Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Take On Sustainability

I received this from a Palousitics reader in response to the column from Mark Steyn about sustainability that I blogged about yesterday. It was too thoughtful and well-written not to make public:
I think Steyn misses the mark when he says that there’s no such thing as sustainable development. This is a subject of which I have worked for some time and made the subject of some considerable study.

Sustainable can be had so long as good economic principals are applied and the area under consideration is inhabited by people that understand and buy into the program. It’s a three legged stool of economics, technical feasibility and social will. I will further qualify this by saying it can only occur in a developed, enlightened, affluent society (not the third world or any communist society, which is the same thing). If any one of those legs is missing, the stool topples. None of the three legs can be brought about by government regulation, though they can be encouraged by government support. Nor can people be browbeaten by the likes of a PARD or other group of “elite” thinkers.

Sustainability or sustainable growth need not be thought of as some panacea or utopian solution nor should it be an all or nothing proposition. We do things without even realizing it every day that lead to sustainable growth. When I say “we”, I mean some members of society, not all. We buy fuel efficient cars. We recycle and use recycled content products. We choose energy efficient appliances. We grow a vegetable garden. There are a million small things that are “sustainable” which we do without realizing it. Here are some examples:

1. Shop at stores closest to home with the greatest variety of items we need in the price range we can afford (a HUGE argument for having a Pullman Wal Mart to cut down on trips and decrease our fuel consumption and air emissions)

2. Buy long lasting durable items such as vinyl, aluminum or manufactured wood product siding that is cheaper and more maintainable than wood. All these products contain recycled or previously wasted materials and all lower our environmental impact by requiring less replacement and preservative recoating

3. Install high R value insulation and low E windows, most of which also contains recycled or previous waste material

4. Switching to cell phones and satellite TV services. For relatively similar amounts of electronics in the handsets, far less material is consumed in laying and maintaining physical connections to homes and offices, thus saving not only millions of tons of materials but millions of gallons of fuel that would have been used in producing and installing those materials.

5. Low maintenance landscaping or “zeroscaping” reduces the amount of resources needed to maintain acceptable appearance in the neighborhood and reduces aquifer depletion.
The reader agrees with me that the term "sustainability", like "organic" or "green", has been hijacked by uneducated liberal activists and the media that have no idea what the word really means. They use it to justify their anti-capitalist, no-growth environmentalist agenda.

I don't think "conservation" and "conservative" have to be mutually exclusive. As I pointed out earlier this year about Wal-Mart's "green" initiatives, conservation makes good business sense. Speaking as a Christian, I think you can apply conservation as a remedy the sin of gluttony, which isn't just about food, as well.

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