Sustainability: Living for the Long Run
By Christian Chance
Sustainability is a do-or-die concept. The main tenet is that people must live in a way that maximizes the planet’s limited natural resources, not just for their own sake, but for that of their grandchildren and for every generation that follows.
Environmental awareness and responsible consumerism were the crux of Old Dominion University’s Sustainability Fair, held April 21 on the Kaufman Mall, as part of Blue Goes Green week. The fair was organized by the Office of Leadership and Student Involvement and featured numerous eco-minded organizations from ODU and the local community as well.
“It’s an opportunity for students to mingle with green non-profits from the area and university organizations. Our main goal is to get students involved in volunteerism and civil service, and the best way to do that is to join some of the student groups you see here today,” Lacy Jaudon, Coordinator for Service for the Office of Leadership and Student Involvement, said.
The intersection of globalization and industrialization spells burgeoning economic growth for the world’s developing nations, and further growth for some of the nations who lead the charge for progress beginning in the late 19th century. But these advances come with a price; the progress that began 150 years ago has often been to the detriment of the environment.
“Sustainability is about living in a way so that we can continue to live,” Lisa Renee Jennings, from the non-profit group Keep Norfolk Beautiful, said. “Sustainability encompasses a lot of things, depending on who you talk to you’re going to get a lot of different answers, and that’s a good thing. Keep Norfolk Beautiful does litter prevention, and recycling education. We do beautification and greening, like planting trees and wetlands restoration.”
However, sustainability sometimes involves thinking critically and looking deeper into how our personal habits affect the planet. Everyone knows that litter is bad for the environment, but few people could imagine that their dietary habits are, in fact, a drain on natural resources.
“Meat and animal agriculture contributes greatly to pollution,” Kadedra Holmes, from Vegans and Vegetarians of ODU, said. “It’s actually one of the greatest contributors to water, air, and soil pollution. For example, 50 percent of the water in California is used for animals and animal agriculture. Even cutting your meat intake by a fraction would drastically reduce the amount of water being used. Believe it or not one cheeseburger requires 600 gallons of water to produce.”
Similarly, people often take for granted the power that keeps their computers running, their cell phones charging and their TV screens illuminated without thinking about the source of that power. More than 65 percent of the world’s electricity comes from steam turbine generators, which are powered by fossil fuels.
The coal, oil and gas that power these plants emit carbon dioxide in the process of powering the generators. Carbon dioxide accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
“Power companies like Dominion Virginia Power are most concerned with their bottom line. They would like to see people use as much power as they possibly can, and they want to generate that electricity as cheaply as possible. It’s all about maximizing their profits,” Zach Jarjoura from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said.
“The Sierra Club is not interested in the profit margins of these corporations; we’re interested in the protection of the environment. We would like to see people use less energy and have the source of their energy be more environmentally friendly. Solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, and tidal power are great examples of energy sources that don’t put such a strain on the planet.”
While it is obvious that some people are intent on helping out and doing their part, others are less concerned. “College students are more inward thinking. Not selfish but, yeah, actually selfish would probably be the word. It just feels like nobody else cares so why should I? I mean I do care, but I’m just one person in the sea of humanity,” Valerie Henton, sophomore communications major, said.