It’s Never That Simple

Watching Leyla Acaroglu’s Ted talk on rethinking environmental folklore took me back to when I first learned about considering the life cycle of a product, especially the paper versus plastic bag issue. When I was managing a coffee shop I looked into getting reusable bags to sell in the store, and, through the magic of the internet, I stumbled across the life cycle analysis of reusable bags, plastic bags, and paper bags. I was shocked to discover plastic bags were actually better for the environment than paper bags! How counterintuitive is that? Also, as a side note, reusable bags have to be used quite a number of times to make up for the resources that are consumed during their production. Perhaps these are good examples of not taking the obvious answer or solution to a sustainability problem- things are never that simple, are they?

I learned about another counterintuitive idea in one of the readings this week, “Are Western Values, Ethics, and Dominant Paradigms Compatible with Sustainability?” I read the “Yes” argument. I have to say, never in all of my days would I have imagined that there is a u-shaped curve relating per capita income and environmental improvement. My first and most obvious thought is more money equals more consumption, which equals more waste. Though when I think about other countries the idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched. It makes sense, really. But here it seems unlikely, or at least far off. The article notes some requirements for this theory to be applicable, and the U.S. does not currently meet them, which is likely why this doesn’t seem applicable here. This theory of growth coinciding with environmental improvement is dependent on government policies, as well as enforcing regulations and holding corporations accountable for their actions. Income growth alone does not have a causal correlation with environmental improvement, but many of the side effects are capable of leading to environmental improvement under the right conditions. Also, consumers need to be more educated about the products they are buying. I guess if there were effective regulations in place, though, that wouldn’t be essential. I do not buy what the article is selling about how companies being profit-driven is good for the environment. As long as global exploitation exists, of both resources and people, this is just a pipe dream. On a barely related note, I sometimes wonder if it takes a certain kind of personality to be a successful politician in America, and whether or not that personality type has neurological roots that are tied to being selfish, arrogant, and short-sighted. Like how psychopathic tendencies are beneficial in CEOs. That would help to explain how many government representatives are able to turn their backs on the people they represent for money from corporations, just so they can be reelected and keep voting for policies that favor corporations over their constituents. I mean seriously, how do these people sleep at night? There has to be an underlying neurological explanation for this betrayal. The older I get, the more correlations I see between America and dystopian literature, what I once considered to only be science-fiction, and it is alarming. It is even more sickening when paired with the prevalent American idea that we’re the greatest nation on earth. We shouldn’t take our freedoms for granted, as we are learning now, because not all nations give their people so many rights. But we are not the greatest nation on earth, and that mindless mantra is starting to feel like propaganda at this point. It is so easy to get lost on a political tangent in these blogs…

I also learned a little about biophilia this week, and I’m super jazzed about that. In architecture, the closest thing I’ve heard about (and we haven’t really learned about it so much as I looked into it) is phenomenology. As I understand it, the idea is to create certain emotional experiences, often through the means of controlling light. Biophilia is right up my alley. I think all this time indoors is harmful to our well-being, especially the time spent in our terrible work environments. It seems like more consideration is given to zoo habitats than to human workplaces. I have been thinking about ways to incorporate outdoor experiences indoors to improve health, and I really just can’t wait to learn more. I hope to get a chance to participate in the biophilia/ergonomics research study so I can experience some of these ideas first hand.

As far as Activity 3 goes, I’ll just say I’m not where I need to be. I didn’t anticipate it being significantly more work than the previous two activities, which is my own fault. This class goes by so fast! And this is our last blog, which is kind of sad. If I’m being honest, I initially dreaded writing these. But it has turned out to not only be my favorite homework in this class, but also homework that I look forward to in general. I’ve intentionally starting writing these before doing my other homework because they put me in a better state of mind, and I feel relaxed afterwards. So thanks for the unusual and surprisingly enjoyable assignments. I might even miss them. Maybe. Perhaps I could start writing more on my own. But it’s different when you know someone else will read it.

In this class, as well as Dr. Armstrong’s biomimicry class, my negative worldview has eroded (some.) I will try to remember that just because a wicked problem has many solutions, it doesn’t mean that one solution won’t have an impact. It helped me to think that if there did have to be only one solution to a problem, which one might have the greatest impact? I know it won’t solve everything, but that’s not really my job, or anyone’s, for that matter. Our job is to try. As hard as we can, when we can. That’s all we can do. And really, we weren’t put on this earth just to combat climate change. We also should be enjoying our lives. We only get one. So, as it seems to be with all things, the key is balance. We are individuals, with goals, work, and families. But we are also perhaps our last chance. If we want our kids our our friends kids or just humanity in general to be able to do the things that we enjoy most, we need to try a little harder.

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