Daily Green Dilemmas

  • Paper or plastic? Just one of the decisions we face everyday. (Photo by Lisa Ann Pinkerton)

Sometimes, the more choices you have, the more stress you feel.
That’s the case with some people when it comes to taking care of the environment.
As Karen Kelly reports, being environmentally aware can be a burden:

Transcript

Sometimes, the more choices you have, the more stress you feel.
That’s the case with some people when it comes to taking care of the environment.
As Karen Kelly reports, being environmentally aware can be a burden.

(sound of buses)

So I’m standing at a bus stop.
I’ve been shopping all day and my arms are
weighed down by bags.
It’s freezing cold and I face a moral dilemma.
Do I wait for the bus, where I will stand in the aisle balancing my bags?
Or do I slide into the comfy back seat of a nearby taxi?
Taking the bus is a better choice for the environment because it uses less fuel.
But taking a cab is the better choice for a lot of other reasons.

And that is the type of choice that we face all day long.
It seems that a lot of people here in Ottawa, Canada debate these choices – and often feel kind of guilty:

“Do you ever find that you’re agonizing over decisions in terms of how they might affect the environment? Yes, often… for example, I like to consume a lot of water, I take a lot of baths. So I find myself making compromises: if I take two baths this week, then I will hang my clothes on the clothesline as often as possible.”

Anything I wish I did better? I wish I would stop indiscriminately throwing stuff on the ground.

A litterless lunch. Is that hard to do? Yeah, because if you want to take a chewie or something, you can’t take it out of the wrapper, you just throw it away anyways…it’s hard.

Seriously, these issues are everywhere, and it can get a bit overwhelming.

June Tangney is a psychology professor at George Mason University in Virginia.
She says no one person can do it all:

“I think it’s a good thing, actually, that we’re that aware of so many different ways that we have an impact on the environment. But I think it’s better to consider it as a menu of options and then make informed judgements about which ways will have the biggest impact on protecting the environment.”

Tangney says we also have to decide what works in our life.
Do I have enough money for a hybrid car? It costs more.
But maybe I have time to walk instead of drive.
Now, some people argue that we should be feeling anxious about the environment, but Tangney says that won’t help us solve the problem:

“If we have a serious emergency on our hands, what we don’t want is a population that’s depressed, anxious, ashamed, and overwhelmed. We want people who are aware of the facts and psychologically able to make important decisions on how to best meet the challenges.”

Tangney suggests making trade-offs.
For instance, she used disposable diapers on her three kids.
Then her family volunteered for a clean water advocacy group.

She says there’s always another environmental choice to be made. You won’t have wait long.

For the Environment report, I’m Karen Kelly.

Related Links

Being Green and Being Bad

  • Researchers find, for example, being a green shopper might lead to some not so green behavior. (Photo courtesy of USDA)

We might think it’s virtuous to
buy things that are environmentally-
friendly: recycled paper saves trees,
natural cleaners cause less pollution.
But new research finds that when we’re
good, we sometimes use that to excuse
being bad. Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

We might think it’s virtuous to buy things that are environmentally-friendly: recycled paper saves trees, natural cleaners cause less pollution. But new research finds that when we’re good, we sometimes use that to excuse being bad. Julie Grant reports.

Nina Mazar wants more people to buy green products. She’s a marketing professor at the University of Toronto business school. And she thinks people should spend money on things that aren’t harmful to the environment.

But Mazar had some concerns. Research in other areas shows that if people do one thing they define as moral or virtuous – say, helping others or being politically-correct – they are more likely to transgress in other areas.

Mazar wanted to see if the same was true for buying green products.

“In our society, it seems at least, that green consumption is being moralized. And we thought, well, if it’s being moralized, maybe it can have some negative effects.”

That’s the key: if we moralize one behavior, Mazar says, we’re more likely later to do something negative.

So, first they did a survey, and found that, yes, people believe that consumers who buy environmentally-friendly and organic products are more likely to be ethical, cooperative and altruistic.

Then they tested it. They gave money to two groups of college students – one group was asked to buy products in a regular grocery store, the other in a store with mostly green products.

Afterwards, Mazar and her team set up a computer game. The students could see how much money they were making as they played – and they could easily cheat . When the game was over, they were told to take the amount they’d won out of an envelope.

“And what we found was that people who purchased in the green store, as opposed to the conventional store, cheated more on that particular subsequent task, and they actually took out more money out of the envelope than they were supposed to. So not only did they cheat, they also stole money from us.”

