“The Myth of Environmental Sustainability”
Justin Mog, PhD
Environmental sustainability is a concept that takes common practices in our society and reimagines them in order to promote their sustained use for future generations. It is a vital idea to have in today’s ever-growing society in order to support the future of our world. In a TEDx event at the University of Louisville, Doctor Justin Mog expresses his ideas of the “myth” of environmental sustainability, and what true sustainability should look like in our society.
He begins by stating that protecting Mother Earth is essential to protecting us (humans), because when it comes down to it we are all a part of the environment. If we deplete natural resources that we rely on so heavily for all parts of our lives, our society will crumble. He then argues that this depletion has been happening at an increasing rate since the 1960s, with our human population living far beyond our means. “It’s as though we were adolescents in the ‘60s and someone gave us a credit card and we started maxing it out every day with no ability to pay it back.” He is very right in saying this. We have no plan to replenish the earth’s natural resources, nor do we have the means to do so.
The fact is that people are not very knowledgeable about the effect that their actions are having on the greater world. For example, most people today don’t even know where their food comes from. A large margin of food sources are from unsustainable farms and agriculture, which rely on limited underground water sources and use industrialized tools that require tremendous amounts of fossil fuels to keep them going. It is also true that most Americans don’t know where their water supply comes from, and where it goes once is becomes wastewater.
Dr. Mog then goes on to say that people in his community don’t know where their power comes from. The truth is that power companies in the area are obliterating beautiful mountains to gain coal to burn in their coal-fired plant. This process makes “mountains of coal ash that blow onto the neighbors all day long”, and also releases huge amounts of carbon emissions right into the atmosphere, slowing but surely causing global temperatures to rise.
Finally, two common misconceptions about sustainability are discussed. The first is that people tend to think that there is no damage done when they recycle instead of throwing away trash. Yes, it is better to recycle, but the process of recycling items such as bottled water, cans, and paper is very costly, both from an economic standpoint and due to the fact that it requires a lot of “climate-changing energy”. The best option would be to not create that material in the first place, and instead use an eco-friendly reusable water bottle. The second misconception is that people think that “zero-emission” vehicles actually produce zero emissions. This is false, because they are using electricity created from coal-burning in a lot of cases. As Dr. Mog states, “You’re taking a gas-powered vehicle and making it a coal-powered vehicle.”
More detail in each of these subjects is explained in the video, but this post acts as a summary of the information presented in Justin Mog’s TEDx talk. All in all, his ideas seemed very well thought-out and original, and made me re-consider what my perceptions of environmental sustainability are.
-Alex Solorio, ESLLC 2015-2016