Sustainability Myths: Does a Lighter Footprint Mean a Lower Standard of Living?

Myth: Many people mistakenly believe that to live a sustainable life is to make sacrifices – to live at a less comfortable level in the name of environmental sustainability. People have visions of tiny cars and scratchy toilet paper, and even letting go of desirable foods and products.  Reality, however, is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire idea behind the sustainability movement is to find and create better ways for people to live well, and to ensure a happy and healthy future for human beings, as well as for the planet.

Take sustainable farming practices for example. Not only do these methods lead to healthier, more flavorful, and more nutritious foods, but they support local farmers and smaller business.  In turn, this fuels the local economy, benefiting the welfare of the entire community.

More fuel friendly vehicles emit fewer harmful chemicals into the air, also benefiting an entire community. Harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide that are released from the burning of fossil fuels can lead to health issues such as heart and lung disease, including cancer. Reducing these chemicals in the air can reduce the prevalence of these diseases, leading to a healthier community, and more affordable health care.

In an article in Scientific American, “Top 10 Myths about Sustainability,” a necessary change in attitude is addressed. “Once we start to organize ourselves and innovate within that mind-set, the breakthroughs are extraordinary. They will allow us to achieve greatly superior rates of resource productivity, which in turn allow us to be prosperous, fed, clad, secure.”

Article by Grace Interlichia, class of 2014

2 Replies to “Sustainability Myths: Does a Lighter Footprint Mean a Lower Standard of Living?”

  1. Hi Grace,

    You wrote: “Take sustainable farming practices for example. Not only do these methods lead to healthier, more flavorful, and more nutritious foods, but they support local farmers and smaller business. In turn, this fuels the local economy, benefiting the welfare of the entire community.”

    If the point of the post is to explode the myth that sustainable living means poorer living, can you provide evidence that this is in fact the case? Organic farming (which I think is what is meant by sustainable) does not seem to produce healthier food by the empirical evidence I am familiar with, but it is lower yield farming for two reasons (direct and indirect), which indicate that it is possibly not at all sustainable. Plus, it costs more. So we dedicate more resources to an activity that produces food of no better nutritional content (it MAY be tastier of course) and that may actually damage the environment. Does the link provide peer-reviewed science to prove otherwise?

    We also know from economics that the focus on “buying local” does not in fact benefit “locals.”

    Now, a point I would have made would be that, “if going greener is going to be costlier, at least it might be worth it, and heck, we’re so darn rich that we can afford it.”

    If going green is actually cheaper, and if it doesn’t reduce living standards, are we not greedy enough to take advantage of that? Are we only too greedy when it comes to other aspects of our lives?

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