If students were totally accurate, they could have won $2.07. Those who had purchased green products went home with $2.90 in their pockets.

Mazar says this finding about green consumption fits right in with the theory called moral regulation or licensing.

“Whenever we engage in virtuous behavior, whenever we had done a good deed, we get a boost in our moral self worth, which will license us further down the road to transgress.”

This has been studied for years in the opposite direction. People who do something bad subsequently do good things to cleanse themselves.

But researcher Sonya Sachdeva says lots of new evidence is coming in that moral cleansing works both ways. She’s a PhD student at Northwestern University. And says she noticed this in herself when she started taking the bus to school.

“And at first, when I would take the bus, it took forever and I just wasn’t used to it. But the fact that I thought that I was doing this really good thing made me feel morally licensed.”

Sachdeva says each person has different things that make them feel this way.

Everyone in the green consumption study was a college student. Sachdeva says they might not be used to buying green products, so they get a boost of self worth when they do. And then might feel morally licensed to transgress: to cheat and steal.

But she says people who buy green and organic products all the time might not get that same boost of self worth and so might not have the backslide. In the same way her attitude toward riding the bus has changed.

“But over time, now that I’ve been taking the bus regularly for the past couple of years, I no longer get that same kind of warm glow feeling, because I’m used to it and my reference point has changed.”

The researchers say there is something practical we can learn from this. If we want people to be more environmentally friendly, the message should not be that be that this will make us better, more virtuous people. But it’s simply what we should do.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Slacker Activism: Slacktivism

  • The "Lil' Green Patch" application on Facebook (Image by Jessi Ziegler)

Getting involved in a social
or environmental cause these
days is as easy as clicking
your mouse. Some people think
grassroots activism is just
changing its face as technology
changes… but other people think
we’re becoming slackers. Rebecca
Williams explores whether we’re
a nation of slack-tivists:

Transcript

Getting involved in a social
or environmental cause these
days is as easy as clicking
your mouse. Some people think
grassroots activism is just
changing its face as technology
changes… but other people think
we’re becoming slackers. Rebecca
Williams explores whether we’re
a nation of slack-tivists:

The other day I met this guy, Patrick Diehl. And I was trying to get him to describe himself.

“Uh, I’m a Pisces and I enjoy long walks on the beach and horseback riding; good sense of humor; still gets pimples.”

Add to that: slack-tivist. That’s a slacker activist. But he was telling me he wasn’t always this way. For twenty years, he was one of those door knocking, envelope licking activists. He worked for a governor. He used to drag his little daughter to rallies. Now he’s just burned out.

“I could get on the phone and call someone about an issue but I choose to sit down on Facebook and hit three mouse clicks and a return and feel good about myself.”

And lately, his slacktivism has hit a brand new low.

(sound of mouse clicks)

“My little green patch is dry. That means I’ve been neglecting it.”

If you’re a Facebook virgin, the Lil’ Green Patch is this application that lets you send plants to your friends’ online gardens. The idea is, the more you play, the more money advertisers will give to save the rainforest.

“Rebecca: “So wait did you actually do this for a while?”

Patrick: “Yeah!”

Rebecca: “And you felt good about it.”

Patrick: “Yes! I thought my spending time on here is leading to something bigger than myself.” (laughs)

But then, Patrick got in trouble. His wife – Anita – said he was just spending way too much time online. Lil’ Green Patch died. He’d rather play another online game, like Mafia Wars.

But you know, at least at one time Patrick was very active. Some people think clicking on a little green patch is their contribution to a better world.

“That’s a trending topic, that’s a trending term, slacktivist.”

Apollo Gonzales works for one of those big environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council. He’s what’s called a netroots manager. You might say it’s his job to get slacktivists off their butts.

“If you measure the one click activism, or slacktivism, against someone who’s visiting their representative on the Hill once a year, then yeah I think it’s on the low end of what can be done. But you’ve got to start somewhere with a lot of these people.”

So, Apollo blogs and tweets and uses online social media to get people talking. Because talking sometimes actually leads to doing something.

“We have a world where we are more connected than we ever have been, and a world where we can share our stories faster and more richly than we ever have been able to. And that’s great for people who are fighting for a cause.”

And there’s actually some research to back this up.

Scott Campbell studies new media at the University of Michigan.

“There have been some studies recently that show when people use text messaging as reminders to go out and vote, we do see significant increases in voter turnout.”

