespread influence to do so will strive to ensure a bright future. It is not just those with power who have the obligation to protect our Earth. Our Western industrialist, capitalist society has become frighteningly out of touch with nature.
We believe educational institutions have a unique responsibility to exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society and meet the mandate to help create a thriving, ethical, and civil society and to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to address the critical, systemic challenges faced by the world. —excerpt from Climate and Sustainability Commitment for Schools
While policies target the overarching system, it is the individual that can contribute to a fundamental change in value. You might say to yourself, “I am just one person. How could my individual actions possibly change the world?” Developing policies to change the root issue is like placing a BandAid on a broken bone and hoping it will suffice. Policymakers, communities, and individuals alike have the responsibility to consider impacts on the environment and future generations.
Looking at climate change and the legislation (or lack thereof) in place, it is easy to become discouraged and have a grim outlook, which is counterproductive. What our Earth needs are people who can see these immense challenges, and can find hope in the future. We need individuals willing to commit their lives to a change in fundamental values. With incredible obstacles before us, we must learn to be a proactive, rather than a reactive, society.
Lindsay is a senior at Lehigh University majoring in Economics with a minor in environmental studies. After graduating in May 2014, Lindsay hopes to pursue a career with an environmental non-profit to ensure a sustainable future.
(Published in the 2014 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)