Posts Tagged ‘globalization’

The Fifties, the Nineties, and Sustainability

December 18, 2008

Perhaps you have heard of David Halberstam. He was a famous writer who died recently in a tragic accident. I have read many of his books—none of which were about sustainability. However, one of them was entitled The Fifties. A primary argument of the book, as I recall, was that the huge changes of the 1960’s had their roots in the supposed placid and deeply conservative 1950s. The most obvious example is the Pill—released in 1962. And the sexual revolution began in the 1960s. But much of the medical research took place in the 1950s. The 1950s are not exactly known as a time of free and open sexual expression compared to the 1960s. But once women could have sex and NOT get pregnant, the world changed.

But this blog is about sustainability, not sexual history. The connection is this—“sustainability” does have the potential to change the world in a manner not unlike the sexual revolution did. It gives us the opportunity to tie environmental values into our daily routines of life in ways simply not possible as recently as 5 or 10 years ago. In 1955, a woman could rarely have sex without worrying about getting pregnant; in 1965 she could (and how many millions of men were thrilled about that?) In 1998, I could not imagine that I could buy good insulation and support the environment at the same time. In 2008, home insulation made from recycled jeans is available. (I’ve priced it). I have more means to live my life according to sustainable values than I ever did before.

Sustainability did not just explode upon us like a supernova in the past year or two (even though it seems like it did). Rather, it grew, well, organically. It arose out of a general concern for the environment, a broader understanding with issues involved in economic globalization, and an increasing experience of the benefits of sustainable products (last longer, more efficient, taste better, more beautiful, etc). The globalization piece in particular is very important. The American economy has become much more obviously tied to the rest of the world. People understand very clearly that there is a global, worldwide dimension to our economy—the most obvious examples are the jobs that used to be in America, but are now gone. The threat of jobs going to another country is clearly tied to our current economic experience.

So it is not a great leap of the imagination to understand that there is are global connections to the environment as well. But all of us have the opportunity (should we choose to) to build our own connections to a global environment. Being environmental today is not limited to “activists”. It also includes an opportunity to live one’s environmental values (whatever they are) with a broad array of purchases and decisions about how to live our lives.

Perhaps an environmental perspective is the prism through which you view the world. Perhaps being green seems like a cool thing to do someday but not really important in the scheme of things. Perhaps you are somewhere in between. Wherever you are, you can still make sustainability part of the your life (if you choose to) by the daily decision and purchases you make or do not make.

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