He says cell phones and the Internet are basically giving us more ways to communicate – and that’s good for us as a society. But he says we do have to be a little careful – because if all our online friends think like we do, we can become little isolated e-communities.

Basically, the more Facebook friends you have, and the more new ideas you can share, the better.

So if you want to be a better slacktivist, you might have to make some choices. You could sign a million online petitions. I mean there are 15,000 environment causes on Facebook. And then there’re all those other things, like Mafia Wars, and other distractions that people like Patrick have to deal with.

Patrick: “I’ve been kidnapped to Barcelona but I’m gonna ignore that.”

Anita: “See you just say ignore, ignore it!”

Patrick: “Someone just sent me a slap on the rear end. I’m gonna ignore that. I probably wouldn’t but my wife is right here so I’m going to ignore that.” (both laugh)

With distractions like these… even slacktivism’s getting to be hard work.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

A Cup of Conscience

  • Dennis Macray of Starbucks speaks about the coffee company’s social and environmental efforts. He was the keynote speaker for the annual George McGovern lecture for United Nations’ employees. (Photo by Nancy Greenleese)

People who work to help people in poor countries have always had big hearts. Some of
those helping these days have fat wallets as well. Multinational corporations are helping
the people who grow raw materials for those companies. They’re protecting the
environment, building schools, trying to improve living conditions – just like charities.
Nancy Greenleese reports there’s controversy over the businesses’ motives. But there’s
no denying they’re changing how help is given in poor countries:

Transcript

People who work to help people in poor countries have always had big hearts. Some of
those helping these days have fat wallets as well. Multinational corporations are helping
the people who grow raw materials for those companies. They’re protecting the
environment, building schools, trying to improve living conditions – just like charities.
Nancy Greenleese reports there’s controversy over the businesses’ motives. But there’s
no denying they’re changing how help is given in poor countries:

(sound of steaming milk and cups clanking)

At a Starbucks in Germany, customers are clamoring for their daily fix of caffeine.

“My name is Ellen Sycorder and I’m from Bonn. And I’m drinking a black coffee.”

What she doesn’t realize is that it’s coffee with a conscience.

Starbucks buys the bulk of its coffee from farmers in its program called Coffee And
Farmer Equity or CAFÉ. The farmers agree to grow quality coffee without jeopardizing
the environment. They pledge to take care of their workers and pay them fairly. Ellen
can drink to that.

“I think the idea is positive and I think I would drink more coffee here than somewhere
else.”

That’s exactly what Starbucks ordered a decade ago when it teamed up with the
environmental group Conservation International. They started by helping farmers in
Chiapas Mexico grow premium beans while protecting the region’s famous cloud forest.
CAFÉ practices grew from there. Starbucks and its non-profit partners are working with
farmers now from Costa Rica to East Timor.

Dennis Macray of Starbucks says the environmental advice is paying off.

“We’ve had farmers come to us and say these practices helped me weather a hurricane
for example, where neighboring farms had mudslides.”

Starbucks’ director of global responsibility says the company sometimes even
discourages farmers from growing beans. That might seem like a grande step backwards.
But Macray says keeping the farmers in business is the goal and sometimes that means
diversifying.

He recently found out how well it was working when he visited the mud hut of a Kenyan
farmer .

“In this case, the farmer was really proud of all the fruit and other vegetables that he had
on his farm. So he walked around and showed us how interspersed in-between the coffee
and providing shade for the coffee which is very important were a number of other crops
and fruits and things that he could either sell or his family could feed itself.”

Starbucks is among a growing list of multinational companies that are pouring money
into the developing world. Veteran international aid worker Carl Hammerdorfer says
working with big corporations made him pause at first.

“I’m a pretty skeptical, maybe even cynical, person about the motives of business. I
would have said 5 years ago that these Fortune 500 companies are only talking about
environmental and social concerns for marketing purposes, so they would improve their
image and sell more product.”

But he says global climate change prompted the companies to take their mission more
seriously. Any changes to the climate that shrink the rain forest, parch or flood land
would drastically affect their supplies of raw materials.

The former Peace Corps country director says his views have changed as he’s watched
companies such as McDonalds help farmers build more stable businesses.

“The evolution of their consciousness about social and environmental bottom lines is all
good. It’s a net gain for all of us who care about these enduring gaps.”

But there are concerns that the collapse of the economy will make the companies’
generosity shrivel up. There’s not a lot of evidence of that so far. While Starbucks is
closing 900 stores, the CAFÉ program is expanding. The company says it’s vital to its
long-term success to keep grinding on.

“Grande Cafe Latte!”

(sound of milk foaming)

For The Environment Report, I’m Nancy Greenleese.

Related Links

Study: Coffee Dates Best

  • A new study shows that if you're holding something warm, you might like people more than if you're holding something cold (Source: MarkSweep at Wikimedia Commons)

A study published in the journal
Science suggests that there might be a link
between how warm you are and how much you
like someone. Jessi Ziegler reports:

Transcript

A study published in the journal
Science suggests that there might be a link
between how warm you are and how much you
like someone. Jessi Ziegler reports:

The study was really simple.

Researchers pretended to have their hands really full, and
asked people to hold their coffee for them. Some of the
coffee was iced, some was hot. The people were then
asked to rate others’ personalities.

You know, like in terms of being a “warm” person or a
“cold” person.

They discovered that those who held the hot coffee rated
people as warmer. The people who held iced coffee? Not
so much.

Lawrence Williams at UC Boulder is co-author of the study.

He thinks this has to do with associations made when
you’re a baby. Your first concept of social warmth
coincides with physical warmth.

So, what does this study mean for you?

“This work suggests that going out for coffee might be
effective in getting the relationship off on the right foot,
as opposed to going out for ice cream, for example.”

You heard it here. Coffee dates are a much better bet.

For The Environment Report, this is Jessi Ziegler.

Related Links

INTERVIEW: creativecitizen.com CREATORS

If you spend a lot of time on the Internet,
you probably know about MySpace, and Facebook, and
maybe you use Wikipedia to look up things quickly.
Well a couple of guys in California are combining
social networking, web content, and citizen action
to make a green website called Creative Citizen-dot-
com. Lester Graham spoke with Scott Badnoch and Argum DerHartunian:

Transcript

If you spend a lot of time on the Internet,
you probably know about MySpace, and Facebook, and
maybe you use Wikipedia to look up things quickly.
Well a couple of guys in California are combining
social networking, web content, and citizen action
to make a green website called Creative Citizen-dot-
com. Lester Graham spoke with Scott Badnoch and Argum DerHartunian:

Scott Badnoch and Argum DerHartunian: “CreativeCitizen-dot-com is based on the idea that we need
to infuse action into people’s lives when it comes to the green movement. So, we call ourselves
the action-based green community. And it’s essentially where Wiki meets social networks. So,
we’ve taken the best of both worlds and put them together. And so, instead of trying to be a static
content provider, what we do is we open up the playing field for the entire community to be
involved.”

Lester Graham: “Now, when you’re talking about opening up to the whole community, that just
seems you’re asking for a lot of misinformation to be passed around. Who’s monitoring this to
make sure that you ensure accuracy on this thing?”

Badnoch and DerHartunian: “It’s very rare that people provide things that are absolutely incorrect.
Now, at the same time, we also have experts. And I’d also like to add that our experts really guide
the process. They show people where to go to find more information, so then more eyes are
actually looking at it, and making sure the information is actually accurate and effective in the real
world.”

Graham: “Well, even among the experts there’s an amazing amount of confusion about everything
from everyday questions like ‘paper or plastic?’, to lawn care, purchases we make – how do you
plan to get around some of those complicated issues that might depend on where you live, or other
circumstances of your locale or your lifestyle?”

Badnoch and DerHartunian : “We’re not saying we are the sort of all-knowing Gods of green, but, in
reality, we’re saying ‘hey, we don’t know’, and neither does the vast majority of people. So let’s all
contribute, and put the knowledge that we do have together, so we can actually get a more clear
understanding of what this green-thing is.”

Graham: “Your CreativeCitizen-dot-com site seems like it might just be the perfect opportunity for
some of these corporations to come in and really spin things for systems that might not be that
great. How will you compete with corporate green-washing you might see on your site?”

Badnoch and DerHartunian: “On CreativeCitizen-dot-com, we’ve created an organic R&D system,
where each creative solution is uniform in a sense, and users can come and comment on
solutions, and edit them. And companies are really putting themselves out there by saying ‘this
product or service really has this benefit or savings’. And people can say, ‘well, I’ve tried this at
home and it doesn’t have these savings’, ‘I’ve researched this product and you’re using these types
of methods to produce this and manufacture this product and it’s not good for the environment’.
Or, vise-versa, saying that this is good, and really bringing the real green products that are not
green-washed to the forefront.”

Graham: “What have you learned on CreativeCitizen-dot-com that made you a more
environmentally responsible person?”

Badnoch and DerHartunian: “Well, I’ve transformed my entire life since the process of really
understanding sustainability. But one of the main things is really understanding that efficient living
and sustainable living is not about a sacrifice. It’s about really putting in these little acts into your
daily lifestyle that really make you happier as a person, more efficient – not only in a personal
sense but in a global sense. So, one of the most simple things is recycling laundry water. I’ve built
a system in my house where I can just put the laundry water in a bin and feed it to my garden,
using waste-water that is actually more nutritious for the plants because of the minerals in the wash
cycle. I like to call it ‘optimize without sacrifice’ – that’s actually from Amory Lovins. Green is really
about optimizing your life, and making life better for you, and then the result, fortunately, is that life
is better for the whole planet.”

Graham: “Alright guys, thank-you very much.”

Badnoch and DerHartunian: “Thank you, Lester.”

Related Links

From Industrial Waste to Raw Materials

  • A Conesville, OH smokestack. The Cuyahoga Valley Initiative has found a way to turn potential pollutants into money. (Photo by Kenn Kiser)

The Rust Belt regions of the United States are looking at new ways to make industrial prosperity and environmental recovery work hand-in-hand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports on an effort that could be a model for industrial areas throughout the nation:

Transcript

The Rust Belt regions of the United States are looking at new ways to make industrial
prosperity and environmental recovery work hand-in-hand. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports on an effort that could be a model for industrial
areas throughout the nation:


(sound of birds)


This area of Cleveland near the Cuyahoga River is where John D. Rockefeller first set up
his Standard Oil empire. The Cuyahoga is infamous for being the river that caught fire in
1969 and it became a symbol of the nation’s pollution problem.


Cleveland businesses and industries still live with that legacy. But through a new effort
called the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative, they’re trying to overcome it – although on the
surface it doesn’t look like there’s much happening.
Today, smoke stacks from steel plants still tower above head … below, like a jumble of
twisted licorice sticks, railroad tracks run through the meadows alongside the Cuyahoga.
Silos and old brick buildings line the banks of the river.


For Paul Alsenas, it’s an amazing place — not so much for what it has now, but for what it
can become. Alsensas is the director of planning for Cuyahoga County, the lead
organizer of the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative. The idea of the initiative is not to abandon
industry, he says, but to incorporate environmental and social principals into industry,
which could attract new businesses.


One of the more progressive aspects of the Initiative is something called “industrial
symbiosis.” Alsenas says industrial symbiosis works like natural ecology…


“An ecology of industry where nutrients flow from one form of life to another and make
it tremendously efficient and so therefore we have a competitive advantage. The
Cuyahoga Valley Initiative is not just about sustainability; it’s also whole systems
thinking, it’s also competitive strategy.”


Here’s how it works: waste from one company—a chemical by-product perhaps—is
used by a neighboring company to create its product. And that company’s product is then
sold to another company within the valley—and so on.


Alsenas says it’s already started: some companies located in the Cuyahoga Valley have
been sniffing out opportunities for sharing resources before anyone heard of the
Cuyahoga Valley Initiative. Joe Turgeon, CEO and co-owner of Zaclon, a chemical
manufacturer in the valley, says the Initiative sped things up.


“We pull all the members together and say, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got, this is what you’ve
got; here are some of the materials I need, here are some of the assets I have.’ And an
asset can be anything from a truck scale to a rail siding to by-product energy to
chemicals.”


Zaclon and its neighbor General Environmental Management have already begun their
symbiotic relationship. GEM now buys a Zaclon by-product, sulfuric acid, and in turn
Zaclon purchases a GEM byproduct. GEM president Eric Loftquist says the benefits go
beyond simply saving his company money.


“You know, we do business all over the country… but when you look around you see that
for every dollar you keep in this county, that generates taxes, generates jobs and the
benefits just keep rolling down. So you always want to look within.”


Loftquist says the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative encourages that effort. He says it’s
remarkable that it’s all coming together at the right time and with the right stakeholders.
It brings businesses together with government and area non-profits—including some
environmental groups—in a way not thought possible by industry and environmentalists
in the past.


Catherine Greener is with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit think tank that
studied the Cuyahoga Valley and is helping to get the initiative off the ground. She says
this area of the river—known as the regenerative zone could put Cleveland on the world’s
radar as a new business model.


“Cleveland has been known for being one of the seats of the industrial revolution and
what we’re seeing is a new industrial model that can emerge. How can you create
manufacturing jobs, industry jobs without jeopardizing the health and welfare of all the
people involved and also, to overuse a word, to ‘green’ the area around it?”


Greener says industrial symbiosis is a workable, practical solution because it makes
business sense… not just environmental sense…


“Sometimes I think about it as finding money in your pocket after you’ve washed your
pants. It’s always a bonus and you’ve always had it. And the resources that you have
here you’re just reinvesting in them and finding them and looking at them differently.”


The participants agree that “industrial symbiosis” won’t solve all the waste problems, but
it’s one part of a movement that’s making industrial cities re-think their relationship with
business and the environment.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Shula Neuman.

Related Links

What Is Sustainability?

Enter the keyword “sustainability” into any Internet search and dozens of web pages instantly appear – filled with words used to describe the ambiguous theory. Conservation, egalitarianism, and biodiversity to name just a few. But what does the environmental buzzword really mean? The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak was at a recent forum on sustainability in search of a definition, and she spoke with some of the world’s leading ecologists:

Transcript

Enter the keyword “sustainability” into any Internet search and dozens of web pages instantly appear – filled with words used to describe the ambiguous theory. Conservation, egalitarianism, and biodiversity to name just a few. But what does the environmental buzzword really mean? The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak was at a recent forum on sustainability in search of a definition. And she spoke with some of the world’s leading ecologists.


The impressive line-up of speakers included such notables as Jane Goodall, David Suzuki and Paul Hawken, people who certainly need no introduction with environmentalists, and for good reason. These three experts on ecology have more than a century of combined experience. Yet, when asked to define the subject they were invited to talk about – sustainability – their responses were well…less than definitive.


Paul Hawken is a best-selling author on corporate environmental reform, who isn’t usually uncertain with words -especially crucial words about the environment. But Hawken was quick to admit there are simply too many ways to describe sustainability. And, he says even the most commonly used definition falls short.


“As you can tell from my reciting of it, it’s not a definition I warm to at all – because it’s not a definition you wake up in the morning and say, ‘uh, man, I’m so happy to be alive, and what I’m going to do today, is to meet the needs of the current generation in a way that doesn’t compromise future generations. It’s so flat, and non-dynamic.”


Hawken says that sustainability, by its very nature, is a multi-dimensional concept. Which resources get used, and how much, from where, to produce what goods and services, for which people, and then what to do with the waste – and how do we fix what we’ve already ruined? Hawken says the answers to these tough questions require a broad understanding. And he says, in an increasingly more specialized world that makes a clear definition much more difficult to nail down.


“Most of us have been, or are educated, in schools that ask us to specialize and to really focus on one area of knowledge. Sustainability really cuts across all denims – from not just economy and ecology, but biology, sociology, psychology, forestry, geology, chemistry, physics…In a sense to really be conversant in sustainability you have to have a working knowledge of a lot of different subjects.”


Milling about the convention floor we find David Sukuzi, perhaps the most conversant proponent of sustainability. The award winning geneticist and broadcaster stops occasionally, chatting casually about bio diversity, reductionism, or maybe genetic polymorphism. But then, Suzuki is well known for easily making such complex science understandable. So, how does Suzuki define sustainability?


“I don’t know what sustainability means. We’ve changed the world so much that we can’t rely on nature’s abundance and productivity. We’ve already added thirty percent more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than existed two hundred years ago. We have no idea what that’s going to do. So, we don’t know what is going to compromise or not compromise. We know that we are trashing the natural world on which we ultimately depend.”


Any hope for a definition would seem to be lost. As would be any hope for sustainability itself. But Suzuki says, although there are big question marks, sustainability is the only option.


“We’ve got to pull back. We’ve got to protect as much wild nature as we can where it exists – and keep our fingers crossed.”


Jane Goodall is known for her monumental faith in nature. Forty years of research has earned her a reputation for an unfaltering commitment to social and environmental causes. Goodall admits that as the indigenous peoples of the world have vanished, so too, she says, has the true definition of sustainability – “to make only what is needed to sustain life.” But Goodall says we must not give up on that principle.


“That’s very dangerous for us, if we’re thinking about a sustainable world and a world that will be there for our grandchildren. We mustn’t let up. We must continue to work for the things, which we think, are important. If we have the ability to influence some little area of the community and the environment around us, then that is what we must do.”


And all the experts agree. They say that “urgency” is now the most important word in any definition of sustainability. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak.